Discover the magic of Matakana – for your perfect weekend getaway
It’s easy to see why so many Aucklanders now have holiday homes around the Matakana / Omaha areas. At a little over an hours drive from Auckland (traffic dependent of course!), it’s so accessible, and it has much to offer everyone.
For some, their first reason to visit is the now infamous Matakana Farmers Market. But there are so many other reasons to visit Matakana, so settle in for a good read, and get ready to start your list of ‘must do/sees’ when you visit.
Let’s start from Auckland. Although Matakana may be your destination, there’s a couple of stops you may want to make enroute.
Your first detour is the little village of Puhoi. This historic village is situated on the shores of the gentle Puhoi River. It was first settled in 1863 by immigrants from Bohemia, and still today retains some of that Bohemian charm. The historic pub is the most famous destination in Puhoi, and in summer weekends the patrons spill down the front lawn, making the most of the day and setting. There are a couple of bespoke shops to explore, and the cuteness of the local library will win your heart. If you’re a cheese lover, travel further up the road to the Puhoi Valley Café & Cheese Store. If you’re not a cheese lover, it’s worth noting they also make delicious ice cream.
Warkworth Village is the largest village on the Coast, and sits on the Mahurangi River. There are some beautiful heritage buildings in the village, and some lovely cafes and bars where you can enjoy village or river views. But, it would be remiss of me not to mention where I stop everytime I pass by Warkworth. (Yes, even I take a special trip off the SH each time to visit.) Chocolate Brown. The name kinda says it all. Chocolate Brown is a delicious destination in its own right, and for two fabulous reasons. They are both a chocolaterie and a café. The café serves delicious food (I’m addicted to their date and orange scones), alongside the yummiest hot chocolates, and the best coffee. Stop here for breakfast or lunch, then pop next door to take away a taste sensation from their chocolate range. I.do.every.time.
It’s time to pull yourself out of Chocolate Brown and head away from Warkworth, to our Matakana destination. Head back onto the road, and turn off SH1, heading towards the coast. (Everything is well signposted.)
Matakana Village here we come …
When you get to the village, you’ll most likely want to explore all it has to offer. For a little village, there’s certainly a lot to see, and experience.
The Matakana Village Farmers’ Market
Held every Saturday from 8-1pm, the market is a true showcase of the locals’ talents, whether that’s in growing beautiful produce, or creating something delicious. It’s held in the heart of the village, next to the river. It’s a truly beautiful setting, that buzzes with people. Grab something to eat, and enjoy it by the riverside to live local music. I also love that the market is zero waste (so make sure you take your own bags).
Here are a few of my other Village favourites – and I won’t apologise that most of these are food based!;
The Bacon Butty company
Bacon butties used to be sold as part of the market, but they became so popular, it’s now a 7 day a week operation next door to the market. But they’re only open until 1pm (or until sold out), so don’t delay if this is what you want. These are a great deal, and super yummy. My fav is the bap, filled with bacon, egg, tomato relish, hash brown and aioli. All for just $10. Nom nom. Did I mention the bacon is nitrate and sugar free, and handmade on site with free farmed NZ pork?
The Matakana Market Kitchen
If you’re hungry, the Matakana Market Kitchen offer a range of options to satisfy any hunger or thirst. They open at 9am, so you can grab a coffee and snack to go, or sit down for Brunch/Lunch. As the day goes on, you may find yourself grabbing an afternoon snack, dining in for a special dinner, or popping in for dessert after the movies. Alongside their food options, they also offer lots of seating options. In winter, inside by the fire feels very decadent, and in summer, outside under umbrellas next to the river is so relaxing.
Even though you may have just visited and indulged at Chocolate Brown, you should definitely pop into Honest Chocolat. It’s only fair that you compare their products right?! I certainly think, given my reputation is on the line, that it’s important for me to know first hand all chocolate options available. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. And in winter, their intense chocolate shots are a winner!
I’m a sucker for fresh artisan breads, and pastries, and Ringawera is the perfect place to satisfy these cravings. If you’re heading off on a local adventure, grab yourself one of the pre-made treats, to enjoy as a reward for your efforts. Add a coffee to your takeout – hubby says it’s one of the best he’s EVER had.
