The Magic of Matakana, half way between Auckland and Waipu

The Matakana Market

For years I have heard of the Matakana Market, but have never quite made it.  This weekend was it – we headed off from Waipu at 9.30 and when we arrived an hour later the market was still pumping.  (hours 8-1pm)

It was everything we had hoped – lots of great local food to try and buy – we had soon loaded up with ciabatta bread, local avocado oil and Dukka, garlic and onions, sausages, mandarins ($5 a bag they were a bargain) and chocolate. The market is so well laid out and had a great energy and lots of parking.  We walked back to the car using the beautiful riverside walkway that runs below the market and under the road bridge.

Add on a visit to the movies as we did, and Morris and James Pottery, and somewhere to eat along the way, this is a fabulous day trip from Auckland or from Waipu and Mangawhai.

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Matakana Village

Set in a picturesque valley between Warkworth and Omaha and Pakari Beach, Matakana is a gem.  Its mix of traditional and contemporary, integrated with beautiful outside spaces which tie the area together are breath taking.  The Farmers Market is situated at the heart of it all.  As a builder I wanted to know more about who was behind this development which I can only describe as outstanding.  A little research on google and I found out more:

In 1992, local investor Richard Didsbury purchased the land where the Matakana Village project now stands. A few years later, Richard began kicking around ideas with Architect Noel Lane about what to do with the old sawmill site at the Matakana crossroads. Noel has established a reputation for cutting-edge, contemporary architecture, but when it came to designing Matakana Village he took a rather different approach.

Just an hours drive north of Auckland. Didsbury’s vision was to establish a market for locally grown produce – now the thriving Matakana Farmer’s Market – and to re-invigorate the area with a boutique retail and cinema complex.

Concepts for a contemporary development were shelved early on in the project when historical research revealed that Matakana was much older than the nearby town of Warkworth. Founded in 1862 [this date is taken from the year that the first local building, the school, was opened] Matakana was an early trading port with one of New Zealand’s first water-powered sawmills supplying timber to local shipwrights.

“Richard’s research actually shifted the way we were thinking about the development”, says Lane. “Our ideas just slowly morphed to become more historic in aesthetic and detail, and we ended up feeling if we were too contemporary, it would be like storming the original village.”

Both agreed that they were taking a big risk in going for a historical approach.

“We didn’t want to do some sort of twee American [style] historic replica which the public would see through in five seconds.” says Didsbury. “We aimed to give the buildings some quirkiness so that people would inherently know when they stepped back and looked at the detail that these were not old buildings – that there was something unusual going on.”

The overall design of the Matakana Village takes its cues from nearby historic buildings – the old dairy factory, the St. Leonard’s Anglican Church, Matakana House, and the existing colonial wooden houses. But Lane has used a myriad of creative devices, which draw on aspects of New Zealand’s cultural heritage, to give the buildings a modern twist.

Many local craftspeople have also added their creative flair to the project, from the landscaping (The Isthmus Group), the lead lights (Stefanie Mann Glass), and the much talked about triple-layered, scribble steel balustrade in the cinema complex (EAT Engineering Ltd.)

More on the story of the development of the Village

There is so much to see in this area, while you can do it in a day trip, it probably deserves a longer and more leisurely stay.

The toilets at Matakana

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Two other things not to miss when visiting Matakana

Matakana Cinemas

Like the Farmers Market I had heard of these boutique cinemas, so we decided to see a movie while we were here.  There were three theatres and some great arthouse movies to choose from, and the movies are timed for market going patrons, with one of the sessions starting at between 12 and 1pm on a Saturday.  Fabulous small theatres – 4 Lazy boys in the front – so get their early if you fancy a stretch.  The other chairs are large and roomy, and you can take in coffee and a wine if purchased at the facilities.

Morris and James Pottery

Just a few hundred yards from Matakana you will find Morris and James –  leave the car and walk unless you plan to buy something to big to carry.  And you may well be tempted.  They were having a sale when I was there – the colours and forms are seductive, the building very user friendly – great spaces for kids to play, a Café.

Winery Tours

And don’t forget there are wineries to visit, shops and cafés along the way, and the beaches not too far away.

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  1. Thea Simays on November 29, 2010 at 10:35 am

    Hi Megan, Just following on with my previous comment – this market could of been mentioned under your heading — other things not to miss when visiting Matakana.



    • Rosemary on December 1, 2010 at 3:05 pm

      thanks for the comment thea – hard to get everything in!

  2. Thea Simays on November 29, 2010 at 10:33 am

    Hi Megan – Read your report on the Matakana Market and it saddens me that you have overlooked another lovely market in Matakana just 2 km up from the village every saturday from 9- 1pm at the Country Park RD6 on Leigh Road. This is a family orientated venue that has a lot to offer.
    Loads of parking – Cafe/Restaurant/ Childrens Animal Farm with playground – Craft Coop – Art Exhibitions and more. The market has been going for the last 6 years and lives in the shadow of the Matakana Market who gets all the publicity but once people have found out about the Country Park they love its easy and friendly atmosphere. Why not come and find out for yourself what you missed out on?



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