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The Best Things To Do in Matakana

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.

Brilliant colors in Tawharanui Regional Park, one of the best things to do in Matakana

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?

Pier in Matakana

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.

Hiking at Wenderholm Regional Park is one of my favorite things to do in MatakanaWenderholm Beach in Wenderholm Regional Park in North Auckland

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.

Seating at Wenderholm Regional Park in North Auckland Perimeter trail at Wenderholm Regional Park in North Auckland

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.

Views from cliffs at Wenderholm Regional Park in North AucklandClifftop views at Wenderholm Regional Park in North Auckland

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.

Dine at Matakana Market Kitchen, one of my favorite things to do in Matakana

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.

Wine tasting is one of the top things to do in Matakana

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.

Eat at the Matakana Market, one of the fun things to do in Matakana Down by the river in Matakana Village in North Auckland

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.

Vendor at the Matakana Market in North AucklandShopping at the Matakana Market is one of the most fun things to do in Matakana

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.

Explore the beach at Tawharanui Regional Park, one of the best things to do in Matakana

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.

Explore Tawharanui Regional Park, one of the top things to do in MatakanaTawharanui beach in Tawharanui Regional Park in North Auckland

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.

Fantail at Tawharanui Regional Park in North AucklandSee native birds at Tawharanui Regional Park, one of the best things to do in Matakana

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.

Go hiking in Tawharanui Regional Park, one of the best things to do in MatakanaPakiri Beach  

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.

Visiting Leigh is one of the best things to do in Matakana

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.

One of the best things to do in Matakana is to visit one of the nearby beaches

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:

One of the best things to do in Matakana is to visit one of the nearby beaches

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The Best Things To Do in Matakana The Best Places To Visit in and Around Matakana

8 Comments on Fun Things To Do in Matakana, North Auckland

  1. This is so informative. We live part of the week in Snells beach and feel so at home when we drive through warkworth. Thanks for the information about the parks, have only been to the kauri grove at the warkworth museum that’s a great walk.

  2. Glad I’ve found your blog! Our holiday plans for the next couple of years are to hire a camper for a month in New Zealand next year and the following year do the same in Alaska so I will be following your blog with interest!

    I’ve already started planning the NZ trip and since we will be picking up the camper in Auckland on a Saturday I think we’ll make the Matakana Farmers Market our first stop. I’ve read your post about Northland and most of the places you mention are already on the itinerary but I’m sure I’ll pick up some good tips once I’ve read your other posts.

    Looking forward to your reports on Alaska.

    • Hi Les, I am glad you found it too! I really hope you make the Farmers Market in Matakana, it is such a lovely, friendly place. If you visit the Health Store down near the market you will probably be served by my step-sister Kirstie. Northland is wonderful and I am sure you will enjoy it. Let me know if you have any questions about NZ travel, I am more than happy to help 🙂

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