Martinborough is Wellington’s little slice of paradise. Located just over the Rimutaka Ranges, it only takes about 1 hour 15 minutes to get there but honestly feels like its worlds away. The climates are dramatically different; Martinborough’s dry heat means it is perfect for growing grapes – vineyards are therefore plentiful. Martinborough makes for an indulgent weekend away; think eating, drinking, cycling in the sunshine and browsing cute boutique shops.
Some tips to enhance your stay:
Food: There are few cute places in the wee township.
- For coffee or a snack to go I would recommend the Neighbourhood Café (you can eat in, but seating is sometimes tricky) and for brunch definitely Café Medici with its sun-lit courtyard.
- For lunch I would recommend Poppies every single time. It is by far my favourite winery (yes, ever) and I have had multiple perfect experiences there. See my specific mention of Poppies below. Another winery, serving delicious Asian-inspired food (such as dumplings and banh mi) is Luna Estate (right next to Poppies).
- If you are feeling high-end come dinner time, check out Pinocchios and Union Sqaure, which were both recently named in New Zealand’s Top 100 restaurants. Alternatively the Siam Kitchen (Thai) and Burger Craft serve crowd-pleasing food at moderate prices.
Wineries: There are so many cute and beautiful wineries in the area – here are my notes on just a few:
- Te Kairanga: probably the furthest away, so in my opinion it makes for a good starting point. $10 for a tasting, and they also make their own gin which I highly recommend! Gorgeous outdoor area, great for a picnic.
- Colombo: best on a sunny day, it has mostly outdoor seating. They do a small range of platters if you need something to fill the gap. A wine tasting costs $10.
- Cambridge Road: selling organically grown wines, Cambridge Road has lovely patio seating which soaks up the late afternoon sun. I would time it so that you visited here near the end of your day.
- Luna Estate: probably the most beautiful winery in Martinborough with decent wine and well informed staff. Think their lunch service is still having teething issues, although the food itself tastes great.
- Margrain: a small and intimate cellar door, ideal for smaller groups. Has a cafe attached.
- Palliser Estate: gorgeous scenery, Palliser has a fab outdoor area with quality wine tasting for only $5. The cellar door is relatively small though.
- Alana: my least favourite. Good wine, but its cellar door feels too much like a pop-up show-room.
- Poppies: I have saved the best until last. It took me a while to actually make it to Poppies, despite knowing all about it. The first time I went, I arrived to hear that Poppies was well and truly booked out, due it being Valentine’s Day. To us Valentine-less gals, that thought had not even crossed our minds! The following year, I actually had a valentine of my own, and made sure to make the booking well in advance. We were seated outside, and being an extremely beautiful day we were both stoked. The wine tasting room inside was pretty full (and being looked after by Poppy), so Shayne Hammond (the partner to Poppy herself) came out and conducted our very own personal wine tasting. We were so happy. The wine was absolutely delicious – favourites being the rose, and also the dry riesling. Every time I have been since, Poppy has conducted my wine tasting. She is so incredibly endearing, informative and charismatic. In addition, the food at Poppies is absolutely gorgeous. There is no menu, rather they serve big platters that come out with a massive array of antipasto goodies on them, designed to accentuate the wine. They are so delicious, and so beautifully presented.
Something different: If you are sick of wine, pop along to the Martinborough Brewery in the heart of town for a wide range of beers on tap. If you are sick of drinking generally, Olivo is a commercial olive grove a few minutes’ drive from town where you can do tours and tastings of various olive oil infusions.
There are loads of accommodation options available, including hotels, Air BnBs and even boutique accommodation at a number of the wineries. When it comes to getting around, cycling would have to be one of the most fun means of transport however everything is basically walkable if you are that way inclined.