Discover New Zealand’s oldest marine reserve at Goat Island
This marine reserve surrounding the tiny Goat Island or Te Hāwere-a-Maki is one of the most popular snorkelling/diving spots in the Auckland Region as is New Zealand’s first marine reserve. As a “no-take” zone fish are fearless and plentiful, which makes the whole trip worthwhile and you don’t even have to get your feet wet to enjoy it!
Less than 10 mins from the township of Leigh you can make a day of it at Goat Island picking up essentials from Matakana Village on your way in, to enjoy on the beach or check out one of the cool eateries including The Leigh Sawmill for a taste of Leigh Fish no doubt caught that day.
Discover the boutique Matakana Coast vineyards
Less than one hour’s drive north of Auckland City the Matakana vineyards offer boutique wines for tasting, luxury accommodation, restaurants and stunning views of the region a must add to your day out in Matakana Coast.
The vineyards are constantly evolving and reflect with distinction their sense of place, climate and community and offer one of the most diverse mixes of grape varieties in New Zealand: 28 different French, Italian, Spanish, even Austrian varieties, comprising 11 whites and 17 reds.
Our white wines like Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Albarinõ show consistent excellence, and the climate is also warm enough to ripen such red wine varieties as Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. Be sure to taste the silky Italian varieties such as Sangiovese, Dolcetto, Nebbiolo, Barbera and Montepulciano.
Discover a local favourite Charlies Gelato
The most challenging part of visiting Charlies Gelato on the outskirts of Matakana is weighing up which flavour to choose. Luckily they provide tasters so you can make an informed decision. From dairy-free sorbetto, to deliciously creamy gelato you’d be mad not to sample several.
There are a ludicrous number of flavours, ranging from delicious takes on old classics, sorbets (elderflower and boysenberry is a standout) as well as recognised Kiwi flavours including Feijoa and Jaffa. Unlike other faux-gelato makers, the flavours are truly on par. The banana gelato tastes exactly like its real-life counterpart, and when paired with a scoop of their dark chocolate, it has an almost uncanny resemblance to freshly made banana cake.
One successful visit to Charlies will confirm that these Matakana locals are doing their bit to better gelato, in all of its varying forms.
Discover the Brick Bay Sculpture Trail
If you are spending time in the Matakana Coast make sure you take a detour to visit Brick Bay Sculpture Trail (and winery), located less than 10 mins from Warkworth. Little and large come together seamlessly on the Brick Bay Sculpture Trail. Nestled in the grounds of its namesake vineyard, you need only to step into the foyer to find a selection of bijou art pieces – handbag-sized and ready to go.
Once on the trail itself, which forges a route through a surprisingly wild environment largely managed by Mother Nature, some sculptures grow in scale, while others sit modestly in the foliage. There is a spectacle to see (and often hear) in every corner, from the water lily lake to the burgeoning kauri forest. You can easily spend hours here. Bright dinosaurs are currently proving a big hit with kids, while the commanding follies, constructed every year following an annual competition to elicit emerging Kiwi talent, always draw the eye.
Discover the riverside town of Warkworth
Everyone often passes through Warkworth on a road trip to Northland or heading to one of the white sandy beaches on the east of Matakana Coast. People need to plan to stop either for an hour or two, or consider making it their base while exploring the Matakana Coast. Warkworth is a picturesque riverside town located on the banks of the Mahurangi River, packed with heritage architecture shops and some seriously awesome cafes and restaurants – hint: Chocolate Brown Cafe, Warkworth Hotel just a couple of ideas?
If Heritage and Architecture is your thing a visit to Warkworth Museum with a mock up room of a home that would be the style all over the Warkworth area back in the 1920’s The museum is set in the stunning surroundings of the Parry Kauri Park where you can see the largest Kauri Tree on the East Coast of New Zealand estimated to be over 700 years old.
Discover Pūhoi Valley Café and Cheese Store
Go ahead and pinch yourself. With so much gourmet goodness on offer, you might just think you’re dreaming. Pūhoi Valley is every turophile fantasy. Brimming with stacked camembert in the chillers, creamy wedges toppling over the counter, cheese tasting by the bucket-load and award-winning blues churning behind large picture windows – and that’s all before the fresh milk, yoghurt and ice cream.
Just 40 minutes north of Central Auckland, the venue sits in grounds as heavenly as the produce and even non-cheeseaholic will enjoy the native forest and water fountains. Dine like a king on the terrace and then pop indoors to admire the new wheels of cheese residing in the cellar. Polish off your visit with a bottle of Puhoi flavoured milk, the sweetest of treats no matter what your age.
