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Have time to explore beyond Auckland’s CBD? 45min north is the village of Matakana that gets inundated ever Saturday morning by Aucklanders going to its Farmers Markets. Fresh organic produce, whitebait fritters (a local delicacy), hand-made clothes, antiques, and kiwifruit sparkling wine all vie for your attention as the barrista yells out the latest coffee order, the country band plays on, and the dog sitter holds on tightly to leashes at the entrance to the market.
Built amid a hillside vineyard, Takatu Lodge features seamless indoor-outdoor living entire walls slide away, and meals can be enjoyed by the patio fire. Each of the four guest rooms has a spacious terrace and a two-person bathtub with views of the mountains or the bay. —Amanda Jones From $520, 518 Whitmore Rd., 64/(0) 9-423-0299, takatulodge.co.nz. Photo courtesy of Takatu Lodge. This appeared in the January/February 2011 issue.
At their riverfront studio, Anthony Morris and his family make pottery depicting local flora, such as the pohutukawa a tree and toetoe grass. —Amanda Jones Morris & James Pottery & Tileworks, tours weekdays at 11:30 a.m., 48 Tongue Farm Rd., 64/(0) 9-422-7116, morrisandjames.co.nz. Photo courtesy of Morris & James. This appeared in the January/February 2011 issue.
From Brick Bay Winery, walk the mile-long sculpture trail, which meanders past native fern trees, lakes, and rows of pinot gris vines. The rotating exhibit displays roughly 50 pieces by emerging and established Kiwi artists. Watch for Phil Price’s large-scale mobile sculptures and Richard Wedekind’s steel figures (pictured here: Conversation Piece). —Amanda Jones Arabella Lane off Mahurangi East Road, 64/(0) 9-425-4690, brickbaysculpture.co.nz. Photo by Craig Jakich. This appeared in the January/February 2011 issue.
For three weeks I lived on a wonderful little sheep farm in Matakana. I was WWOOFing--being part of the "willing workers on Organic farms" program. While each farm and experience is different, I thoroughly loved living as and with locals and being part of the family farm. I spent four hours a day working in the vegetable garden, collecting eggs, building compost bins, moving sheep, canning, and pickling. On this rural peaceful farm I was not alone but with a small family and three other woofers in a great beautiful warn old Victorian farm house. My afternoons were free for exploring the town, bike riding in the country side, and even a day of clamming at the beach. Even if you do not want to volunteer on a farm in exchange for lodging and meals if you are ever driving north of Auckland I recommend a visit to Matakana and seeing how the locals live. The Matakana Village is a good start for some local food, crafts and entertainment.
It's larger than a village but smaller than a town, and yes, Matakana does indeed have "cool things." Next to the weekly markets are a number of eclectic stores, specializing in local crafts and "cultured Kiwiana." Pop into "the Cream of Matakana" store and you will be sure to walk away with something no one else has back home.
Ascension is known as much for the gigs it puts on as it is for its wines. One of the first major vineyards you see as you head towards Matakana, it's hard to miss with its Italian-style architecture and sweeping rows of vines. It's easy to stop off at their cellar door for a tasting and buy a couple of chosen bottles to save for later. Just as impressive is their restaurant, opening up to a courtyard built for summer that teases you to stay a little longer. Although it has recently changed hands, I'm sure the new owners will want to keep up Ascension's reputation for seriously good wine and food.
When in Matakana I make a point of shopping at Red Letter Day. I do have a love of writing so it's easy to appreciate beautiful fountain pens, timeless stationery and artfully-produced cards. Located at the bottom of the steps leading to the Matakana Village shops, Red Letter Day has a great collection of top-line writing instruments and even if you're not in the market for one yourself they make a fantastic gift!
The Matakana Farmers Market is a Saturday pilgrimage for many Aucklanders; the little town is just 45 minutes north of the city and purveyors and producers from all over the Northland come to sell things like Manuka honey, cherry guavas (delicious!), and kumara. There's a lot of prepared food too—oysters, whitebait fritters, and more. But for a nice, casual sit-down lunch creekside after the market, the Matakana Market Kitchen is your best bet. Fresh, market produce and light seafood dishes are what you'll find, as well as friendly staff and curious ducks hopping up from the creek.
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