Marvellous Matakana

map Auckland to MatakanaJust a hop, skip and a jump (or about an hour's drive) from Auckland City, the marvellous coastal region of Matakana is home to vineyards, restaurants, sculpture walks and farmers markets.

We timed our visit to coincide with the Morris and James Labour Weekend sale (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.

We actually arrived in Matakana on the Wednesday and had a fantastic meal at Rusty's (The Rusty Pelican Pizzeria Restaurant) who have 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 paid 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 alround!  We stayed at the Matakana Motel which was clean, quiet and a short, easy stroll to the village and restaurants.

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 the strawbery shop in Sharp Rd impossible to resist (this is about 5 mins drive from Matakana Village and Sharp Road also takes you to Brick Bay Sculpture Park, which is about 15 mins further on). The Saturday morning Farmers Market was also well worth a look.  The offerings can be a bit pricey - there are 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 a 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!  

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 marine reserve Goat Island -  we plan on taking a picnic and having a snorkel in the sheltered waters teeming with a wide variey 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 

BrickBay Matakana
Shared platter at BrickBay Sculpture Works
View of the lake from BrickBay GlassHouse