Matakana, Travel Digest, June 2012


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Matakana, Travel Digest, June 2012

  1. 1. Matakana L ess than one hour’s drive north of Auckland, Matakana stretches along meandering river valleys and a stunning coastline from Puhoi in the south, to Pakiri in the north. My family and I have been coming to Matakana ever since I was young and my has it changed a lot over the last 20 years or so! The area has been a buzzing little place with pretty gardens and orchards since the 19th century – the perfect countryside escape for city slickers. Founded in 1862, Matakana was an early trading port with one of New Zealand’s first water-powered sawmills supplying timber to local shipwrights. Today it’s a bustling town and a premier destination, attracting many tourists each year. One of the main attractions in Matakana is the markets, held every Saturday 8am to 1pm, selling local produce including fruit and vegetables, delicious home baking, Italian-style sausages, divine organic chocolate, fine wines, boutique olive oils, locally-brewed beer accompanied by live music. They’re very popular, so fill up pretty quickly. My tip is to arrive early to avoid queues and find a good parking space. I remember visiting this market as a kid when there was only one hall and a few stalls, but since a redevelopment in the early 1990s, this place has just exploded, along with accommodation providers and other attractions. Whether it’s wine tasting in the sun, brunch at a local cafe, viewing local art or buying fresh produce from the famous Matakana Village Farmers Market, you’ll find beauty in this unique region, as SARAH WEEKS discovers. In fact, one of the great things about Matakana is its accommodation – you definitely won’t find any large-chain hotels in this town! Think more along the lines of luxury lodges and boutique B&Bs. This style of accommodation gives you that great home-away-from- home feeling and is more personalised as the guests are given more attention due to the small occupancy. Sugarloaf Lodge is a luxury B&B lodge perched high on Sugarloaf hill overlooking Matakana offering delightful views out to Omaha Beach and is less than a ten-minute drive to Matakana village. Hosts Vanessa and Allan Barber make you feel right at home as their two friendly dogs greet you upon arrival. The couple, who are originally from Great Britain, chose this area to build their dream home and love sharing this special place with visitors from around the world. The suites are modern and open out onto a deck offering panoramic views of Matakana’s stunning countryside. Pre-dinner wine and hors d'oeuvres are served in your suite each evening and a full cooked or continental breakfast is served in the main lodge house each morning. After a blissful night’s sleep at this lodge, the view that greets you in the morning is the perfect way to start the day – refreshed and ready to explore this beautiful region. A short drive from Sugarloaf Lodge is Matakana Country Park, which hosts a variety of attractions including an equestrian club, train rides and pony rides for the kids, an art gallery and Saturday market just to name a few. The Stables Restaurant is popular with locals and serves a range of delicious cuisine, including fresh fish, pizzas and they even have a kids’ menu. The country feeling of this place is reflected in the large Scottish stone fireplaces and works of art hanging on the wall. If you’re looking for a family-friendly restaurant with great service and food to match, you’ve come to the right place. Plume is the vineyard restaurant of Runner Duck Estate and is a true delight if you’re a foodie fan. Situated on the way to Snells Beach, the restaurant overlooks a vineyard and rolling hills and is a perfect spot to enjoy a glass of wine in the sun. Their menu reflects local cuisine and is a fusion of international flavours with good old kiwi-style food. Their chefs prepare everything from scratch and they use fresh, seasonal produce with a menu that reflects this. Guests can enjoy a casual wine tasting from their cellar door (I recommend their pinot gris) or sit down for lunch or dinner. One dish I must recommend is their famous dessert to share – chocolate mousse, biscotti and summer fruits all served in a tall glass – delicious! Speaking of sweet things, Charlies Gelato Garden is a great stop for a tasty treat. The orchard has been picking and selling fresh berries since 1992 and has recently added a gelato shop to their business. Offering a range of different flavours made from fresh locally produced ingredients including new inventions like Easter egg, visitors can enjoy eating their gelato in the garden setting at the back of the shop. It’s a great place to bring the family and cool off from the hot sun. The Matakana region is famous for their wineries and Hyperion is one of the originals still going strong. Winemaker John Crone set up this boutique vineyard and winery with his wife Jill in 1994. The tiny home vineyard produces Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec and Pinot Noir with all fruit processed on site, which John is more than happy to show visitors. Their merlot is very tasty and has even won gold medals at various wine awards. John also runs a local three-bedroom cottage that overlooks vineyards in the Matakana valley, ideal for a weekend away. He’ll even welcome you with a bottle of wine for good measure! Waimana Point is a stunning, secluded luxury lodge located on the Matakana coast, near Algies Bay. As soon as you arrive at this Waimana Point, wine and antipasto platter B&B, MATAKANA COAST WINE COUNTRY SUGARLOAF LODGE 1068 Leigh Road, Matakana, Rodney 1241 T +64 9 422-9515 F +64 9 422-9516 M 027 475-8992 E I m p e c c a b l y S t y l i s h B + B R e t r e a t SUGARLOAF LODGE 1068 Leigh Road, Matakana, Rodney 0948 T +64 9 422 9515 F +64 9 422 9516 W E B&B, MATAKANA COAST WINE COUNTRY I m p e c c a b l y S t y l i s h B + B R e t r e a t SUGARLOAF LODGE 1068 Leigh Road, Matakana, Rodney 0948 T + 64 9 422 9515 W F + 64 9 422 9516 E Magical River running through Matakana Village 30 31June 2012, TRAVEL DIGEST TRAVEL DIGEST, June 2012