If you’re bivalve-curious there’s no better experience for sampling seafood than on board the Shuckleferry. Departing daily from Scotts Landing at the very tip of Māhurangi East Peninsula, the Shuckleferry is a unique, flat-hulled boat that takes you on a tour of the harbour’s oyster farms.
Māhurangi Harbour is also known as the Jade River because of its colour and length, with the head stretching all the way back to Warkworth. The western coves and bays are ideal growing grounds for oysters, as nutrient-rich currents circle through the narrow harbour entrance and into the shallow tidal waters.
Today, the harbour is home to 13 separate farms, with the largest covering more than 250 acres.
Aboard the Shuckleferry you’ll learn all about the delicious kaimoana. Like the fact that it takes 12 months for an oyster to grow to full size, depending on the amount and quality of nutrients in the sea. As filter-feeders, each oyster will process 100 litres of water each day, and if they’re left high and dry when the tide goes out, they seal shut. Which also means they’ll keep for up to three days once harvested, retaining all their juices in the shell.
You’ll have an opportunity to shuck your own oysters and sample them straight from the shell or gently steamed on the barbecue drizzled in garlic butter.
Discover Tāwharanui Regional Park
After visiting Tāwharanui Regional Park you can see how it can boast of being one of New Zealand’s most beautiful white sand beaches, surrounded by rolling pastures, shingled bays, native coastal forest and regenerating wetlands. It is considered to be one of the best swimming and surfing venues in the Auckland region and with the shady pohutukawa trees a perfect spot for a picnic which many families can be seen doing during the warmer months.
A favourite activity is the Ecology Trail where you encounter multiple native bird life – think Takahē and Dotterel: fauna and forest. If you are on a Kiwiwness Tour at night you might might even come across a Kiwi. Remember as an Open Sanctuary you need to leave ‘Rover the dog’ at home and bring supplies you won’t find in a corner store here!
For those of you who are interested in an overnight stay you are in luck, there is a large campground in the Tāwharanui Open Sanctuary The campground is situated on the north eastern coast behind the sand dunes and between Phoenix Reef and Comet Rock. Beware this is a popular camping spot and you must book early to secure.
Discover the walkways of Matakana Coast
A fantastic way to discover the Matakana Coast is on foot, exploring one of the many walking tracks on offer with varying degrees of fitness offered. From sheltered leisurely bush walks containing waterfalls and native trees including the mighty Kauri to coastal pathways offering breathtaking views you will not be disappointed.
A section of Te Araroa – New Zealand’s Trail also runs through the Matakana Coast, starting in Mangawhai and travelling through to Pakiri, connecting to the Mt Tamahunga Track then onto Govan Wilson to Puhoi Valley track and finishing in Puhoi.
Two of the favourite local walks include Ti Point Coastal Walk a family-friendly walk starting at Ti Point wharf near the Whangateau harbour. Offering amazing views out to Omaha beach and out to Little Barrier on a clear day. You are likely to catch sight of local fisherman fishing of the end of Ti Point along with divers looking for the crayfish along the rocks. There’s a nice picnic spot with a table just a few hundred meters from the start and several good swimming spots and places to play on the rocks at low tide.
The second is the Dome Valley Summit Track which offers amazing views including a mystical Kauri grove. The walk itself starting at the Dome Valley tearooms starts fairly easy going but does turn into a serious tramp – so make sure you are fit. Enjoy the views you will get across the Mahurangi peninsula before heading up to the Dome Summit, making sure you listen out for the native birdlife. Please note this track does cross land sacred to local iwi so please be respectful and stick to the track.
Discover one of the oldest Farmers Market in New Zealand
Pick up fresh local produce at the Matakana Village Farmers Market on Saturdays. Fill your basket with delicious local cheese, artisan breads, oysters, handmade chocolates, olive oils, craft beers & ciders. Make sure you munch out on a fresh Manaki Whitebait Fritter by the river’s edge while enjoying a coffee from Matakana Coffee Roasters. Watch out for the cheeky eels and ducks checking out all the visitors and hoping for a morsel.
If you can’t make Saturday don’t worry, many of the producers at the market can be visited at the Matakana Village 7 Days a week or purchased at the local ‘4 Square’ and at a number of the boutique food shops located throughout the Matakana Coast region.