Didn’t know New Zealand was home to some of the most jaw-dropping beaches on the planet? By driving just an hour outside Auckland you’ll be treated to serene stretches of silky, white sand dunes perfect for romantic strolls or fun days out with the whole family in tow.
The area we’re talking about is Matakana. It’s arguably one of the most beautiful spots on the North Island and the perfect place to while away a few hours (or days if you fancy a long weekend away!) As well as being a coastal enclave and beautiful green paradise, Matakana is on the doorstep of several idyllic towns, is dotted with vineyards AND boasts numerous unique attractions that’ll really round off your New Zealand experience.
Sound like your kind of road trip destination? So it’s time to fuel up your hire car in Auckland, zip up State Highway 1 and get ready to enjoy the best of stunning Matakana:
You’re a food lover who wants to sample all the local Kiwi cuisine
Matakana is a certified foodie heaven thanks to its famous village farmer’s market and surrounding orchards, vineyards and olive groves. The region also has an awesome café culture, from nutritious brunch spreads at pretty Plume Café to delicious comfort food at the quirky Tramcar Diner.
Farmers’ market you say? Yep that’s right! And not just any farmers’ market. Matakana village has been a point of trade since the early 1800s and its charming Saturday market is not only a key part of its history, but a treat for those passionate about delicious, locally-grown produce or handmade items. There are dozens of stalls to tempt you, selling everything from fresh oysters to mouth-watering crepes!
If that’s not enough, you also have the option of setting off along the Matakana Wine Trail (more on that below…)
You’re unable to resist a cheeky glass of wine (or three)
It’s no secret that New Zealand wine is lauded across the globe. But did you know that many of the country’s amazing vineyards are located in and around Matakana?
Well it is named the Matakana Wine Country for a reason!
Fancy glorious views and some boutique vineyards? You’re in luck! The region is well stocked! Here you can drink gorgeous wines and pick up a few bottles to take back to the city. Where would we recommend? Our top picks include the eponymous Matakana Estate and Brick Bay Wines. Brick Bay sits right on the coast and produces various types of wine which are expertly paired up with seasonal dishes in its fantastic onsite restaurant.
Alternatively, the smaller Runner Duck Estate is spread over just seven acres and only produces wine if the annual crop passes their very high quality standards. Regardless of the year’s harvest, you can still enjoy a tasting session at Cellar Door, the Runner Duck Estate bar that’s part of one of Matakana’s most prestigious eateries: Plume Vineyard Restaurant.
You just want to feel the sand between your toes
Matakana’s landscapes aren’t all lush vineyards. It’s also blessed with a stunning coastline featuring sandy dunes and plenty of space to spread out.
Beautiful beaches fringe the entire peninsula, with hotspots including Omaha Beach and Snells Beach. You can even catch a boat out to Kawau Island from Sandspit and take your pick of endless secluded coves. Keen to fit in a hike? The Ti Point Coastal Walkway takes around two hours to complete and lets you enjoy vistas of both the sea and towering Pohutukawa Trees as you trek. It’s pretty spectacular!
Feeling a bit more adventurous? Why not hire clear kayaks and paddle your way around Goat Island Marine Reserve a little further up the coast? It’s also a major destination for snorkelling and scuba diving thanks to its rich marine life and spongy corals.
“Arts and crafts” are your middle names
After some unique souvenirs? Or you can’t resist popping into every local art gallery you pass? Matakana definitely won’t disappoint.
Why not make your first stop the Morris & James pottery? It’s just a few minutes’ drive outside Matakana village and is well-known for its vibrant ceramics which are all made from clay sourced from the banks of the Matakana River. You can take a tour of the factory and then maybe pick up some pretty pieces for your home or garden in the pottery shop. Afterwards, if you’ve not quite had your fill you can head back into Matakana village and have a browse of the artsy boutiques near the farmer’s market.
Like the idea of combining your creative tour with a drink? Brick Bay – one of Matakana’s best wineries – boasts a beautiful sculpture trail in its grounds. Before you settle down with a chilled glass of pinot grigio, you can stroll down the Brick Bay Sculpture Trail’s wooden walkways through countryside that’s bursting with native ferns. You’ll pass dozens of weird and wonderful sculptures designed by some of the country’s top artists. Wine and art. Now we’re talking!
You’re a little obsessed by New Zealand’s sheep population
You may have been told that NZ is home to more sheep than humans – and this is completely true. In fact, in 2019 it was estimated that there were five times more sheep living on the country’s shores than people!
If you can’t get enough of seeing these fluffy creatures as you drive around the lush countryside( or you’re simply after an activity in Matakana that will keep the kids occupied), Sheepworld is a no brainer.
It’s essentially a large sheep farm, so make sure you pack a plaid shirt and some boots to wear! The venue lets you get up close to all sorts of friendly farm animals (not just sheep!) and see how wool goes from an animal’s coat to being part of a cosy jumper.
Fancy spending the winter wrapped up in locally-made woollen products? The shop at Sheepworld will have you covered. From head to toe in fact! And if you’re visiting on a weekend, don’t skip the farm’s Sheep and Dog Show that demonstrates how the sheep are rounded up, sorted and shorn.
Sheep shearing is big business in these parts. It’s definitely one not to be missed!
Getting to Matakana
Reaching Matakana is an absolute breeze as it’s less than hour by road from Auckland! Simply hop in your rental car and head north along State Highway 1. This major road takes you all the way up the coast, past Puhoi and into Matakana.
Discover more brilliant day trip ideas from some of the world’s biggest and brightest cities, from where to go just outside Venice to how to make the most of Frankfurt’s nearby vineyards.
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