Matakana Coast Road Trip Ideas

Local Stories

Looking for Road Trip ideas for school holidays or long weekends then look no further!  The picturesque Matakana Coast is packed full of ideas for a day trip or a few days longer with the opportunities to visit the various villages that make up this region.  Here are just a few suggestions to get you started and don’t forget to check out the wide range of accommodation options available.

Road Trip to Puhoi: 

Less than an hour from Downtown Auckland you reach the first village of Matakana Coast, Puhoi, the home of award winning cheeses and the only Organic Distillery & Caviar House in New Zealand.  Puhoi is Māori for slow water with the village located alongside the meandering Puhoi river. Boasting a unique slice of Kiwi History, early settles hailed from Bohemia in the Czech Republic and some of their descendants and those of Māori descent still live in the area today.

The Puhoi Museum, located next to the town church offers a fascinating insight into the towns unique origins.  The iconic Puhoi Pub is a treasured icon sitting in the centre of the village, and often has  bikers, local daytrippers happily imbibe sitting in the outside garden or inside the building which is literally bursting with memorabilia through the Kauri walls.

If the Pub is not your type of place to sit and take in the scenery then a visit to the Puhoi Cafe and Cheese Store just up the road where you can view the cheese making process and indulge in tastings of cheese or enjoy a giant scone with all the trimmings.  It is a great place to stop with the kids so they can run around while you enjoy a cool drink.

If you need to burn off some calories after your indulgences you can walk part of the Te Araroa walking track, a 3000km track running from Cape Reinga to The Bluff, a part of it passing right through Puhoi.  The Puhoi Lookout Trek takes about 50 mins and weaves through bush rising up to overlook Puhoi township.  Or perhaps your keen to explore the river join Puhoi Kayaks and take an unguided 8km (roughly 2 hours) leisurely paddle from the pub to the beautiful Wenderholm Regional Park.  They offer a return courtesy shuttle.

Road Trip to Warkworth: 

Warkworth is wrapped around the Mahurangi River with a walking path along the river banks you will come across beautifully restored steamboats and a number of bench seats to sit and watch the ducks and seagulls challenge each other for small morsels of food that may have been left behind.

South of the township is Parry Kauri Park, home to ancient Kauri and Totara trees which you can be viewed from the carpark, but you are encouraged to get and enjoy the newly refurbished walkways which take you closer to look at these magnificent trees which are approximately 800 years old.  The new walkway loop is great for strollers and wheelchairs as well.   A bonus for visiting these ancient trees right next door is the Warkworth Museum where you can get an excellent introduction to the areas settlement.  Displays are always changing and the local volunteers are full of knowledge that they are always wishing to share.

15 mins drive from Parry Reserve is the abandoned cement works which is well worth the visit, with its sheer size and the small lake glimmering with depth provides a peaceful spot to enjoy your surroundings.  The importance of the Mahurangi river as a transport hub is clearly illustrated with the location of these cement works.

Pack up a picnic and have lunch with an alpaca at Sheep World – an authentic farmyard experience for young and old alike.  From dog and sheep shows to emu and eel feeding, there’s plenty of opportunity to learn about the animals and meet a few fluffy friends too.  A newly refurbished cafe is also on site offering great coffee and counter food if you didn’t manage to pack the picnic. Sheepworld also offers an Eco Trail where you can walk and enjoy the beautiful hills surrounding the property and its native bush.

Road Trip to Matakana Region: 

Once up and about the next morning, it’s a short drive north to Matakana. Once there, fuel up with a bacon and egg muffin and a perfect flat white at local favourite, Bramble Cafe, then head next door to Matakana Country Park. This is 50-acres of family fun, featuring petting animal experiences, horse and carriage rides, a ride-on-trains, a playground your kids will love.  It is also home to the amazing Action Ninja World where kids and adults alike can test their skills on Ninja Warrior Course, a flying trapeze and Tarzan Swing.

