What’s On In Matakana
Matakana is a charming shopping mecca tucked not far inland from Goat Island Marine
Reserve. Situated approximately fifteen minutes between Warkworth and Leigh, Matakana
is just a stone’s throw away from Dome Valley, Omaha, Snells, Sandspit, Point Wells and the
Tawharanui Peninsula. Matakana is a great jumping-off point for any day or multi-day trip
with plenty of activities and great places to eat any day of the week.
For locals, Matakana is a taste of the city on weekends and Christmas holidays, when its
few streets are bustling and packed to the seams with people from Auckland and all over
the country on weekend trips or holiday vacations to the coast. For Aucklanders, Matakana
is the perfect getaway. It’s less crowded and intimidating than the city with just as much on
offer and only a short drive from the coast.
The Matakana Markets start off every Saturday morning at 8 am and is packed with interesting local craft and food stalls. Whether you’re after breakfast or a few gifts to take home for friends and family, ingredients for a meal, or luxury goods to add to your weekend grocery shopping, you can find pretty much anything you need at the Matakana Markets.
The market is vibrant and busy, and is notorious for friendly smiles and talkative stall holders. You won’t go wrong starting any weekend trip with a stop at the local markets.
The main of Matakana street boasts a surf shop, butchery, and pharmacy, bakeries, clothing stores, op shops, a foursquare, several eateries, restaurants, bars and even a shopping mall and the boutique Matakana Cinemas. There’s plenty of parking too although you might have to park a little farther down the road when the market’s on.
From there the world’s your oyster.
You can head to Leigh for a glide in one of our unique
clear kayaks at Goat Island Marine Reserve where you’ll hopefully see Snapper, eagle ray and red
moki — all without getting wet! But if you’re into immersing yourself in the ocean, you can
hire a snorkel and mask from the Dive shop in Leigh and snorkel around in the teeming,
calm and protected waters of the marine reserve. Finish the afternoon by relaxing with a
book on the beach or head out on the Glass Bottom Boat for a tour around the reserve or
check out the Discovery Centre at the Goat Island Marine Lab.
Tawharanui is close by, as well as Snells and Omaha, all boasting glorious stretches of
coastline, or you can head to Sandspit and cruise on over to Kawau Island on the local ferry.
Whether you’re into swimming, scuba, freediving, snorkelling, surfing or fishing, Matakana
is the doorway to everything on offer in our local patch of the Hauraki Gulf.
After spending your morning at the markets and the afternoon at one of the local beaches,
you’ll probably be hungry. Foursquare of course, has everything you need to put together a
picnic lunch or dinner at the beach or grab what you need for a homecooked meal at the
bach. There’s also a great butchery if you’re hosting a BBQ and you can even grab yourself a
dozen fresh Mahu oysters from Matakana Oysters. There are roadside fruit stalls dotted
everywhere you go in this area, so be sure to support local growers by buying avocadoes,
rocket, eggs and fruit from roadside stalls whenever you can. Most stall offer spray-free,
organic produce at competitive rates.
If you’re feeling like a sit down dinner at a local hotspot, you can’t go wrong in Matakana.
The nachos at the Rusty Pelican are to die for (great value for money), as well as my personal favourite, the ‘Funguy’ (mushroom) pizza. There are options to suit every set of taste buds from fries and ribs to pasta and salad. Jin Jin is another local gem, an Asian fusion
restaurant that’s well worth the investment. Their Buddha’s Delight and Red Duck Curry are phenomenal, as are their dumplings and steam buns.
Finish the evening with more exquisite food coupled with a wine or beer at the Matakana Pub or a movie at the Cinemas (be sure to glance up at the ceiling while you’re waiting for the movie to start and check out the stunning art décor). Omaha Wood Fired Pizza is another great place to stop fora meal, just down the road to Omaha behind the Matakana Country Park. You won’t bedisappointed by their delicious pizza and friendly staff. Leigh has some great evening options too! The Leigh Sawmill regularly hosts gigs and offers a bar and dining seven days aweek during the summer.
Leigh Eats offers the best fish and chips in town and the Leigh Bar is always a good place to meet up. The Sawmill Brewery closer to Matakana is another great dining option. You’ll have to spend more than one weekend in the region exploringeverything that’s on offer.
The Matakana country park is a great spot to check out if you have an extra day. A little further down the road towards Leigh, the Matakana Country Park is another little boutique shopping village with local grafts, a gallery, a café and wine tasting venue as well as a variety of farm animals which are tame enough to pet. A little further down the road towards Omaha is the Sculptureum and their famous Rothko restaurant. Check out their funky art and manicured sculpture garden.
How could you forget Charlie’s Gelato? It boasts an impressive 4.8 stars on Google; while their Apple Crumble Gelato is scored 9.65/10 in my personal opinion. You’d be hard pressed to find better Ice Cream in New Zealand!
Speaking of pressed, Wine-tasting is yet another activity Matakana is famous for. If you have a preference for grapes be sure to check out the Matakana Wine Trail.
For the more adventurous, there are plenty of outdoor hiking options in the area too.Tawharanui or Dome Valley boast great trails or you can really test yourself and make the climb up Mt Tamahunga.
In Leigh you can take a leisurely stroll along the Harbour Walk or the Discovery Walk is a slightly more rugged trail showcasing stunning views of the reserve
and the area north of the Outpost at Leigh Harbour (accessed from the Marine Lab at Goat Island Marine Reserve). Mathesons Bay and Nordics (a steep hike down from the Leigh cemetery) are both great swimming spots in Leigh if you’ve spent enough time at Goat Island Marine Reserve. You won’t see quite as much at either of these spots as you would at the reserve (especially in summer when the beaches get more crowded) but you still might see the odd snapper or
octopus and plenty of kina. Or if you’re happy to hit the dirt roads head a little further north
to Pakiri beach for sweeping beachfront, swell and gorgeous cliffs.All kinds of accommodation are available in the area. From motels and hotels to Airbnb and
bach rentals, to camping at Matakana, Whangateau and Pakiri (unfortunately Goat Islandcampground closed its doors in the winter of 2022), to freedom camping at Mathesons Bay,
you’re sure to find a place to stay so that you can spend even more time at the beautiful
playground we call home.
Come visit us this summer! The weather is fine, the ocean is warm and the lifestyle is vibrant
and relaxed. There’s so much to do in Matakana, Leigh and the surrounding little beach
towns, you’ll have to visit more than once.