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  >  Destinations   >  New Zealand   >  24 hours in Martinborough

You could easily spend a week in the Wairarapa, exploring the spectacular coastlines, wide valleys, colonial townships and wineries which make this region famous. However, if you’re in the Wairarapa for a good time, not a long time, this short but sweet itinerary offers a great way to spend 24 hours in Martinborough (and beyond). The Wairarapa is made up of five different townships. While Martinborough is the best known, there is also much to enjoy in Featherston, Greytown, Carterton and Masterton. If you are short on time, Greytown and Martinborough offer the perfect combination for a day trip or overnight stay. You can hire a car and tour around by yourself but if you want to enjoy the region’s superb wine the best way to see Martinborough is on a day tour.

Marinborough
Local favourite Poppies Martinborough
Marinborough wine
Sample at a cellar door

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Marinborough vineyard
Stunning Martinborough scenery

Start your trip with a stroll around Greytown, a stylish country village filled with cute boutiques, antique stores and restaurants and cafes, many of which are housed in historic cottages. Oggi Domani is a welcoming ceramic art and design studio where artist Josephine Durkin hand paints pieces using intricate Italian designs. Josephine trained in Italy with a ceramics maestro and her studio offers a fascinating glimpse into the process of creating ceramic art from designing to the glazing, painting and cooking in the kiln. Even if you planning on buying, it is definitely worth a visit.

Marinborough pottery
Hand painted bowls at Oggi Domani
Marinborough pottery
Work in progress at Oggi Domani

Cobblestones Early Settlers Museum takes visitors on a trip back through time to the region’s pioneering days. Our son volunteers to be put in the stocks in the pretty village square and drops into the historic school house. Here we met a ‘teacher’ who pretends to check for clean hands and finger nails just like a school mistress would have done in the olden days. Cobblestones offers a beautifully curated collection with picturesque surrounds which invite visitors to enjoy their time at the museum.

Marinborough
Picturesque Cobblestones Early Settlers Museum
Marinborough
Old fashioned fun at the school house (he passed)

We also explore the Wairarapa’s First Public Hospital which opened in Greytown in 1875. Original dental equipment including a pedal drill has us saying we will never complain about visiting a modern day dentist again. My favourite building is the shearing shed which was built in the late 1870s. As we wander amongst the shearing floor and machinery and run our hands across the wool-sorting bench, we can almost hear the shears clicking. Next door to the museum we discover Schoc Chocolates, an artisan chocolate studio which has developed a reputation for exquisite chocolates and unusual flavour combinations. There are more than 80 different flavour combinations to try including the top three selling flavours: lime & chilli, sea salt and lemon & white. Everything in the shop is made on-site in a tiny kitchen where you can watch all the delicious chocolates being made. We taste some of the different chocolate blocks with commentary provided by charming owner and raconteur Murray Langham. Much to our surprise it is one of the most unusual flavours – Curry and Pappadums – which we can’t resist buying to take home. The label on our block of chocolate heaven reads ‘Crafted to be eaten not stored’; just one more reason for this family of chocoholics to love Schoc Chocolates.

Schoc Chocs
Handmade chocolate bowls
Chocolates
So many to choose from…
Schoc chocolates
Top pick from our tasting session

Food Forest Organics is a produce store and delicatessen featuring organic produce from the Cameron Family Farm in south Wairarapa which just happens to be owned by famous Hollywood movie director James Cameron. Our son lures us into The Lolly Jar, an old fashioned sweet shop selling over 150 pick ‘n mix sweets from the UK, New Zealand, France, America and Turkey. Lunch is a casually upmarket affair at The White Swan Hotel, a picturesque pub which began life as a New Zealand Railways’ administration block at the Woburn Railyard. It has an impressive wine list and dishes up hearty fare such as towering burgers which taste as good as they look.

The White Swan
Lunch at The White Swan
Martinborough
Shopping at Food Forest Organics
Martinborough
Outside table at Food Forest Organics
Martinborough lollies
Pick and mix at The Lolly Jar

After lunch we head to Martinborough for a wine tasting tour with a difference. Visiting vineyards with kids in tow is enough to drive most parents to drink but Green Jersey Cycle Tours makes it fun for everyone. We hop onto a quirky looking bike which should be called ‘double trouble’ as my husband and son try to make their machine go as fast as possible. I get some extra peddle power from tour leader Stuart Edwards who entertains us with his insider tips and excellent company (and takes our son for a ramble around the vineyards while the grown ups taste some of the Wairarapa’s excellent wines).

Double trouble in Martinborough
Martinborough
Enjoying the scenery
Martinborough wine tasting
Wine tasting is friendly and fun in Martinborough

Our night is spent surrounded by the old world charm of The Martinborough Hotel which is located in the heart of town on Martinborough Square. It’s an easy walk from here to many of Martinborough’s attractions including The Village Café where we have breakfast the next morning. Service is friendly, the coffee is excellent and the menu includes dishes that venture beyond the standard breakfast fare such as huevos rancheros. It is worth a visit to Martinborough for the breakfast alone.

Martinborough Hotel
The Martinborough Hotel
Martinborough Hotel
Sitting area at The Martinborough Hotel
The Restaurant & Bar – Paddock to Plate at The Martinborough Hotel
The Village Cafe
Tasty huevos rancheros at The Village Cafe
The Village Cafe
Breakfast at The Village Cafe

Before we head back to Wellington there is time for a quick stop in Featherstone, a township that is currently on the up-and-up, where we sample New Zealand cheeses at specialist emporium C’est Cheese. We also pop next door to browse at the quirky gift shop, Mr Feather’s Den, which is filled with an intriguing selection of gifts, oddities and quirky delights. One night in the Wairarapa offers a tantalising taste of the many pleasures and treasures to be found here but you could easily spend a week in this charming destination without running out of things to see and do.

Mr Feather's Den
Quirky finds at Mr Feather’s Den
More from Mr Feather’s Den
Martinborough
Buy supplies for supper or a picnic at C’est Cheese

Disclosure: The writer visited as a guest of Destination Wairarapa.

While we were in nearby Wellington we stayed at the Grand Mercure Wellington and QT Wellington, and went on a Seal Safari. We also discovered plenty of other great Wellington things to do.

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Dr Tiana Templeman is an award-winning food and travel journalist, travel author and media industry academic. She is the creator of The Travel Temple, writes for Australian and international media outlets and appears on radio talking about where to go, what to see and travel industry trends.