Martinborough Travel Guide

After breakfasting on crumpets in-house we decide to spend the morning discovering Martinborough’s boutique stores and arts. We begin with a visit to Artrageous, which has displays of contemporary NZ art and sculpture by local and national artists. Here we admire Scott Tulloch’s wildlife studies and landscapes, but it’s his cartoon series “A Vineyard Year at the Frolicking Pig Estate” that tickles Bob’s fancy and before we leave he purchases a print of a hilarious looking pig pushing a wheelbarrow.

Then we pop into the Barbara A. Ross Studio which specialises in traditional Maori weaving and displays a range of textile art, before calling into Barrows Gallery where there’s further contemporary NZ artworks on display.

A quick visit to the information centre proves there’s no shortage of fun in Martinborough. You can take a spin in a jet boat up the mighty Ruamahanga River with WetnWild, kayak, trek with llamas (if you have a few days up your sleeve), and play golf or golf cross – a revolutionary new game similar to golf but played with an oval ball and goal posts rather than holes to score in!

But for Bob and me, like many other holiday makers, the perfect vacation activity involves the simple act of teaming a good bottle of vino with gourmet food – and in Martinborough it’s unlikely that you will be disappointed. The town boasts a number of fine cafes and restaurants, among them the Flying Fish Café, The Vines on the Square and La Mousse, but if you wish to dine in a vineyard setting there is only one place to go and that’s to Murdoch James Estate. It’s situated on an elevated slope overlooking Martinborough township, the Dry River, and the Tararua and Rimutaka Ranges. It’s a family operation, owned and operated by Jill and Roger Fraser and their son, Carl.

“When we saw the property we realised that we wanted to do more than just have a vineyard,” says Roger when Bob and I turn up for an early lunch.

We sit on a terrace table watching children splash in the sparkling river below. The menu is extensive but centres around fresh seasonal local fare which is organic whenever possible. I try the spinach and goats cheese ravioli with a walnut beurre noir, while Bob goes for the cold smoked salmon with pink grapefruit salad and mandarin yoghurt. Both dishes are divine and the setting is so relaxing we’d be happy to stay all day.

But quad biking calls so we take our leave and drive the short distance to the Martinborough Hotel to join our farm tour with Wairarapa Quad Bikes. Here we’re provided with a helmet, leggings and gumboots and Bob gets me to take several shots of his pristine outfit before we start.

After the training and confidence building course (where Bob gets to show off all he learned in West Auckland) we leave in a convoy, following out across the massive Blue Creek Farm sheep station. The tour follows a stunning steep sided limestone valley up to the very edge of the Aorangi State Forest Park. We then stop for a fun rifle shooting competition, which Bob manages to master, before heading back down the valley for a tour of the spectacular Blue Creek Farm glow worm caves. The day is capped off with some light refreshments before we return to Martinborough.

“That was great fun,” Bob says standing with his hands on his hips smiling at our group of muddy quad bikers.

“How’d you hear ‘bout us?” our tour leader asks Bob, grinning.

“Oh you know,” says Bob about to wipe a dirty smudge from his face then quite clearly deciding against it. “Through the grapevine...”

Please Note: Due to lambing activities on the farms during winter and early spring, Wairarapa Quad Bike tours are unavailable from 1 July to mid-October. Contact them for further details and to check availability.