“Try a local brew at The Sawmill Brewery in Matakana; their beers are made with no sugar or preservatives so there’s a really fresh, distinctive flavour. Go for lunch in the Smoko Room – the menu’s always changing and there’s heaps to choose from.”
Sir John Kirwan
Climb one of Devonport’s two volcanic cones – Mount Victoria and North Head – for superb views across the Waitemata Harbour, back to the city, and out into the Hauraki Gulf. Choose a sheltered spot for a picnic, then explore the old underground army tunnels at North Head (BYO torch). And you can always upgrade your picnic to a pub lunch or Sunday brunch in Devonport village.
Hire a kayak in Puhoi village and paddle down the river to the sea’s edge at Wenderholm Regional Park, where you’ll be picked up and returned to your car. Afterwards, visit the Puhoi tearooms, historic pub or specialty cheese shop for lunch or a snack – or a cold beer with the locals.
Visit Matakana for the ultimate mix of wine, food and art. Check out the sculpture trail at Brick Bay Wines and try a wine tasting while you’re there. The newly opened sculpture park Sculptureum has its own colourful collection of outdoor artwork, and both have onsite restaurants. Morris & James Pottery is well worth a visit while you’re in the area too.
Head to Waiwera for a soak in the hot natural geothermal pools, a great way to warm up in the cooler months. Relax in the adults only ‘lava pool’, watch a movie in the cinema pool, or embrace your inner child on the waterslides. If you’ve got the whole weekend, drive up to Matakana afterwards, stay the night in a bed and breakfast, and visit a winery or two on your way home on Sunday.
Drive out to Goat Island Marine Reserve for a day; with clear waters chocka with colourful fish, this is possibly the region’s best spot for snorkelling and diving – bring your own snorkel gear or hire it there. If you’d rather stay above water, hire a clear kayak or head out on a glass-bottom boat tour.