We are now 100 km north of Auckland in an area of numerous villages scattered along the coast with a farming hinterland. Also in the area are numerous wineries and artesian food outlets with plenty of opportunities for ‘drinking craft beer’. Offshore are numerous islands, many the remnants of volcanos, which provide protection from the waves of the Pacific Ocean which result in sheltered coves where families with children play.
We are on the water and our first night we settled in with a NZ roast, eaten on the veranda overlooking the harbour, with local Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir to accompany the meal: how good is this. Even better, a walk along the seaside with an ice cream for dessert!
Next day L&F had planned a day of touring: first up a visit to the Parry Kauri Park. The park boasts a delightful walkway through a forest of native bush with sign posts pointing out kauri, totara, supplejack, mamaku and other local trees. One of the most interesting is the puriri which hosts numerous epiphytes, almost covering parts of the tree low down, with its higher branches reaching up to the sun light.
Goldie in front of a kauri log cut many years ago
From there we continued back south to Puhoi for a visit to the pub and the cheese factory. The traffic travelling north, which we would have to join for the return journey, was getting busier and slower: it’s a long weekend in Auckland and with the national highway being only 1 lane in each direction the traffic was building up.
The 1879 pub is filled with memorabilia of the area plus bank notes from around the world and a wall of bras of various colours and sizes! Here, we drank local-craft-beer and ate mussel fritters while watching the world go by. Then we drove around the corner to the cheese factory, which makes numerous blue and soft cheeses, to stock up for the next few days.
Back on the road north (less traffic now, fortunately) we went to Omaha Bay Winery for a tasting and antipasto platter for lunch. Lunch was served on a large patio looking out over Omaha township and coast line towards Great Barrier and Little Barrier islands. We could even see across to the Coromandel peninsular (we’ll be there next week).
We then drove down to Omaha to walk along the (surf?) beach. It was low tide and horses were being ridden on the tidal flats.
One more visit was to an amazing local pottery where big was the operative word. Huge pots and beautiful vases and ‘jars’ were the order of the day, plus platters and a variety of smaller items. The pottery was very colourful, dramatic and quite beautiful. Too bad it did not fit into a MGB! Then back to the supermarket for dinner supplies and home for, yes, another home cooked NZ roast!
Next day we headed out to Matakana for the Saturday farmers’ market to enjoy the delights of local produce: fresh baked bread, local gin, herb sauces, cakes galore, avocadoes: (6 for $5!), and whitebait fritters!
A fantastic feature of the markets was the dog minding facility. The markets are very compact with all the stalls packed into a quite small space by the river. You are asked not to take your dog into the markets proper but to have them minded for a gold coin donation. The dogs were being carefully looked after by some young girls and they were all receiving numerous pats from passers-by. All looked very happy and were obviously enjoying the attention and pats.
Coffee and the Saturday papers in a garden café. The sports section was 60% rugby and of that 90% about the ABs only!
A drive further out to the pretty town (get used to it, we are sure that’s not the end of pretty towns!) of Leigh with its picturesque harbour – the only deep water shore line we have seen. Outside our house at Snells Beach the tide is not big, but the water retreats about 500 metres from the shore line at low tide. The locals with boats all have tractors so if they want to launch or retrieve at low tide they can drive over the sand flats to collect the boat.
Back to Leigh! The harbour is in a cove with steep hills either side providing the depth for a fishing fleet and a launching ramp. However, this is a very tight ramp which provided us with some entertainment when a very obviously new boat owner took 5 tries at getting his boat trailer lined up!
While the ladies returned home John and Lindsay headed to 8 Wired Barrelworks to enjoy a ‘paddle’ of 5 different beers. Interestingly, of the 19 on offer there were numerous IPAs on the list plus 3 stouts including an Imperial Stout, a Milk Stout and a Hoppy Stout! A real man’s lunch of 5 x 100mils of beer with potato wedges set us up for the afternoon.
Along the beach from the house, where we are staying, is a cafe on the shore front, so an afternoon expedition to sit in the sun and enjoy the view with coffee was declared.
A great start to our holiday, not too rushed but with a variety of activities already under our belt in extremely attractive scenery. On that note the land is very undulating due, I expect, to the volcanic activity that created the island. There are no straight bits of road longer than a few metres. And, we have noticed the numerous roadside stands of agapanthus – apparently a weed in NZ and we can see why. However, they are in flower at the moment and are colourful and provide an attractive roadside display.