Return To Martinbourgh

The former Martinbourgh Post Office & Store – Buy 

I thought I’d quickly detour back to Martinbourgh to follow up on a post I did the other day about  the Martinborough Hotel. Well, literally just across the road on the corner of Kitchener Street and Memorial Square is the former Post Office and Store. To this day it remains another fine example of the building and architecture from the pre-1900 era. 


The streets of Martinbourgh
Wanting to pay tribute to the city of London, all the streets leading out from the main square were planned and built in the form of a Union Flag.

The Martinborough Hotel

The Martinborough Hotel – Buy 

If you’re going to name a town, why not name it after yourself! That’s exactly what Irish settler John Martin did in 1879. After arriving in the South Wairarapa District from Wellington in the North Island of New Zealand, John Martin purchased a large sheep station with plans to develop a town in the area. Wanting to pay tribute to the city of London, all the streets leading out from the main square were planned and built in the form of a Union Flag. In 1882, three years after John Martin first purchased the land where Martinbourgh would be developed, on the corner of the town square the grand Martinborough Hotel was built. At the time, so impressive was the Martinborough Hotel, the proprietor boasted that it was ‘the finest hostelries ever erected in any inland town in New Zealand’.

Snow In Martinborough

Snow at The Martinborough Hotel  – Buy 

I’d spent the day at Cape Palliser, the southernmost point of the North Island. There, I explored the famous lighthouse, wandered around a few of the fishing villages, avoided washed out sections of road and went for a walk along the beach. Now, arriving back at my base of Martinborough, I discovered snow was starting to fall. Earlier in the day, I read that snow was forecast to fall in the Wairarapa area however that was something I’d chosen to ignore. I’d simply assumed it wouldn’t happen. After all, how often do you really believe snow will fall when it’s forecast.

The Martinborough

The Martinborough Hotel – Buy 

When John Martin was born at Moneymore, County Londonderry, Ireland, in November 1822, I wonder if it occurred to him that he would end up having a town named after him? John Martin first came to New Zealand on the ship the Lady Nugent in 1841 at the age of 19. After spending most of his years in the North Island (along with a few sea voyagers), he eventually purchased 33,346-acres of land in the Wairarapa for a reported £85,000 in 1879. Martin then split the run into 334 small farms and the township of Waihenga was subdivided into 593 sections and renamed Martinborough.


Martinborough Buy or view the Ōtepoti | Dunedin gallery

The next day I awoke feeling cold. Throughout the night the surrounding hills of the Wairarapa had been covered with a dusting of snow. I’d spent the previous evening enjoying the hospitality of the local hotel, discussing the benefits of wearing a Peak Blinder hat and the virtues of the late, great All Black Sir Brian Lochore. This then led to a much deeper discussion on if it’s still possible to make the All Blacks by playing for Wairarapa Bush without playing Super Rugby. We all agreed it wasn’t. 

Yesterday, leaving Cape Palliser the weather had turned nasty pretty quickly and so I’d decided to leave having a stroll around the town of Martinborough till the next day. Now, in the brightness of a new morning with the odd hail storm passing overhead, I went for a look around. 

The town very much had a ‘summer vibe’ to it. The houses all had either contemporary designs or were upgraded Villa’s with wrap-around decks to provide shade from the summer sun. There were swimming pools, vineyards and olive groves aplenty. All of which suggested that in summer if you like complicated and lavish food platters with expensive wine then this was the place to be. I came to suspect that Martinborough was a place that shutdown over winter and was just now coming out of its hibernation. 

Walking in the hail I passed the now familiar hotel and passed the Old Post Office which had been converted to a Boutique shop that among other things, claimed to have Inspiring Sophistication. Not being confident about what inspiring sophistication was, I went in. It took all of about 15 seconds to decide that if what was in front of me was inspiring sophistication then clearly it was something I was lacking. What’s more, since it seemed to involve floral designs, gourmet gift presentations and stuff made with lace, it wasn’t something I’d be purchasing in this lifetime, and dare I say it, the next!

Over the next hour I wandered around the village square and the surrounding shops while rain, hail and snow showers passed by. As I was preparing to leave, I spotted two things that caught my interest. The first of which was a sign at the Wine Merchants. I stood for a moment, studying the sign to make sure I understood it properly. It appeared that you could buy wine and also hire bikes. Now, I don’t want to cause alarm, but doesn’t that seem a tad dangerous to anyone else? Secondly, I discovered that the town of Carterton was nearby. Thus it was that I made up my mind to make Carterton my next stop, after Masterton.