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Want to know the best things to do in Matakana in North Auckland? I got you! Read on to find out more…
Whenever I return to Auckland I always try to make it up to North Auckland, particularly Matakana, for at least a night. Located one hour from the city center, lovely Matakana feels like a world apart from the hecticness of Auckland. It’s hard to believe that this slice of paradise is in fact still part of greater Auckland.
Matakana is a sleepy country village with a short main street that comes alive during the weekend when hordes of Aucklanders descend upon it to attend the Matakana markets and to eat and shop at the handful of excellent options available in town.
It never used to be so popular and back when my family first moved here there was little more than a petrol station and a pub. Some locals probably hate what it has become now but I still love it despite the changes.
I love how one day it can be bustling with out-of-towners and the next it is quiet and forgotten again. It keeps things interesting.
I have spent a lot of time in and around Matakana and it is very special, especially if you love the outdoors. There are gorgeous beaches, pretty villages, excellent restaurants, charming small-town pubs, native bird sanctuaries, rolling green countryside, and the best farmers’ market in the country. What’s not to love?
So if you are visiting Auckland, don’t miss visiting Matakana – there are so many things to do there.
Best Things To Do in Matakana
Hike at Wenderholm Regional Park on the Way
Bypassing the highway, I prefer to take the scenic route to get up to Matakana via Orewa and Waiwera. Orewa was once a quiet beach town full of retirees but is fast becoming a popular commuter suburb of Auckland.
The tiny blip that is Waiwera hasn’t changed much at all in my lifetime, other than the slow expansion of the thermal pools (which are currently closed for a complete overhaul). It is still refreshingly small and quiet.
But if you are only going to stop at one place on your way up to Matakana, make it Wenderholm Regional Park.
The park is a peaceful spot to camp, hike, or swim at the beach. I chose to do the longest hike in the park, the 4.8km perimeter trail. I set out along a line of giant trees then rose up into the thick bush.
The trail was muddy and I carefully made my way toward the top of the forested headland then down to a clearing with views over the water to Waiwera. A chorus of tui song accompanied me and I saw a plump native wood pigeon, a kereru, settled above me in the trees.
At the top of the headland, I was afforded stunning views over the beach and the murky Puhoi River and mudflats. Small islands sat offshore in the turquoise waters of the harbor.
Back into thickets of native bush, I passed gurgling streams and waterfalls as I made my way down the boardwalks to ground level, and down to the wild beach. On the still weekday afternoon when I visited, it was deserted.
Enjoy Matakana’s Dining Options
One of the very best things to do in Matakana is to eat. Matakana is home to one of my favorite restaurants in New Zealand, the Matakana Market Kitchen. The menu here is excellent and I highly recommend ordering seafood. If you are dining here during the day, I recommend grabbing a table overlooking the river.
Matakana Village Pub is the local pub and another excellent option for a great meal. The building has been around for 110 years which is a VERY long time in New Zealand years.
It used to be a lot more rustic, with animal heads decorating the walls and old-fashioned patterned wallpaper but it underwent a massive scale renovation in 2012, which opened up the space a lot more. It is now marketed as a gastro pub and the food is delicious. It’s usually the liveliest spot in town for a drink.
Try the Local Wine
The Matakana Region produces some incredible wine and the best way to try it is by visiting the tasting rooms along the Matakana Wine Trail. My favorite red wine in the world is from here – the blackberry forward Barbera from Matovino.
Check out the official website to plan what vineyards you want to visit along the wine trail – there are 21 to choose from! Reds are what Matakana is best known for although you can get some excellent white wine too.
If you want to try a number of local wines in one place, you can’t go past the Vintry in Matakana Village for excellent local wine and beer.
Visit the Famous Matakana Village Farmers’ Market
One of the top things to do in Matakana is to visit the Matakana Village Farmers’ Market. The market is held every Saturday and it’s one of the most popular farmers’ markets in the country.
Artisan producers from around the region sell their products alongside food stands selling specialty pies, incredible coffee, baked goods, crepes, and more.
Grab some delicious food and sit on the small river wharf to see the tame eels and listen to live music.
I always stock up on the amazing food available including cheeses, olive oil, fresh bread and pastries, locally brewed beer, and feijoa wine.
See Beautiful Beaches and Native Birds at Tāwharanui Regional Park
Located on a remote peninsula only twenty minutes’ drive from Matakana Village is Tāwharanui Regional Park, an open sanctuary and pest-free habitat that provides a safe home for threatened native wildlife.
The drive out there is scenic with coastal views and rolling pastures. The countryside in Rodney District is incredibly verdant and the colors always amaze me with their almost cartoon-like vividness.
Once in the park, I recommend doing one of the trails along the beach and through sand dunes and grassy fields.
The long, flat beach is one of Auckland’s loveliest. Oystercatchers milled around the shoreline, running from tiny waves on their little red legs. Clear green water shimmered under the hazy winter sun.
Go Surfing at Pakiri Beach
Pakiri is a rugged long, sandy beach, popular with surfers and for horse riding along the sand. It’s only a short drive from Matakana and my favorite beach in the region.
The rugged and beautiful beach is 14km in length and is an excellent beach to swim at with super clear water.
Visit Leigh and Snorkel at Goat Island
The even smaller village of Leigh is another easy place to visit from Matakana and is home to one of my favorite Auckland breweries – The Leigh Sawmill Brewery. But before you grab a beer, go for a wander around the wharf area – you will be amazed at the deep emerald green of the water here.
If you want to snorkel, head to Goat Island which is one of the best places to snorkel in the country!
See a Film at the Boutique Matakana Cinemas
Matakana may be a small village but there is an excellent cinema – perfect for a rainy day or chilled evening. Matakana Cinemas is located in the heart of the village and you can see blockbusters and arthouse films in a luxurious setting.
Whenever I find myself in Matakana, I am further reminded that Auckland is quite a remarkable city. And that the best bits are located on the fringe, especially in and around beautiful Matakana.
Where To Stay in Matakana
There are a number of great options for accommodation in Matakana from motels to luxury homes.
The best motels in the Matakana area are the Matakana Motel, and Plume Villas.
For vacation rentals, these have the highest review scores and are affordable options:
- Two-Bedroom Kereru Cottage Near Tawhranui Beach
- One Bedroom Matakana Valley Barn Cottage
- Two Bedroom Beachfront Yellow Bach
- Secluded and Peaceful One Bedroom Retreat With Hot Tub
If you enjoyed this post, check out my other Auckland content:
- The Best Cheap Eats in Auckland
- Hiking the Hillary Trail on Auckland’s Wild West Coast
- 26 Fun Things To Do in Auckland To Best Experience the City
- Fun Things To Do on Waiheke Island: A Subtropical Island Paradise