Kawau Island

Coastal Sandspit

The journey from Auckland to the northern town takes less than an hour and is the place to board the ferry to Kawau Island.

Sandspit is a coastal settlement seven kilometres from Warkworth on the Mahurangi Peninsula. Snells Beach is to the south and the popular bohemian village of Matakana is to the north.

The trip aboard Reubens Cruises’ Kawau Kat takes just over half an hour. Kawau Island itself is a tranquil haven. Mansion House is there – the stately residence completed in 1872 and originally owned by New Zealand’s first governor, Sir George Grey – so too are wekas, tui, wood pigeon, wallabies and a pair of pushy peacocks. The colourful show-offs spend most of their time strutting around the palm-dotted grounds, staunchly defending the cafe entrance opposite the mansion.

Enjoy a leisurely 25-minute stroll to the lookout and stop for lunch to take in the spectacular views over Dispute Cove to the copper mine ruins below.

Back on the mainland be sure to visit the four donkeys that live on the hill overlooking Sandspit Holiday Park. Donkey dad Hercules, mum Xena and sons Zeus and Zac are super friendly and race up to the fence to get a pat on the head. Apples may also have something to do with it.

Then drive the 10 minutes down the road to the Brick Bay Sculpture Trail, a unique environment where art and nature meet.

Richard and Christine Didsbury have created a type of art gallery set among the farmland and native bush of the Brick Bay Farm. Over 40 sculptures – most of which are for sale – dot the landscape. Metallic geometric shapes reflect the surrounding kanuka trees, giant windmills rise up from a farm hillside and corrugated forms float on a picture-perfect lake like wood shavings on the workshop floor.

The 2km walk is the perfect way to spend a lazy afternoon. Afterwards you can relax in the ultra-modern restaurant overlooking the lake while sipping on a glass of Brick Bay wine discussing your walk of art.

Sandspit is a 55-minute drive north of Auckland. Sandspit is on the Mahurangi Peninsula, 30 minutes from Mahurangi West, close to Warkworth and with Snells Beach and Algies Bay to the south. To the east is Scotts Landing and Mahurangi Heads. Matakana village is 10 minutes from Sandspit. The Matakana village farmers’ market is world famous for its locally grown produce and is a food lovers’ paradise. It is open Saturday from 9am until 1pm and Wednesday from 3pm to 7pm. Tawharanui regional park is 15 minutes from Sandspit. New Zealand’s first integrated open sanctuary is a 588-hectare park where native plants and animals including kiwi can live and breed successfully without the threat of predators. Brick Bay Sculpture Trail is open daily from 10am-5pm, adults $10, students $8 and children under five free.

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matakana winery tour

Wines and Wineries on The Matakana Coast

Matakana is New Zealand’s smallest wine area.The vineyards in the Matakana grow grapes to suit each vineyard’s  “terroir”, a combination of local climate and soil type, and each winery creates distinctively styled wines.

Driving north from Mahurangi West Wing Bed and Breakfast accommodation on your winery tour, you’ll first find yourself at Ransom Wines. With its contemporary  architecture and captivating views this is a fabulous winery to visit and while away some time. Visitors to this small family run winery can enjoy, among other wines at the cellar door, New Zealand’s first Carmenère. You should begin your day with one of fabulous platter for which Ransom’s are famous. This is served with matched wine.

If you are still hungry then lunch at the Mahurangi River Winery and Restaurant might be the next thing on your list. The vineyard lies in a valley between the Mahurangi River and Kawau Bay. The restaurant sits high on a hill and offers lovely views. From there you can choose delicious fresh local food from their a la carte menu. Mahurangi River produces a range of  hand made Chardonnay, Syrah and Bordeaux style red wines.

After lunch you may need a bit of a walk so why not check out the wonderful Brick Bay Sculpture Trail at Brick Bay Wines where you will find an display of around 40 sculpture works along a 2 km track and their outdoor gallery. These sculptures are always changing o there is always something new to see. At The Glass House, their tasting room, you can taste Pinot Gris, vibrant Rosés and intense Bordeaux-style red wine blends.

You may now need a “pick-me-up” coffee so you could finish your tour at Omaha Bay Wines. Omaha Bay is a family owned boutique vineyard and winery, overlooking the Hauraki Gulf to Little Barrier Island. Sit back and enjoy the view!

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