48 hours in Matakana

Two of the team have just had the most wonderful two days enjoying Matakana – there’s so much to do in this little town.

Day one
10am leave Auckland
11am arrive Matakana

11:15am Lunch at Plume Café
Not only is Plume the place to get bread, pastries and coffee, it’s also a lovely cafe where you can relax and enjoy an early lunch. It’s cozy inside. We were given table 48. If the weather had been more conducive, we would have sat in the pretty garden area which offers plenty of seating. Car parking is not a problem with a large carpark on site. Our tip: the corn fritters. Give them 24 hours notice and try their legendary high tea – well priced at $65 for two.

1pm Local Matakana Village shopping
After lunch, we spent a few hours checking out some of the local retailers. We loved spending time tasting at Honest Chocolate and after seeing the delicious looking chocolate being made, and the village being such a popular spot, I bumped into an old friend while browsing the beautiful glass works at the Artform Gallery. Matakana Gallery also had an interesting selection of contemporary prints and artworks including some Dick Frizzell works. We also bumped into the owner of Heavenly Soles. Knowing I can never go past a bookstore, my colleague and I spent a good half hour browsing at Village Books followed by licking our lips at the goodies at Matakana Deli – including sampling their own olive oil.

5pm Beer tasting in the Smoko Room at Sawmill Brewery
Sawmill Brewery has been busy producing its extensive range of beers since moving from its original site in Leigh. In the Smoko Room we enjoyed sampling some of Sawmill’s range. On offer is a choice of five beers in 160ml glasses for $20. Our picks: the apricot sour, the chocolate stout and the Hefeweizen were standouts.

7pm Dinner at Plume Restaurant
Our dinner at Plume Restaurant was top notch. My colleaque swears (and she doesn’t swear often) it was the best fish she had had to date. Staff were attentive and very professional – a big thank you to Josip and Sebastian. For dessert we shared some mango sorbet. However, the chocolate mousse looked so delicious, I decided to only ask for one spoon. The fantastic menu has very well balanced flavours for the palate with contemporary twists that highlight the fresh local ingredients available.

9pm Overnight at Plume Villas
The Plume Villas are conveniently only a few minutes walk away from the restaurant. We stayed two nights in Kingfisher 4, one of two-bedroom accommodations.

There are 12 truly luxurious villas spread out across the site, with views to the distant hills. The owners have thought of everything including our favourite – Netflix. Our villa was very well equipped with elegant modern fittings. The best-selling point, perhaps, being the view overlooking the green valley with its gardens and walkways. There is a swimming pool on site, which would be wonderful over summer.

The villas are less than a year old and look and feel very new. The site can only further enchant as the extensive array of trees and plants mature.

Day Two
10am Breakfast at The Farmers Daughter
We stopped here for our first meal of the day. After excellent coffee – they roast their own beans – we enjoyed the roasted parsnip, kale, orange, hazelnut and cauliflower. How lucky Omaha locals are to have this great cafe on their doorstep.

11am A browse at The Vivian Art Gallery
A dash along Omaha Valley Road and you will discover the Vivian, where the work of several artists is on display until 26 August.

Rupert Herring, whose interest in Victorian and Edwardian design and architecture, while bringing a purity and character to the material itself, encourages us to further explore him as an inspiring artist.

Grace Wright’s paintings are as enigmatic as they are joyful; liquid engineering that defies and bounces rigid academic perspectives well beyond the box of the stretcher frame.

Perhaps this indulgence is the point. For there is a tension inherent in each of these works; a chaotic mishmash of effervescent springs – both sprung and contained – that intentionally belie the depth of thought behind their creation.

12:30 Brick Bay Lunch and Sculpture Trail
We drove over to Brick Bay for lunch. I had just the one course – the beetroot and almond falafel – before spending some time walking about enjoying the fantastic sculptures located on the most beautiful land. The sculpture trail is an easy walk, but after such a delicious lunch there are plenty of places to rest and digest. On this particular visit we were caught in a quick shower but found the forest canopy kept us reasonably dry. The sculptures are absolutely top rate and of a wide variety for all types of tastes.

