Masterton’s commercial centre is strung along three parallel roads – Chapel, Queen and Dixon Streets.
The wining and dining scene is excellent with modern restaurants, cafes and bars. The superb Aratoi Art and History Museum has a pleasant cafe. Cafe Solway, behind the Copthorne Resort, is fully licensed with a blackboard menu. Cafe Strada in Queen Street offers a warm, friendly environment and an all day menu. Cafe Cecille in the park offers fine views and excellent cuisine.
Drinkers will feel at home in Burridges, a micro-brewery with a selection of beers made on site. In February, the Solway Showgrounds come alive as local winemakers and restaurateurs offer their wares at the Wairarapa Wine and Food Festival.
Since colonial times there has been a strong Wairarapa tradition of living off the land. The first grapevines were planted in 1883 and the quality has never stopped improving. Why else would half of Wellington city make regular trips over the hill to zealously follow the latest wine sampling trails.
A typical day begins in Martinborough Wine Village where a number of boutique vineyards are clustered within easy walking distance. The area is famed for its international award-wining pinot noir wines. Mid week is the time for leisurely strolling as the Wellington gourmet set arrive en mass at the weekend to stock up on pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon, sauvignon blanc and riesling. In November the Toast Martinborough Festival has free buses doing the wine circuit with top local and Wellington restaurants selling their wares.
Whereas Martinborough has around 30 vineyards (12 within walking distance of the town square) Masterton boasts a more modest ten or so. The district has bold plans however, and new vineyards are sprouting along the scenic Ponatahi Valley, around Gladstone and the outskirts of Masterton itself.