I love shops like Studio Matakana. They offer a range of life’s little luxuries that I’m sure most women love to browse – homeware, jewellery, handbags, and body products. A visit here is always uplifting, and you’ll almost certainly find it hard to resist a wee purchase.
If you love shoes, you’ll enjoy a visit to Heavenly Soles. The boutique shoe shop offers a carefully curated range of NZ and international labels, that are often hard to find elsewhere.
Coconut Gallery is a wee treasure. It’s a boutique filled with clothing brands you don’t normally see – and isn’t that originality something we all strive for? I’m not much of a ‘clothes’ girl, but even I was inspired to shop here, and left with some beautiful Italian silk dresses at a great price. It’s definitely worth a wander down the road to the gallery.
Matakana Village Pub
The village pub doesn’t quite conjure up the right image (in my mind anyway). This village pub is housed in a beautiful two storied historic building, filled to the brim with charm. It’s poised to be the party place in town, with a front yard that’s beautifully landscaped around the many table settings, an inside/outside terrace, and then a full bar and tables within all the rooms inside. It has all the charm and character you’d want in a venue. While our last visit was in winter, and it was very quiet, in summer this place is pumping. I’m sure if you want to ‘be seen’ this is where you’d be!
These are just a few of my village favourites. There is plenty more to see around this area within a 15 minute drive.
Let’s go exploring …
Morris & James – Pottery, gardens and cafe
This infamous pottery has a fascinating history (read it all here), and has been delighting kiwis and tourists with beautiful pieces since 1977. The pottery is all made on site, from clay sourced from the Matakana river banks. A visit here offers many different experiences, whether that’s just to shop and take advantage of factory ‘seconds’, a tour of the working pottery, or to enjoy some good nosh in the café and surrounding gardens. Possibly the best (or worst) weekend to visit is Labour Weekend, when they hold their annual sale event. This can get crazy busy!
A 5 minute drive from Matakana Village, will have you entering the gates of an experience that you will long remember. It’s a world of art, food and wine designed to inspire, uplift and amuse everyone who passes through. From personal experience, I can say that it does!
For more information to plan your best visit, click HERE.
Brick Bay Sculpture Trail
If you’re an art lover, you’ll need to visit both Sculptureum and Brick Bay. Brick Bay offers another opportunity to wander through a beautiful NZ landscape, discovering large-scale sculptures. The trail takes about an hour to walk, and is a great activity for all to enjoy – you can even bring along well mannered 4 legged friends. Afterwards, there’s the option of enjoying a wine (from Brick Bay Wines), or something to eat in the stunning Glass House Restaurant.
Omaha Beach is one of our family favourites, and we’ve spent many summers there enjoying it. The great thing about Omaha is that you have a surf beach on one side, and a lovely calm estuary on the other. This gives you options depending on the weather, and swimming abilities. The surf beach is a typical surf beach, with all of the joys and safety issues that come with swimming in surf. It is always recommended that you swim between the flags that the Surf Life Saving club erects and patrols.
Grab a picnic lunch in Matakana Village, then head to Omaha for a fabulous beach afternoon. Boogie boards optional, but highly recommended.
WALKS / HIKES
There are SO many beautiful hikes in this area, that I could fill pages with them all. Needless to say if you like walking, you’ll be able to visit the ara many times, and find a new walk experience each time.
Tawharanui Regional Park
Here I’m sharing my favourite area, the Tawharanui Regional Park. Within the park, there is a beautiful swimming and surf beach (Anchor Bay), an ecology trail, and many walking trails, all with panoramic views. The north side of the peninsula is home to a protected marin park, but on the east / southern side, there are actually some fishing spots.
Anchor Bay is a stunning beach, and many head to the Park just to go to the beach. What struck me most was the birdsong as we got out of the car. You have a full symphony from the birdlife (this is a protected bird sanctuary). It’s amazing, and a true taste of native NZ.
