A few weeks ago we did a holiday road trip to explore the south-eastern side of the North Island. We planned a 10 day road trip and this post is part 1 of our trip. I really enjoyed this holiday and took way too many photos. I thought I’d break it up in 2-3 posts to really capture what we got up to.
This blog post will take you through our road trip from Auckland to Kuratau then to Martinborough.
From Auckland, our first stop was Kuratau. Before this trip, I didn’t even know where Kuratau was. Kuratau is a small little town on the western side of Lake Taupō. It’s around 3 hours and 30 mins drive from Auckland.
We arrived in Kuratau late afternoon and settled in to our accommodation for the night which was a lovely bach within walking distance to the lake. We then walked around the lake and ended up going for a swim. The water was so clear, it was amazing! Yes, it was a bit chilly but swimming in Lake Taupō was much nicer than swimming in the ocean. Clear water and not salty. We had a lovely dip and had a relaxing night in Kuratau.
The next day, we packed up to leave and ended up looking for the lost lagoon in Kuratau. The way to this lagoon is interesting and it’s apparently a ‘secret’ spot for locals. I say secret loosely because it’s a popular spot but you can’t google where it is. This was the view on the way to the lagoon.
There is a 5 minute bush walk after the carpark then this breathtaking view welcomes you:
This place was unbelievable. The water is so clear. It was hard to capture the beauty of this place and is much better to be seen in person. My photos don’t do this place justice. I recommend coming here if you’re driving through Kuratau.
It’s such a hidden gem and I now understand why this is a go-to spot to check out. It’s a popular swimming hole for locals but the water is absolutely freezing.
If you want to know where this is, DM me on Instagram and I’ll send you the details we were sent. I got the location from someone else on IG and Max got it from his friend whose family bach we were staying at.
From Kuratau, we got back on the road to our next destination: Martinborough. I pretty much slept on the drive there which was around 4 and a half hours. We did stop in Palmerston North for a late lunch as we haven’t eaten all day. I’m glad I was awake when we drove past the wind turbines though.
From afar, they don’t look as gigantic but up close, the scale of them were huge. They’re absolutely massive.
We were in Martinborough for 3 nights. We initially thought we can camp but the campground was fully booked so I ended up booking this cute Airbnb. It’s a historic homestead within a vineyard. This homestead was built back in 1905 in Wellington and was relocated to Martinborough. It had to be split into 5 parts. It has quite an interesting history. The vines within the property was sold and although it’s not a proper working vineyard, you can still do wine tastings here of the remaining Vynfields cellar stock.
I love this type of timber weatherboard-clad house with verandah and character details. I find it beautiful so I’m glad we stayed here. The booking is for a room within the homestead. Breakfast is provided in the common kitchen and dining. We got quite lucky as we didn’t really see the other guests and for two nights, we pretty much had the place to ourselves.
I loved the bathroom of this homestead. It had a great bath which I took advantage of.
Our room had two huge windows and we liked opening them all the way out. We needed to let some air in as it was hot but also the view towards the field was cool. The bed was comfy and we slept well. I also enjoyed our cup of tea with chocolate before bed.
We really enjoyed watching the sunset from our bedroom window. the sunsets in Martinborough when we were there were lovely.
Overall, this Airbnb was pretty awesome. I think it’s great value and well-located. It’s about a 10min walk to town and even closer to vineyards.
The best meal we had in Martinborough was at Karahui.
It’s located in the square in this beautiful old building.
The inside of the restaurant is also beautiful. I love the blush pink walls and decor. The food was also incredible. The menu is designed for sharing so we got a few of their sharing plates. Below were just some of them.
The star dish for me was definitely the mushroom parfait with porcini oil, crispy shallots and sourdough. It’s the middle photo and I took that after I’ve tried it. It wasn’t the prettiest dish but we were blown away by how amazing it was. If they sold it in a jar, I would’ve bought some. It was that good. I wish I can have it again.
For dessert we tried the parsnip toffee pudding with parsnip ice cream and potato skin caramel (third photo on the right). We were curious with the use of parsnip in dessert and we were pleasantly surprised. It was good.
If you’re ever in Martinborough, check out Karahui!
For our full day in Martinborough, we walked to town, hired bikes and cycled through to some vineyards. Then we ended the day at the Martinborough brewery.
I loved Martinborough. It’s such a cute little town with heritage buildings, good food and wine and it’s flat so great for cycling.
I just recently got a cute pink bike at home but I am not a confident cyclist so I haven’t really taken it out for a proper spin. Cycling with cars on the road is terrifying to me. In Martinborough though, the roads are flat and we did it on a Monday so it was less busy. I was still scared but as time went on and also a few wine tastings deep, I felt more confident cycling around.
Our first vineyard stop was at Margrain:
Their cellar doors are open 7 days a week but their cafe wasn’t open when we arrived. The tasting was free which was nice and we really enjoyed their Gruner Veltliner and Chenin Blanc.
Our next stop was Poppies Vineyard
Poppies is beautiful. The tasting was great and their Rosé and Riesling were amazing.
The lunch platter at Poppies was also pretty good. The pork belly with the pineapple salsa. YUM. We got quite lucky as when we arrived, they were fully booked for lunch but a table became available while we were doing our wine tasting inside. The service was excellent.
We had their rosé with the platter and their riesling with the lemon tart for dessert. I didn’t think I was a riesling fan but Poppies riesling is so smooth.
We had a few more vineyards on our list but sadly Luna Estate was closed that day. Also, I’m not a big drinker so after two wine tastings, two different glasses of wine over lunch, I was set. The day also started out cloudy which was nice as it wasn’t too hot but when we finished at Poppies the sun was coming out so we decided to cycle back home and have a nap. It ended up being a great idea as we conked out and it was so hot that afternoon.
We really enjoyed Martinborough. I would love to come back and visit more vineyards next time. It’s not that far of a drive from Wellington and there’s a lot to do and see within the Wairarapa region.
It’s also close to amazing places such as Cape Palliser. We drove to the southernmost part of the North Island and had the best day. That will be my next blog post. This post is already too long so I’ll leave our adventure to Cape Palliser for next time.