Matakana Coast is a beautiful part of New Zealand. It was a favourite weekend getaway when we lived in Auckland because it was so easy – just pile into the car, take a short drive to the north, turn east at Warkworth and then take your pick of wineries, beaches, regional parks, marine reserves, cafes, art, sculpture, live music, diving and fishing. I would love to live in that little slice of paradise one day.
I have so many Matakana Coast memories. There was that time that we took a spur of the moment holiday, revelling in five days of swimming and diving at the marine reserve. Our holiday snaps are under-exposed and blurry (this was my pre-DSLR days), but full of wildflowers, candles, silly poses in our flippers and dents in our faces from too-tight diving masks. Steve Irwin had recently been killed by a sting ray when diving, and I remember how our hearts leaped each time a baby ray loomed out of the dark waters.
Another time we took the day off work to celebrate our birthday’s and spent the day on the coast with my sister. It was a crisp and mild winter’s day and we had Amy’s homemade birthday cake in the car, explored Matakana village and ate wood-fired pizza in Leigh. In the late afternoon we made a final stop to explore the Brick Bay Sculpture Trail. As the sun dipped towards the horizon we drank a final glass of wine, stretching out the last moments of a perfect day.
Yet another time, with weary bodies and heavy hearts, we took a brief mid-week escape in search of something vaguely other. We sat on a white bench at Snells Beach, gazing out to Kawau Island and the lilac shells strewing the foreshore. At Goat Island the waves were whipped and frothing and at stunning Tawharanui Regional Park we found a calm, concave bay lined with stones. Not much was said as the salty air did its work.
It had been six years since we’d visited the Matakana Coast, but when we were home for Christmas in December we decided that a brief interlude was just what we needed. Returning to beloved places always feels like some sort of homecoming, and we took our time driving, drinking in the golden hills and the pristine waters of Whangateau, just metres from the road.
Matakana village buzzed as usual, and after a short stop we moved on to our favourite spot, the Sawmill Café at Leigh. There we ate a late lunch, checked into our room and spent a lazy afternoon in our shady courtyard. In the evening we drank rosé in the garden, eating fresh raw fish and crispy wood-fired pizza as the sun slowly sank.
The next morning, not long after dawn, we drove down to the Goat Island Marine Reserve to wander over the rock pools and enjoy the solitude before the day’s tourists descended. Back to the Sawmill for eggs and coffee, then a leisurely drive south to Auckland. It was a magical not-quite-24 hours that just made me love it all the more.