Our first trip out of Wellington was a success, even though our plan to wing it didn’t exactly work haha. We drove northeast 1.5 hours to the charming town of Martinborough, famous for its vineyards. Mostly our problem was we didn’t research when the wineries closed so it wasn’t until we talked with a shop owner about the different wineries that she pointed out that they closed in two hours. Whoops! lol. Actually the closing early thing is something I’m struggling to get used to here, especially coming from Los Angeles where everything is open late. But here in New Zealand most stores closed by 5pm so we should have guessed the small town of Martinborough would be the same. It’s cute that stores close early but it’s not convenient when you are trying to just make plans on the fly. 🙂
The drive from Wellington to Martinborough is a gorgeous but very winding drive through the Rimutaka Mountains. Martinborough sits in a valley of rolling hills in the mountains and the vineyards are along dry riverbeds that provide rich soil. The town was founded in the 1800s by John Martin and many of the streets were named after places he visited which probably explains why we saw a street named Kansas!
Our first stop in Martinborough was to find a place for lunch so we drove to the town square and were instantly charmed by it’s colonial architecture. Is this Star’s Hollow we joked lol. There were so many cute cafes to choose from for lunch but we decided on Pinocchio and were treated to a lovely atmosphere and my favorite meal in New Zealand so far! I had a tomato and goat cheese tart that was heavenly!
After full bellies we meandered down the main street and stopped in a boutique and chatted with the store owner about which wineries to visit. She then informed us the wineries closed in two hours and we rushed out to find our first winery! Good thing we chatted with her or we would have had even less time to drink haha.
Since we didn’t have an exact plan we drove around until we randomly chose Margrain Vineyards. Most of the wineries surround the town and are very easy to drive to or you can rent bicycles and bike to the different vineyards. Margrain Vineyards has a beautiful outdoor patio with views of their vineyards with the mountains as a backdrop. It was the perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon. We all ordered a glass of wine (our favorite ended up being their popular white wine nicknamed Groovy Baby) and shared desserts too.
After enjoying our time at Margrain we didn’t have enough time to visit another winery so we drove back to the town square and found a wine bar still open. We sat in their outdoor patio and sipped Proseco for about an hour before deciding to drive back to Wellington. I’m glad we didn’t leave until the evening because we were treated to a gorgeous sunset on our drive home! I was so mesmerized I took a zillion photos haha. Since we only saw a tiny portion of the amazing wineries Martinborough has to offer I look forward to returning and sampling more of the local New Zealand wines!