A drive through the country roads of the Wairarapa leads you to Martinborough. It’s a gorgeous little town famous for vineyards, and most of them within walking or cycling distance of the village square.
And a delightful village square it is, with a grassed and tree area, the town’s offical war memorial and roads radiating off it. Start at Memorial Square with a delicious Wairarapa picnic, of local food and wine, if you like…. Then head out from the square, on foot, bike or otherwise, to explore local treats.
A borough of Martin
It’s called Martinborough, a borough of Martin. It began in 1870 as the township of Wharekaka, close to the Māori settlement of Waihenga.
And it’s the area where large scale sheep farming began in New Zealand, when flocks of Australian-born merinos were herded around the coastal route from Wellington. They formed the country's first sheep station back in the 1840s at Wharekaka.
John Martin is regarded as the town’s European founder. He was Irish born and sailed to New Zealand aged 18, for a career as merchant, politician, run-holder and land speculator. The land speculating included a purchase of a large Wairarapa sheep station (Huangarua) back in 1879. He then subdivided it into sections to create the town, a town named after him.
Apparently Martin designed the town in the shape of a Union Jack, so the streets surrounding the square are laid out in the shape of that flag. There you go. Many of those streets are named after foreign cities Martin had visited during overseas travels. You’ll find New York, Naples, Oxford, Venice, Cologne and Dublin Streets - to name just a few.
There’s a big feature of colonial architecture in this town. Right on the square there’s the historic Martinborough Hotel, built back in 1882. And plenty of delightful cafes right there, for that village square picnic.
More than lovely wine…
We’re told that some of New Zealand’s best wines come from the town’s mainly family-owned vineyards. But be sure to find other delicious treats too - olive oils, cheeses, meats and nuts.
Martinborough is known for a warm, some say micro, climate, with hills to the east and west. That explains the climate for vineyards and olive groves. You’ll see traditional beef and sheep farming, lavender and nuts, and fishing out at the coast, at settlements of Ngawi and Cape Palliser.
Then quite a walk….
Out to that coast you go, past goats, sheep and cows in the green fields, to the fishing coast. Then there are spectacular walks along that coast. And picnic spots to visit. We’re big fans of the Tora coast, and the offerings there - speaking of real New Zealand food experiences….
A Martinborough idea
With the olives on hand and inspiration from the nearby fields, and thinking of our spring barbecue weather, take to that outside oven for a lamb and olive idea - click here to see.
And for more…
For more on what to find and enjoy on Wairarapa travels, including Martinborough treats, explore food treasures on our North Island Food Travel Guide app - click here. You’ll find all delightful coffee stops and eateries, artisan producers, and a whole lot more.