If it’s a Saturday, wake up bright and early and grab breakfast at the Matakana Village Farmers’ Market, featuring live music, organic vegetables, fruit and baked goods, and it operates whether rain or shine all year. Best get there early as it’s a popular place, and a must to try is a bacon butty from Matakana Bacon served alongside a Coffee from Matakana Roasters.  Or if you feel like indulging a visit to Honest Chocolat to enjoy a Hot Chocolate while watching the chocolatiers through a glass window creating their pieces of eatable artwork

Alternatively, consider a memorable trip to Sculptureum, a world-class tourist attraction open seven days a week from 10am-4pm where adults and children alike can enjoy sculpture-filled gardens and amazing art galleries. The animal experience on Saturdays and Sundays at 1pm provides the opportunity to pet and feed animals such as miniature ponies and kunekune pigs.

Once the sun is setting a pick-up from Matakana will take you to beautiful Tāwharanui for an evening Kiwi walk with Kiwiness Tours. You’ll join a local guide, who’ll take you on a journey through the Tāwharanui Bird Sanctuary. Listen for the shrill call of the kiwi and keep your eyes peeled for the little brown birds and several other natives, from kererū to tui. And in the unlikely event that you don’t see a kiwi? Kiwiness will offer free tours until you do.

Matakana River Tours is a memorable experience after a visit to the farmers’ market – immersing visitors into the history and importance of the river, to all the food and wines produced in the area. Ceramic-fans take note; it’s also the source of the clay in pottery by Kiwi icons Morris and James.  Include in your visit to the region a stop at the Morris and James where they run free factory tours every day at 11:30am

Alternatively, if time is shorter or you’d prefer someone else to do the driving for a day, consider a private experience and culinary adventure with the Matakana country and cuisine private tour – which includes a fully guided service.

Nestled in grounds of its namesake vineyard you will find Brick Bay Sculpture Trail, a trail build in a surprisingly wild environment which is largely managed by Mother Nature, you will find sculptures that grow in scale while others sit modestly in the foliage.  These sculptures are a spectacle to see (and often hear) in every corner, from the water lily lake to the burgeoning forest, it is easy to spend hour here in this environment.

Road Trip to Leigh and Pākiri:

Goat Island/Cape Rodney – Ōkakari is New Zealand’s first marine reserve, established back in 1975 . Considered one of the North Island’s best dive and snorkel spots Goat Island Marine Reserve offers a number of unique ways in which to discover the abundant marine life.  Clearyaks is New Zealand’s only transparent sea kayaks allowing your to explore the reserve or hop on board the Glass Bottom Boat for a more relaxed experience.  All weather-dependent experiences so make sure you check the operators websites before heading out.

If the weather is not in your favour don’t despair a visit to Goat Island Marine Discovery Centre just 250m from the main beach will allow you to still have an interactive experience.   With a large ‘touch gently’ tank you can see some of the wildlife that call the marine reserve their home while learning about the reserve through high definition footage and interactive displays.  In the evening, enjoy great food, hospitality and live music at Sawmill Brewery + Smoko Room.

Then onto Pākiri Beach which is located just 10km from Leigh on a part sealed and part unsealed road.  This beach is considered a ‘hidden gem’ of the Matakana Coast region as it is off the popular tourist trail.  It’s one kilometre of soft white sand with a shoreline of sand dunes, pohutukawa trees and grassland.  The elevated hinterland provides panoramic views of the Pākiri coastline and the northern Hauraki Gulf.

Pākiri Beach Holiday Park located at the mouth of the Poutawa Stream offers spectacular ocean views with a choice of accommodation offerings on site, including glamping, lodge, cottages and of course powered sights.  This is a well established campground that offers an abundance of activities including surfing, beach fishing and kayaking.  It also offers you the opportunity to walk part of the Te Araroa Trail with two walks available, a choice of the Beach Walk or Inland Walk both 6 hours return.