  2. 2. picturesque place, you will be overwhelmed by the spectacular rural and sea views, making this a perfect romantic getaway or luxury honeymoon. The great thing about this lodge is its small size, making it an intimate experience. Hosts Gloria and Geoff Collier instantly make you feel at home and welcome you onto their stunning property, that has been designed to suit the landscape and take advantage of the scenic views. The four suites are luxuriously appointed with fine linen, a kitchen area, small dining table for two people, ensuite bathroom, comfortable lounge area, under-floor heating and ceiling fan. The elegantly designed suites take in stunning sea and rural views and each private patio leads to the lodge’s garden and walkways to the beach. Guests can relax and admire the view, savour a glass of fine local wine, or lie back with a book from the library. The lodge also features a sauna, outdoor baths perfect for stargazing at night, an indoor heated pool, walking tracks and petanque – so plenty to keep you busy. Breakfast is provided for each suite including fresh fruit, homemade muesli, cereal, yoghurt, breads and free-range eggs and bacon. You can prepare and enjoy your breakfast at leisure and in the privacy of your own suite or patio. There is also a complimentary antipasto platter provided each night before dinner and the bar in the guest lounge is well stocked with wines, beers and spirits for you to enjoy. The lodge also provides easy access to a private, secluded beach, perfect for a romantic picnic for two with food and drink purchased from the local markets and wineries. When the tide is high, kayaking is a great way to enjoy the great outdoors and see more of the coastal area. If you don’t have time to visit all the wineries in Matakana, then there’s one place you can go and try all of them. You’ll even be able to purchase them at their cellar door price. The Vintry specialises in local wine and is a great place to end the day, watching the sunset from their wine bar located in the heart of Matakana village. Wine tastings are available from 10am until 5pm accompanied by cheese, crackers and water to cleanse your palate between tastings. You’re not told which wine you are drinking until afterwards, which is a fun way of testing your wine knowledge. You’ll be surprised what you’ll learn here! The staff are both friendly and helpful and can cater to your preferences and suggest wines to try. After a few wines you’ll have worked up an appetite for dinner and you don’t have to look much further than Matakana Market Kitchen (or MMK as the locals refer to it). This has to be one of the best restaurants in the region. The food alone is a stand out for me and the kitchen prides itself on producing high quality food made from fresh, locally sourced ingredients. Everything is full of flavour and lovingly prepared. The restaurant serves brunch and dinner and also has gluten-free options, which is great. Their fish of the day is to die for – herb-crusted hapuka with ratatouille – divine! This place is always packed (a good sign) so make sure you book a table before arriving to avoid disappointment. If you’re looking for something a little different to your average winery then Brick Bay Wines may be just the thing you’re after. More than just a vineyard, the winery features a glass house on a lake where you can enjoy platters and wine tastings, but also a marvellous Brick Bay Sculpture Trail, making this an attraction in its own right. Explore the very best of contemporary New Zealand sculpture along this trail where you will find towering native trees, majestic palms, ordered vineyard rows and the farm pasture beyond. Showcasing around 45 sculptures from New Zealand artists, the work of arts blend in with their natural environment and is truly a sight not to be missed. After you’ve worked up an appetite, you can return to the Glass House where you can enjoy a wine tasting, coffee or shared food platter with a glass of wine as you reflect on your experience of “art and wine entwined” at Brick Bay. On your return to Auckland, why not stop in at the historical village of Puhoi situated along the beautiful Puhoi River. Puhoi Cottage Tearooms are the oldest tearooms in New Zealand serving Devonshire cream teas, “Kiwi style, Puhoi fashion” as owner David says! Take a step back in time as you sit in the gardens and enjoy the peace and tranquillity of this pretty area while eating big warm scrummy scones served with raspberry jam and a dollop of freshly whipped cream. Made just the way your Grandma used to make them, these are a real treat enjoyed with nothing other than the finest Ceylon tea. A stop here is the perfect way to kick off or conclude a weekend away in magical Matakana. ✈ Fresh produce at Matakana Village Farmers Market MATAKANA 32 June 2012, TRAVEL DIGEST