Guest Post: Tasting Beauty in Matakana, NZ
I’m delighted to share this guest post by Craig Martin who has submitted this story as part of the #blog4NZ campaign, letting you know New Zealand is open after the Christchurch earthquake. Find more New Zealand stories on the Blog4NZ Facebook page.
Tasting Beauty in Matakana, New Zealand
There’s a magic moment when you know you’re leaving Auckland … signs announce a tollway, a swooping bridge dances overhead, you pass through a tunnel bored under hills … Now you know you’ve definitely left the New Zealand’s largest city behind: Northland awaits.
For some reason, Northland gets less print than other parts of New Zealand. Do people not like the beach? Age-old forests? Sportsfishing? History? Diving? Crafts? Swimming with dolphins? I mean … they’re dolphins! What’s not to like?
I recently ventured just north of Auckland to the Matakana region and was blown away by the beautiful food, drink and crafts. Matakana is just over an hour from the Central Business District, or CBD as everyone calls it, making it a perfect trip for visitors who don’t want to spend a lot of time in the car while they are in New Zealand.
First stop was the Matakana Farmers markets, held each Saturday morning. Amazing local foods, artisan wines and coffee roasters. I crunched down freshly harvested oysters wrapped in bacon from a local farm, while Linda went with Vietnamese spring rolls from a local family. Along with fine foods to taste and buy, there are boutique fashion and arts stores, retro stylings and antiques to sort through and delightful bits and pieces for young and old.
The cinema right next to the markets is unbelievable. Poke your head into one of the cinemas and you’ll see hundreds of hand-made paper flowers covering the ceiling, a massive chandelier suspended from that and native birds poking their heads out here and there. Another is modelled after the inside of a wooden cathedral with wooden beams soaring overhead. There aren’t many cinemas in the world you’d call beautiful, but this sure is.
Fed and inspired, we stopped in at Hyperion: possibly the area’s smallest winery. John, the wine-maker, jumped over a wire fence and we tried a flight of excellent wines in the tin shed that serves as his cellar door. It’s quite a contrast from the large, multi-million dollar restaurants and faux-mansions some other wineries in the region have, but each have unique wines and many love to experiment with their varietal planting.
Minutes from Hyperion, the Morris and James Pottery Company serves up great lunches in their al fresco restaurant … and the pottery and glazing is stunning too. Morris and James is a premier example of New Zealand craft arts; a great stop for people wanting to shop for home.
On the road north we stopped at a micro-brewery for a last drink of the afternoon. The Leigh Sawmill Café is an amazing little business that took over when the sawmill closed. Out front you can see the brewmaster as he shovels wort into the kegs, see the hops he’s working with and understand how beer is made. Inside the main building, rough-hewn timbers and a surprising number of live bands combine with excellent beers to create an experience many city pubs would love to replicate.
Heading south once more, we drive through farms, vineyards, small townships. We stop to buy fruit and veges from the side of the road; taste honey in a shop next to the highway. It was a day filled with tasty experiences, both for the stomach and for the soul. I’ll be back in the not too distant future.
About the Author
Full-time traveller Craig Martin is a long-time lover of things above Auckland: find him and his wife Linda at the Indie Travel Podcast. They published the Art of Solo Travel ebook. Read more New Zealand stories on the Blog4NZ Facebook page.