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Exploring Wellington’s Wine Country: New Zealand’s Best Under-the-Radar Wine Region

Vines at Poppies

Just over an hour east of Wellington’s CBD is an incredibly charming wine region set amidst sheep-dotted plains and the Tararua mountain ranges.

Martinborough, New Zealand is a little paradise for wine lovers – it’s what we’d imagine the Napa Valley area of California to have been like years ago. There are around 20 vineyards in Martinborough within a very small radius (all within either walking or biking distance from the town center), so you can enjoy a few wine tastings without having to worry about getting from A to B.

The soil and climate in Martinborough have been reported to be quite similar to Burgundy, France, one of the most renowned wine regions in the world. Pinot Noir grapes grow excellently in the area, as do Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc.

The other best part about Martinborough, aside from its excellent wines and compact setup, is that it’s not overly fussy or snobby in any way – most of the wineries are of the boutique variety, and charge a mere $5 per tasting (which is waived, of course, if you purchase a bottle). You can either dress up a bit, or be casual if you’re biking around – anyone is welcome and you won’t feel out of place if you’re not in fancy attire!

A two-night stay in this area makes for a great weekend getaway or a very nice stop while visiting New Zealand if you want to sample some of the country’s outstanding wines in a beautiful and low-key setting.

We recommend staying in Martinborough itself, and exploring some of the surrounding areas from there. In particular, you absolutely must get around town by bike to visit the wineries and take in the countryside – it’s so fun!

See our full guide below…

STAY //

Martinborough Top 10 Holiday Park: This campground is an excellent affordable option, with the added bonus of having bike rentals on-site! The grounds are super clean and it’s close to town. You can choose between self-contained cabins or cabins with shared bathrooms and a communal kitchen – or you can set up camp in your own tent or campervan.

Airbnb: There are lots of great Airbnbs in Martinborough, with excellent options for solo travelers, couples, or larger groups.

EAT & DRINK //

There is a great local food scene in Martinborough, with many of the provisions coming from nearby in the Wairarapa. Here are some of the places we love:

Eat:

Mesita: This sweet spot offers Mexican bites and an awesome wine menu. They feature local produce, meats and cheeses and have a great atmosphere.

Neighbourhood: Come here for an breakfast & a caffeine fix. They’re a roastery and serve up some great coffee. Their bagel plates are creative and delicious and they offer plenty of gluten free options.

Cafe Medici for a big sit-down breakfast: I can’t go past their Shakshuka (baked eggs in a slightly spicy tomato sauce) – it’s divine. They also make the prettiest breakfast burrito you’ll ever see (and it’s equally yummy).

Poppies for lunch platters – this is a ‘must do’. See our notes below under the “drink” section (and make sure to book ahead!).

Margrain: If you’re wanting a full lunch whilst wine tasting, head to Margrain. They have an onsite cafe with great food and it’s right in the middle of all the vineyards. They also offer wine tasting at their own cellar door.

Takeaway: Sometimes, after a day of wine tasting, you just want some takeaway food to enjoy at your place. Our favourite spots happen to be right next door to each other – try Little Square for some great pizza, or Siam Kitchen for Thai (in this case, make sure you’ve acquired a bottle of pinot gris or a dry riesling from one of the wineries to enjoy with your Thai food, for a match made in heaven).

Drink:

Poppies: A must-visit. This winery is simply an absolute gem. Enjoy one of their amazing vineyard platters amidst a Mediterranean-chic garden setting, with wine poured and food served by the loveliest owners and staff.

If you do a tasting, your glass is likely to be poured by Poppy herself, who owns the winery with her husband Shayne. She’ll talk you through each sip with such passion and you can just taste the love behind each one of their wines.

The platters here are honestly what dreams are made of – our last one included crispy pork belly, feta-stuffed peppers, pinot noir marinated beef, local mushrooms, slow baked salmon and homemade dips – amongst heaps of other amazing items. They do one platter option (and for lunch only), but can accommodate dietary needs easily.

A platter at Poppies

A platter at Poppies

Poppies only sells their wine at this cellar door, so you won’t find it anywhere else – making it feel even more special to visit! Book ahead for a lunch platter (ahead, highly recommended!) or you can just drop in for a tasting.

Schubert: Delicious organic wines are poured in this little cellar door – there isn’t any food on offer, but make sure to stop by for a tasting.

TK Winery: You can do a tasting here, or simply grab a glass and sit outside in their peaceful lawn area on a comfy bean bag chair (our favorite thing to do here). They often have food trucks with delicious lunch and snack options, and also hold a farmers market once per month. Check their Facebook page for up-to-date happenings. 

The cute mural at TK winery

Colombo: Sit in a beanbag outside in the sun with a view of the vines, or enjoy their cosy interior if it’s a blustery day. They have friendly service, delicious wines and also offer yum platters.

Ata Rangi: This is the place to go to sample some incredible pinot noir. Bookings are required, so be sure to call ahead.

Martinborough Brewery: Beer aficionados must stop at Martinborough Brewery. We tend to end up here for a cold, refreshing beer at the end of the day, after we’re done biking around town. They also have an excellent apple cider if you’re more of a cider fan.

EXPLORE //

Biking:

An assortment of biking options in Martinborough

The absolute best way to explore Martinborough is by bike! It’s pretty much flat all around town and it’s honestly just so much fun – combine a wine tasting or two and a bike ride and you’ll feel like a kid again, honestly (but do so responsibly, ahem).

There are two main places to rent bikes in town –

Martinborough Top 10 Holiday Park: If you’re staying at the holiday park (or even if you’re not), you can rent bikes here – this is one of the reasons we just love staying here, it’s so convenient. Prices are $29.00/day for a standard bike or $39.00/day for a cruiser.

Green Jersey: Another great place to rent a bike, right in town, is Green Jersey. They offer tours which is a great option for some, but we prefer to simply rent bikes and take off on our own. Prices start at $40.00/day (per person) for a regular bike rental, but they also have multiple-seater “rickshaw” bikes that are great for a group – you’ll giggle throughout the entire day on one of these!

Oh, and did we mention that all of the bikes (at both rental places) have little baskets for holding the wine you’ll inevitably buy…

When biking and wining, please make sure to always wear your helmet, eat, and drink lots of water throughout the day – stay responsible and you’ll have a safe and super fun time.

The best way to visit the vines

Shop:

Ventana Creative Collective: Beautiful handmade pottery, textiles, art and other goods from small-batch artists (also look out for cool workshops and music events hosted here).

Side trip from Martinborough: Greytown

The next day, check out of your cabin or Airbnb and head over to Greytown, an adorable historic village just a 15-minute drive away.

EAT //

The French Baker: Come here for breakfast; they have to-die-for baked goods (try their chocolate almond croissant!) and delicious coffee.

SHOP

Jet: This shop has an amazing array of vintage fabrics and cute home décor packed into an adorable little space– also great inspiration for DIY crafts!

EXPLORE

-Drive 30 minutes to the Waiohine Gorge, which has an epic suspension bridge and a nice short walk down to the crystal-clear river below. There’s also a beautiful waterfall which you can see when you’re about halfway across the bridge – if you can dare yourself to look down. This is a great place to take in some fresh air – you could even bring a picnic and a book, and spend a bit of time relaxing on the river’s edge. 

We head out to this part of the Wairarapa just about every free weekend we can get – and hope you love it as much as we do!

Forest at the Waiohine Gorge

Suspension bridge at Waiohine Gorge

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