Tim Smith, Owner and Manager, The Martinborough Hotel

Tim Smith is the owner and manager of the Martinborough Hotel, which offers boutique accommodation to visitors in the heart of Martinborough.

Starting in agricultural finance, Smith eventually moved to London to work for an Investment Bank for around 11 years. During this time, Smith and his wife spent many hours in various country pubs across the United Kingdom, each filled with character and their own stories.

Four years ago, after Smith and his partner acquired the hotel, they decided to replicate some of their most enjoyable experiences in the United Kingdom at the Martinborough hotel in hopes that their guests could enjoy them too.

The hotel underwent an extensive renovation, including repairing the cast iron radiator system, full internal repaint, bathroom upgrades, soft furnishings, and leasing of the food and beverage operation to a Michelin Starred chef. It also became Qualmark-certified, assuring high-quality and sustainable travel experiences.

The Martinborough Hotel at night.

The Martinborough Hotel first opened its doors in 1882 and was bestowed the title of one of the finest hostelries in New Zealand. It is one of the longest continuously operated hotels in the country.

“I’d like to think that it still holds true today; there are lots of great places to stay in New Zealand and lots of great places to dine, but to offer both in the same place in a wine village surrounded by beautiful Wairarapa countryside is pretty special,” said Smith.

“I think guests love being able to dine with us, then not have to worry about who’s driving, taxis, or the weather outside and sneak upstairs past the fire in the library and climb into bed.”

Throughout the pandemic, the Martinborough Hotel managed to overcome all the odds with help from its loving customer based in the Wellington region. Before the pandemic, approximately a quarter of the hotel’s guests were from overseas, while the remaining were from either the domestic or conference markets.

With the arrival of COVID-19, the New Zealand government closed the nation’s borders and imposed several lockdown restrictions, smothering the international market completely. In contrast, during this time, the Martinborough Hotel was met with a rise in domestic visitors, supported by Wellingtonians and road-trippers.

“I think Martinborough has benefited from being a great stop on the road trips many Kiwis have been making,” said Smith.

Looking into the future, the hotel plans to keep doing what it has done for the last 139 years, and that is to provide a wonderful place to stay in one of the finest hotels in the country.


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