Frequently asked questions

Martinborough Town

Written by Paul Mason
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Martinborough Town

Martinborough is the administrative centre for the South Wairarapa District.

With a population of around 1800 it is the hub of the thriving and world-renowned wine growing area of South Wairarapa and hosts the famous Toast Martinborough Wine festival each November.
Many of the vineyards are on the outskirts of the town.

Martinborough's central street layout is in the form of the Union Jack centred on the Square.  The streets radiate out from the centre and are named after streets and cities visited by an immigrant named John Martin.

Mr Martin purchased a large sheep station in 1879, and  subdivided it into 593 sections in order to establish a town. Obviously memorable places in his travels were New York, Cologne, Venice, Naples, Ohio, Dublin, Strasbourg, Suez, Oxford, Cork, Panama, and Broadway.

Before Martinborough was established the southern part of the region was known as Waihenga, a point that seems to be lost at times in the history of the district. A feature is the colonial architecture, one example of which is the historic Martinborough Hotel, built in 1882.

Prior to the expansion of viticulture, Martinborough was largely a rural service town for nearby farms.

Martinborough has a large number of vineyards producing wines, notably Pinot noir. Martinborough has a warm micro-climate, with hills to the east and west. Almost all the vineyards are in thin ribbons around the northern and eastern sides of the town, and on the Dry River to the south. All follow dry riverbeds, which provide appropriate soils for viticulture.

Notable wineries include Schubert Wines, Te Kairanga, Tirohana Estate, Palliser Estate Wines, Dry River, Martinborough Vineyard, Murdoch James, Ata Rangi, Craggy RangeHarvest Estate and Escarpment.

During November, the region's wines are celebrated in the Toast Martinborough wine festival. This event temporarily enlarges the population by around 10,000.
Other industries around Martinborough focus on traditional beef and sheep farming, growing olives, lavender and nuts, and fishing at the coast settlements of Ngawi and Cape Palliser. Tourism is an important industry for the town, and the information centre is a good source of advice about accommodation, activities, wineries and where to eat.

There are numerous options for accommodation, from casual B&Bs to a five-star hotel. A small number of wineries and specialist tour operators offer vineyard tours, while there are many dining opportunities at wineries, or at the cafés and restaurants dotted around the attractive village square. A vibrant shopping precinct exists with boutique shops.