There’s a small town (less than 2,000 population) in the Wairarapa district of the Wellington region where we love to holiday called Martinborough. It’s a gorgeous two hour drive (film director James Cameron says it’s an hour but for those of us with small children, it’s two) from the city through narrow, serpentine roads in the Rimutaka mountain range.
Our first visit to Martinborough was in 2013 when we moved to New Zealand and learned our shipping container was delayed for another month. We’d been living without furniture for two months and were desperate for comfort. A friend suggested renting a bach (a holiday house pronounced ‘batch’), which was the perfect answer to our sense of homelessness.
Since then, we’ve visited five more times, only staying at a different (and not as welcoming) bach once. The cottage we frequent is nestled in the perfect location just far enough outside of town for privacy, but close enough to walk everywhere. With delicate flowering jasmine vines lining the posts of the wraparound porch, farms sit next door on either side with pigs, sheep, and a horse offering a soundtrack to go with early morning coffees as our son feeds the grunting pigs through the fence.
The town square is a perfect grid within walking distance, as is everything in Martinborough, and is so small I feel like I’ve been transported back in time to Mayberry; a modest and honourable appeal even among the lure of 20+ vineyards, which is what Martinborough is most known for.
Those are walkable too, or rideable if you want to rent a cycle. The region is known for producing some of the best wine, specifically pinot noir. Our favourite winery is Margrain Vineyard, not just for their crisp rosé, but their pleasing lunches at the café.
Also in town is a used bookstore, large playground, some cafes and restaurants, a well-stocked market, lawn tennis courts, and quaint shops for browsing on rainy days.
Even with all that, our favourite spot is at the bach with its abundant yard space. Living in Wellington, even in the suburbs, having a yard (or garden as they call it here) is rare. There’s not much room for spreading out as most houses are stacked one next to the other or on top, behind the other. You’re lucky if you have a patio. Staying somewhere with a large section suitable for chasing after a kicked ball and dodging between olive and lemon trees is an absolute treasure. Our son has the best time and wears out before sunset.
The flat terrain reminds me of growing up in the Midwest minus the corn fields. In the distance, the Rimutakas stand out, a reminder of just how far away I am from my original home. Now that we’ve been settled in New Zealand for over three years, I’m feeling more at home here. But it’s Martinborough that always seems to take us back- as a reminder of what life was like for us during our move and the aid it provided from the uncertainty we experienced in 2013.
And now, well, it’s just home away from home.