During the recent Easter break, Andy, Kelsey and I headed up north for a few nights based out of Warkworth, ready for some relaxation, plenty of chocolate, and the chance to explore somewhere new. A last minute decision saw us leave Wrigley at home, which meant we had a bit more freedom to visit some of the regional parks, certain beaches and some eateries. The weather forecast was meant to be bad, so we approached each day with the mentality of making the most of it before the rain set in – we managed to see a lot, thanks to the rain never arriving! There is a surprising amount of amazing places to visit in the area. Below are ten of my favourite places we made it to:
1. 8 Wired Brewing
We went on Good Friday and were informed that we weren’t allowed beer until we had ordered food – we were only too happy to oblige. 8 Wired is housed in an industrial warehouse, with lots of seating options and a container kitchen within. Probably because it was a public holiday (although we weren’t charged a surcharge), the brewery was relatively empty, and as a result it felt a bit bigger and colder than what I expect it usually would. Kelsey ordered BBQ beef brisket, I ordered BBQ pork ribs, Andy had a fried chicken burger and we all shared fries and mac’n’cheese. The food was all rather tasty, filled our hungry bellies and was quite a bit meatier than what my usual diet consists of these days!
2. Matakana Markets
Finally! I have heard about the Matakana Markets since forever and have always wanted to visit. I think we probably chose one of the busiest weekends of the year to go – I could have believed that it was like that every weekend, except some of the stall holders commented that it was the busiest they had seen it in a while. It was so crammed that it sometimes verged on unenjoyable, however its tranquil setting next to the river provided us with some reprieve. We slowly picked our way around the stalls, purchasing coffee, coffee beans, tarts, toasties, and pies along the way. Oh, and don’t forget the flowers (which came with a free dahlia bulb)! Once we’d had our fix we didn’t waste much time heading on out, pausing briefly to look at the pooches at the dog-sitting stall on the way.
3. Tāwharanui Regional Park
WOW, what even is this place?! Whatever expectations I had (which to be clear, were almost none – I knew very little!) were completely blown out of the water as soon as we arrived on the reserve that overlooked the beach. The sand was golden, the waves pristine, even the grass had a lush, inviting feel to it. After feeling like we were the only ones on the road heading out, we arrived to a very full carpark and plenty of surfers, families and hikers all around. We walked for an hour or so towards the headland, through farmland with cows and expansive coastal views. On the way back we detoured into the sanctuary hoping to see a kiwi, sadly to no avail. Back at the beach, Andy and I took the plunge into some refreshing and powerful waves.
4. Omaha Beach
We were so hungry on arrival at Omaha that we stopped at the golf club for a fresh fruit ice-cream before heading to the beach. We then grabbed some more snacks from the extremely fancy dairy and the cafe next door before heading down to the water. I was immediately sad that Wrigley wasn’t with us – he would have been in his absolute element. There was a bit of a breeze, so none of us were tempted to swim but we all enjoyed a laze in the sun.
5. Matakana Estate
It was nearing closing time, but we thought we’d try our luck with a tasting at Matakana Estate. Luckily for us, they clearly intended on staying open past their advertised hours and so we settled in for a tasting. We all ordered their classic flight, with the four varieties of grape all grown onsite. While it was all tasty, none of us felt compelled to purchase a bottle. Food wise, they specialised in platters, but we were still full of snacks from the beach.
6. Sawmill Brewery
I am more familiar with the beer from Sawmill than what I am 8 Wired, so I was pretty excited to visit here. On first impression, it was a very cool brewery. The merch was all highly wearable, the bar was inviting and where we sat (outside on the patio) was cozy and gave us a good outlook of the outdoors. I ordered the Bare Beer (i.e. 0%) as I volunteered to drive and I had mad regrets because it tasted like beer mixed with sparkling water! The others really enjoyed theirs though. For dinner we ordered a range of dishes, including breads, fried chicken, slow cooked lamb and bok choy. It was a cool spot, next time I’ll make sure I order a better beer!
7. Warkworth Cement Works
This is one of those places that is definitely not what it seems. I wouldn’t have given it a second look on the map had a colleague of mine not recommended it to me as somewhere to go for a picnic and a swim. It’s an old cement works (cue: creepy buildings) and the onsite quarry has been filled with water to create something of a man-made swimming hole. The colour was such that it would have to be very hot for me to be tempted to actually get in (it also definitely looked like it would be home to eels), however it was quite a magical feeling place, and fun to explore.
8. Scandrett Regional Park and Martins Bay
We went to Scandrett Regional Park first and explored the historic homestead situated down by the water. There were lots of plaques to ensure we were all well informed. After exploring the grounds we drove back up the hill and parked at the Welcome sign, which is right by the access path to Martins Bay. We walked down a decently steep hill where we emerged at the end of Martins Bay. We’d all heard lots of people speak highly of this beach, so we were keen to lay eyes on it for ourselves. I could see its appeal: it was sheltered, the campsite was right by the water and there was plenty of grassy reserve to relax on.
9. Scott’s Landing
We almost didn’t find a car park and very nearly left, noting it as somewhere we would all quite like to come back to. However, at the last minute a car pulled out and so we quickly nabbed it. We followed a little boardwalk around to an incredibly sheltered, incredibly beautiful bay, with a small beach of sand and shells and very clear, blue water. There was another giant homestead building set upon a huge lawn of grass. At low tide it is possible to walk across to a small island for a walk, however the water was much too high when we were there. It was protected from the wind by land, so it was an idyllic place for swimming. Given that it was also dog friendly, Andy and I immediately noted that this is somewhere we couldn’t wait to spend more time at.
10. Brick Bay Winery
We waited at Snell’s Beach until it was time for our reservation at Brick Bay. The wind coming straight in off the water was pretty abrasive, so all of us were glad when it was time to go. Andy and I had been to Brick Bay in the past and done the sculpture walk with Wrigley, but today we were just going to visit for lunch. We ordered a wine tasting, watched the waitress drop a tray of glassware and break a customer’s $400 pair of sunglasses, and amongst other food, tried the lamb dish – listed on Aucklands Top 100 Iconic Eats. As per usual, the experience was divine – I would recommend it to everyone visiting the area.