James Williams takes a drive to an Auckland farmer’s market – the legendary Matakana, with fresh local oysters and high tea.

I really wasn’t sure what to expect when I was told we were going to Matakana’s famous farmer’s market, a quaint little village on Auckland’s rural outskirts – but it turned out to be a foodies’ paradise.

Nestled in the heart of Auckland’s wine country, Matakana was relaunched several years ago by a local investor Richard Didsbury and with leading NZ architect Noel Lane he’s created a masterpiece of integrated cultural tourism.  He established a cinema and modern shopping around a square where the markets are held, creating a community hub and attracting lots of local business people to the town.

The town is beautifully crafted and environmentally friendly – as you stroll through the town you’ll also discover trickling fountains and wrought-iron artworks.  Even the public restrooms are a work of art, and given pride of place at the turn off to Matakana at the top of the main street.

MATAKANA VILLAGE MARKET

The market opens at 8am sharp every Saturday morning, and offers fresh organic and conventional fruit and vegetables.   You can sample the local Fejoia wines, savour freshly shucked local oysters, purchase oven-fresh pastries and breads, organic eggs and more. There is also an enormous selection of handmade pickles and chutneys to take home – and live music.

Once you’ve finished stocking up on your provisions, take a gentle stroll down by the river or stop for refreshments and food at one of the many restaurants.

QUIRKY SHOPPING

You’ll find Red Letter Day, a unique shop selling stationery and fine writing implements, at Matakana Square opposite the markets.The owner is a sketch artist, appropriately enough.

You’ll also find local kiwi crafts at Quintessentially Kiwi, delectable artisan chocolates at De Vine Chocolates, and recycled and vintage women’s clothing, jewelry and accessories at Revival.  You can also take a bag of old clothes in to keep the cycle going.

THE VINTRY

When you’re all shopped out – head up to the Cinema complex and through to The Vintry, Matakana’s wine bar – where you can drop in for five-wine tasting from regional growers. You can also take home your favourites from local wineries directly from the bar.

CINEMA

If you’ve still got some time left, grab some jaffas or some popcorn and catch a movie at the local cinema – which plays all the latest films.   Even if you don’t catch a film you should pop in to check out the ‘long white cloud’ light artwork suspended from the foyer’s ceiling.

THE CREAM OF MATAKANA

A little bit out of the way, behind the church, and up the driveway is The Cream of Matakana – it’s an urban design store full of hand-picked gifts.   If you need to pick up a souvenir for a friend or relative then this is your place.

GETTING THERE

Matakana is a historical village in the heart of Auckland’s wine country. It’s about an hour North of Auckland by drive, but worth every minute of the journey.  To cut 10 minutes off the journey take Highway 1 via the toll road and exit just before Puhoi. Turn right at Warkworth and follow the posted signs for 12km to Matakana Village. Click here for Google Maps driving directions.

WHERE TO STAY

For a truly luxurious stay in peaceful surroundings – try Takatu Vineyard and Lodge located just north of Matakana Village.  Treat yourself in one of their luxury suites for  super king sized beds with 100% Egyptian cotton sheets, and romantic double-soak baths with essential oils and candles. Details www.takatulodge.co.nz

About James Williams

James lives and works in Hong Kong and has a passion for food and travel.