The range of walking tracks starts at just 2km (Fisherman’s Track), to 9km (North/South track). The North/South track goes around the perimeter of the peninsula, so you are blessed with views to Auckland, Kawau Island, back to Omaha, the Coromandel (on a clear day), and Little and Great Barrier Islands. The walking is easy, but it is steep in some parts.
There are also mountain bike trails within the park, so if you’d rather explore on two wheels, you’ve got options.
Leigh is another coastal village, about 20 minutes drive from Matakana. It’s much smaller, and quieter, but still has lots to offer. There are some great coastal walks around Leigh (Leigh Coastal, Goat Island Coastal, and Leigh Harbourway) alongside a couple of bush walks (Matheson Bay & Mt Tamahunga). If you do end up in Leigh, I highly recommend you hang around and enjoy dinner at the Leigh Bar. It’s basic food, done really well, at a great price. What more could you want? Oh yeah, great service too. (Thanks girls!).
We actually stayed in the hills of Leigh on our last trip (due to a geographical error in the AirBNB google listing). This was the view from our accommodation looking over Omaha, and beyond to Tawharanui.
On our last visit to Matakana we hired electric bikes at the Matakana Country Park. (We’re thinking of buying some, so were extra keen to try some out.) We road the Matakana Cycle Trail, from the Park, to Point Wells, then Omaha Beach, and then to Matakana via the ‘back way’. The trail is an awesome way to discover these areas on a bike, without having to be on trafficked roads (for most of it). You can do a ride just to get out on a bike and enjoy the scenery, or spend a day on them, stopping at some of the most infamous art and wine destinations en route. We loved riding around Point Wells, such a beautiful quiet place, with some stunning homes to admire as you ride past. It’s quite a contrast to the ‘brightness’ of Omaha.
Goat Island Marine Reserve
Goat Island is a special place to observe our underwater world, and all that lives there. One of the things that makes it so special, is how accessible it all is. Drive up, park in the carpark, walk down to the beach, and get into the water – it’s that simple! OR if you can’t get into the water, get yourself onto the glass bottom boat, and view it all from the safety of your boat. OR for something a little different, hire a clear kayak, and see the fish life swim under you as you paddle along. How cool would that be?!!
My favourite way to view the fish is snorkelling. We brought our kids here when they were around 10 years old, and they absolutely loved it. Hubby (the fisherman) couldn’t believe the size of the snapper. That’s what you get when the fish are protected. The amount of fish you’ll see is crazy.
Of course, if you’re a diver, you’ll have the opportunity to explore even more.
If you want to learn more about marine science, a visit to the Goat Island Marine Discovery Centre (on site), will give you a great insight into NZ’s marine ecosystems.
WINE & BEER
All of these amazing things to do in Matakana, and I haven’t even yet mentioned visiting the local wineries. And there’s a few of them. This could be another reason to visit the spend many weekends visiting the region. There are many different grape varieties grown in the region, so whatever your favourite is, you’ll most likely discover it here. As the wineries are generally small and boutique, there’s every chance you’ll get to meet the owners when you visit. Most of their wine is sold through their cellar door, or local restaurants. Here’s a full list of them.
The Sawmill Brewery
If you’re more of a beer drinker, Matakana has a great option for you. I’ve heard lots of good things about the Sawmill, but sadly for us (well, sadly for the fisherman), they were closed when we went to visit (so do check opening days.)
I think I’ve given you plenty of reasons why you want to visit Matakana, with a wealth of things to do while you’re there. So you’re going to need a place to stay. As a little village and seaside town, there are not hotels, so Air BNB is your best option.
You’ll find lots of lovely options. If you’ve not used AirBNB before, use this link first to register. It’ll give you a lovely discount to use on your first booking. And if you haven’t used it before, and are a little hesitant about staying ‘in someone’s home’ you may prefer to select ‘Entire Place’ under the Type of Place when searching for somewhere. We almost always choose this, as we prefer to be self contained, and not in someone’s personal space at the same time as them.
So, book it now, as I KNOW you’re in for a magical Matakana getaway.
Don’t forget to come back and share your favourite moments.
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