2pm Matakana Country Park
Families can enjoy art, pony rides, train rides, the adventure playground and talk to the animals. There is a restaurant, The Stables along with Smiths, a bar serving tapas and if you can’t resist a new tattoo – go ahead, there is a tattooist on site.

6pm Drinks at The Vintry
We have been here a few times and it’s always a great place to enjoy a relaxing drink. If you like to feel the freshness of a winter evening on your cheeks, sit outside and admire the lights in the trees below. The team is very knowledgeable and ready to chat to make you feel quite at home.

7:30pm Dinner at Matakana Market Kitchen
Matakana Market Kitchen is hidden away at the bottom of the stairs within the cinema building. The menu offers an excellent range of choices – the food quality is very good and plentiful. The setting is gorgeous, with the nearby Matakana river, hypnotic. If you fancy taking in a movie while you’re here, two of the cinemas are beautiful – one has 32,000 roses across its ceiling, while the other has a chandelier which would even turn Ross Thorby’s head.

9:30pm Overnight at Plume Villas
Feeling extremely content after another day at Matakana, on our second night in Plume Villas we watched Netflix and settled in. Denise and her husband, who manage the villas, were always friendly and helpful. They were just about to head off to Europe so we swapped lots of stories.

Day Three
9am Matakana Farmers Market
Most Aucklanders know the MFM. It’s a lovely little market with people selling local fresh produce and preserves. You can take your dog along, too, as there is a dog-sitting service provided for a donation. Being a dog lover myself, I was quick to notice the very happy looking guests.

The market is not just about fresh, organic food from eggs, chutneys, cakes, fruit and veggies, you can have a variety of other lovely snacks. The market has two parts – the other included some great local artisans. There were candles, perfume, greenstone and crystals, which made this old hippie very happy. On a sunny day I can’t imagine anything better than sitting beside the river, watching the wildlife while listening to live music.

10am Breakfast at Tramcar Diner
Just along from the market is the Tramcar Diner which offers a menu of wittily named house-made burgers, fresh fish n’ chips, great sides, small plates, pressed Italian sandwiches, fresh salads made daily, Kapiti ice cream and real fruit ice cream/yoghurt. The list is too long with too many sweet treats and home baking to mention here, but we did enjoy the breakfast burger hash stack together with great organic coffee!

11:30am Wine tasting at Plume
Plume, the vineyard restaurant, offers their own wine range from Runner Duck Estate which specialises in the French varietals. We enjoyed tastings with co-owner, Farida Cooper.

Rose 2018
Chardonnay 2018
Albarino 2018
The Passion (Syrah) 2014
Black Velvet (Bordeaux Style Blend) 2013
Sangiovese 2014

The 4.5 hectare vineyard comprises of the French varietal of syrah, as well as the classic Bordeaux varieties of cabernet franc, malbec, merlot, and petit verdot. Runner Duck is committed to sustainability and nil residue in wines and is under the SWNZ programme of producing wines.

1pm Lunch at Rothko
Our last meal in Matakana was at Rothko, the restaurant at Sculptureum. We had fresh, homemade mushroom gnocchi and snapper with broccolini, parmesan and prawns. This replenished our energy for another afternoon walk.

2pm Sculptureum Experience
Because the weather became rather wet, it was a perfect time to check out the six indoor art galleries. They all follow a different theme: glass, figurative, recycled materials, animals and modern abstract works fill the first five galleries.

The final room of The Sculptureum Experience houses a grand glass chandelier by the famous American artist Dale Chihuly. Gorgeous!

4pm Leave Matakana
5pm arrive home

A huge big thank you to Clyde and Farida Cooper at Plume, who hosted us over two nights. And to our lovely chauffeur, the charming Tanya Svendsen, who drove us all around Matakana with a big smile. She introduced us to everyone! Tanya Svendsen runs Designpod Matakana and is a member of Matakana Coast/ Wine Tourism Board. (MARTIN LEACH)