Marvellous Matakana

Just a hop, skip, and a jump (or about an hour north) of Auckland City, the marvellous coastal region of Matakana is home to vineyards, restaurants, sculpture walks and farmers markets.

Auckland to Matakana: Hitting the Open Road

Read on to Follow the real-life experiences of  Garth and Jackie Hallberg of Auckland as they travelled from Auckland City to Matakana.

Index of Itinerary and highlights:

An Escape to Matakana: Starting at Morris and James

We timed our visit to coincide with the Labour Weekend sale at Morris and James Pottery (not that I shared that small detail with my husband before we set off). Morris and James has been known for its Labour Weekend sale of handmade pottery and ceramics since the 1970s, so to be fair, he probably should have seen this one coming! We visited on Labour Weekend Friday, beating the main crowd that would swarm in on the weekend and enjoyed a leisurely browse of all their amazing works, escaping with only a few bargains. The cafe there is particularly good.

Matakana Village: Eats and Retreats

We actually arrived in Matakana on Wednesday and had a fantastic meal at Rusty's (Rusty Pelican Sports Bar), which has a great Wednesday night (mid-week) special - a perfectly cooked steak for only $14, served with mash and peas. We paid just $38 for the whole meal for the two of us. The next night, we spent more than double that across the road and waited three times as long. So Rusty's has our vote on price, but also on atmosphere - thumbs up all round! We stayed at the Matakana Motel, which was clean, quiet and a short, easy stroll to the village and restaurants.

The Brick Bay Sculpture Trail: Art, vineyards and gelato

After coffee at the Sandspit Wharf the next day (where the friands and muffins are baked on site and served still warm) we followed advice from the very chatty locals and cafe owner, and meandered our way around the Brick Bay Sculpture Trail.  This is a 2-3 km easy undulating walk with sculptures all the way, beginning and ending at the Noel Lane (architect) designed Glass House building which straddles the lake.  On return here we munched our way through a shared platter and a glass of the Brick Bay Vineyards wine, watching the ducklings at play on the lake.  Life is tough indeed!

You may well form the impression that it was all eating and drinking for us in Matakana, and really, there are a multitude of options. We found the fresh fruit gelatos at Charlies Gelato on Sharp Rd impossible to resist (this is about a five-minute drive from Matakana Village. Sharp Road also takes you to Brick Bay Sculpture Park, which is about 15 minutes further on).

The Matakana Farmers’ Market: Artisanal Finds and Gourmet Delights

The Saturday morning Matakana Farmers’ Market was also well worth a look. The offerings can be a bit pricey - there is a great selection of artisan cheese, breads and beers - but we loved the fresh whitebait fritters, huge juicy fritters in big slabs of buttered white bread, truly divine!  

Another stop well worth making is the Leigh Sawmill Cafe, where they brew their own beer, make very good pizza and even have accommodation if you're looking for somewhere to stay just 10 minutes out of Warkworth.

Such an easy break away, so close to Auckland - and since we didn't have enough time to get to all the points of interest in the area - we'll be back soon, Matakana!

Return to Matakana: The Bucket List

Next time, we're likely to take the ferry trip from Sandspit to historic Kawau Island - to see Mansion House (once owned by Sir George Grey) with its tropical grounds and do the walk to the old copper mine. I am told there are many native birds, like the cheeky wekas, which thrive there and where, if we are lucky, we may even spot a wallaby. Also still on the to-do list is the Goat Island Marine Reserve -  we plan on taking a picnic and having a snorkel in the sheltered waters teeming with a wide variety of fish species. An ideal spot for young and old alike and for those not keen on a snorkel, there is the option of a glass-bottom boat trip to observe the marine life.

The photos below are taken inside the Glass House Restaurant at Brick Bay Sculpture Park.  Hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Story and photos kindly provided by Garth and Jackie Hallberg of Auckland

Read on to discover more day trips to add to your itinerary of this fantastic region.

BrickBay Matakana

Shared platter at BrickBay Sculpture Works

View of the lake from BrickBay GlassHouse


Puhoi - A Taste of Historic New Zealand

 Nestled just a short drive north of Auckland via Matakana Rd and Old State Highway 1, Puhoi is like a page out of a storybook, a place where time stands still. This quaint historic village exudes a bohemian atmosphere that will transport you to a bygone era. Wander picturesque streets lined with colonial-style cottages and soak in the village's unique blend of Maori and European heritage.

Make your way to the Puhoi Cheese Factory to indulge in the finest artisanal cheeses, lovingly crafted using age-old techniques. Feeling thirsty? The Puhoi Pub Hotel & Stables, with its rustic ambience and friendly locals, is the perfect place to stop for a drink.

Waiwera - Soak in the Thermal Hot Pools

Midway through your journey to Matakana from Auckland, head to the coast to the thermal hot pools of Waiwera. Surrounded by lush greenery and overlooking the shimmering waters of the Pacific Ocean, this tranquil paradise allows you to emerge refreshed and invigorated, ready to continue your exploration of New Zealand's wonders.

Warkworth - Discover Local Delights

A short drive north along the coast will bring you to Warkworth, just three-quarters of an hour north of Auckland. You’ll find inviting eateries and boutique shops beckoning with unique finds and artisanal crafts here. Visit the iconic Warkworth Bridge, a picturesque structure that spans the tranquil Mahurangi River and provides a perfect photo op. Make a beeline to the Chocolate Brown Coffee Kiosk & Chocolaterie on Mill Lane. Visitors are welcome to enjoy artisan chocolate, handmade fudge and classic sweets that are as beautiful as they are scrumptious.

Arrival in Matakana: Explore the Matakana Village Farmers Market and Vibrant Vineyards

Welcome to Matakana, where the heart of New Zealand's North Island beats with a vibrant energy. Begin your adventure in Matakana Village at the iconic Matakana Farmers Market. This bustling farmers market is a sensory and culinary delight held every Saturday. Stroll among the stalls overflowing with locally-grown fresh produce, artisanal cheeses, handcrafted goods, freshly brewed coffee and gourmet treats.

Visit the Brick Bay Sculpture Trail to wander through lush native bushland adorned with captivating sculptures created by both local and international artists. Sip on award-winning wine in world-class vineyards where rolling vine-covered hills meet the ocean. Matakana vineyards have stories to tell, and visitors will find the wine tastings in this region are an experience in themselves.

Optional Stops and Scenic Views

While the drive from Matakana back to Auckland City offers plenty of scenic beauty along the way, consider these stops to make your return journey even more memorable:

Tawharanui Regional Park

If you're a nature lover, a visit to Tawharanui Regional Park is a must. Travel towards the Takatu Point Lookout on the coast to find this pristine sanctuary. Discover an incredible gateway to walking trails, beautiful beaches, and birdwatching opportunities. You can also enjoy stunning panoramic views of the Hauraki Gulf and its islands from various vantage points within the park.

Scenic Coastal Drive

As you wind your way back through Matakana to central Auckland, take your time and savour the stunning vistas along the coast. The drive offers visitors numerous lookout points where you can pause to appreciate the rugged beauty of the New Zealand coastline. 

Mahurangi East

As you continue along the coast, detour to Mahurangi East, just an hour north of Auckland. Explore secluded bays, go fishing, or simply relax by the tranquil waters. It's an idyllic spot for a peaceful break before continuing to Auckland.

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