Wine and dine your way through New Zealand with these magnificent locations: here is No. 22 of our 101 Reasons To Stop Dreaming About New Zealand And Go.
Should we get away from the city on Friday afternoon or Saturday morning? There’s always debate when planning a weekend trip one hour north of Auckland/Tāmaki Makaurau to Matakana for the Saturday morning farmers’ market. For international visitors, the recommendation is actually more straightforward. Definitely plan to arrive in Matakana on a Friday, and also definitely plan on staying a couple of nights. That way you’re well-positioned for an early start at one of the country’s best farmers’ markets, and you’ll also have time to explore the food, wine and craft beer scene that makes Matakana a popular weekend escape for Aucklanders.
Hopefully, you’ll also be able to take in the favourite east coast beach at Mathesons Bay/Te Kohuroa. Located on the shaded banks of the Matakana River, the markets here kick off at 8am. A go-to breakfast usually involves an espresso from Matakana Coffee Roasters and a mushroom and blue cheese galette from Bon Appétit Crêperie. If you’re on a self-catering Kiwi road trip, you’ll probably want to pick up manuka smoked bacon from Matakana Bacon Company and Māori-style rēwena bread from Ringawera Baker.
After the market, ask for a wine-touring map upstairs at the the vintry: Matakana Wine Centre & Lounge Bar. There’s also a handy interactive map here Some favourite Matakana wines are Brick Bay, with its renowned pinot gris, and the Italian varietals at Heron’s Flight. From there, it’s a 500-metre stroll along country roads to Charlies Gelato for ice-cream and sorbet made from seasonal fruit; the blueberry gelato with locally grown fruit was a winner last summer.
After the markets, detour for a swim at Mathesons Bay, a compact cove enlivened from December with the crimson blooms of the pōhutukawa, known as ‘New Zealand’s Christmas Tree’ and a sure sign that summer’s on the way. It could then be time for a few freshly shucked bivalves with Tabasco sauce and lemon juice at Matakana Oysters – look for the green roadside shack and you’re in the right place – or teaming food truck flavours with the wild-fermented and barrel-aged beers at 8 Wired Brewing back near Matakana Village. Alternatively, you might want to enjoy an easy-drinking East Coast hazy IPA and a few shared plates at the Sawmill Brewery & Smoko Room; the cumin flatbread with braised goat is always good.
It’s about now you will wish you were staying another night. Avoid the angst and book an extra night from the start; in rural surroundings four kilometres from Matakana, Beauregard’s French-inspired cottages are an ideal base for a weekend of foodie exploring.