When visiting a new place, I love getting recommendations from locals on where their favorite places to eat, drink, and visit are. So when 3 different Kiwis recommended visiting Martinborough, we knew we had to make a visit happen.
First off, Martinborough is pronounced mar-tin-brah. Don’t make the (North American) rookie mistake of saying martin-bo-rough like I did. Nobody will be rude about it and they’ll still know what you’re talking about, but just have some respect for the Kiwi accent, ya know?
Anyway, after my language lesson in how to pronounce it and learning what this cute little town was all about, (hint: wine) I knew we would definitely visit while we were based in Wellington. Martinborough is about an hour drive or an hour and a half by train/bus from Wellington. We opted for the train – it was super simple and a pretty journey.
Martinborough may not yet be as well-known around the world as some of the other New Zealand wine regions, but they make some really incredible wines. The Pinot Noirs from Martinborough are some of the best in the country.
There are over 20 boutique wineries in close proximity to one another. This makes Martinborough quite unique. I’m not sure of another region that lends itself so perfectly to a day of vineyard hopping. Plus, the land is so flat, making it perfect for cycling or walking from tasting room to tasting room.
Martinborough is a tiny village with a picturesque town square. Being such a small village, there aren’t too many options in terms of accommodation. There are a couple of hotels, some bed and breakfasts, and Airbnbs.
Since we were only going for one night, we opted for the Martinborough Hotel out of convenience. If we were to do it again, we’d probably do an Airbnb on a vineyard – they looked lovely. While the rooms at Martinborough Hotel aren’t anything to write home about, its colonial style is picturesque and the central location right on the square is ideal.
While many wineries are open year-round, many of them have limited hours or stop serving food during the winter months. We were there the second week of April and most of the wineries had started their winter hours.
Just a heads up, when they stop serving food, according to New Zealand law, they can’t sell wine by the glass or bottles to drink on the premises – they can only do wine tastings. So, while you can still have a great time visiting during the winter months like we did, it’s definitely something to keep in mind.
Martinborough has festivals and events that happen throughout the year. There are jazz and food events that are apparently super fun and very popular. The little town gets packed with people coming in from Wellington to join in on the celebrations. So if you’re time here does coincide with a festival, try and plan ahead so you don’t miss out.
If you’re planning on spending time on the North Island in New Zealand, Martinborough is an unexpected gem that you should try and see. You don’t need a ton of time there, 2-3 days is fine. It’s a great place to check out for a bit and enjoy New Zealand town life. Plus, you get to try some amazing wines!
Martinborough Must Do:
Rent bikes from Green Jersey Cycle Tours and go wine tasting. They’ll provide you with a map of the local wineries so you can plan your route of which ones to visit. Top picks are Schubert Wines, Cambridge Road, and Magrain Vineyard.
Have breakfast at Oh My Goodness – the name says it all!
Play bocce (or petanque) at Palliser Estate (and drink wine, of course).
Taste some local craft beer at Martinborough Brewery.
Take a walk through the little town square.
>> Have you been to Martinborough? Comment below with your tips!