Heading north from Auckland? Plan a stop in Warkworth

State Highway One skips past this bustling town but it's worth a detour before you head further north.

Recently, I  discovered that there’s a lot that I didn’t know about Warkworth, just 64 kms north from Auckland city. For instance, I didn’t know that the Mahurangi River that runs through the town or that the river used to be the main freight route to and from Auckland. Todau it's used mainly by pleasure boats for tours of the river. There’s a pretty riverside walk along a boardwalk and lots of ducks and geese to say hello to.

I also didn’t know that Warkworth used to be called Brown’s Mill and was named after the hometown of Mr Brown’s family who lived in Warkworth, Northumberland, UK. Nor did I know that Warkworth has a heritage trail that includes many restored character buildings including Mr Brown’s house (a brochure for the self-guided walk is available at the Tourist Information office) and a popular country museum with two large kauri trees called Simpson and McKinney, named in honour of former land owners.

I did know that Warkworth has a fantastic chocolatier – Chocolate Brown – and that the town recently became famous for being the home of the company that made the high tech wingsails, foils and appendages for the AC72s – the flying catamarans in the 2013 America’s Cup.

After wandering around the town for a while, I also now know that  Warkworth is blessed with a good number of cafes (including Chocolate Brown’s) so when you stop off you will be spoilt for choice.

Warkworth is the main town in the Matakana Coast Wine Country which stretches from Waiwera (home of hot pools and water slides) all the way north to the spectacular beach at Pakiri (horse riding anyone?). Matakana Village has cute shops, a cinema with the most amazing comfy seats and decadent chandeliers, and a famous farmers’ market every Saturday  Just a few kilometres from Matakana is the Morris and James Pottery with a good little cafe and the most colourful and artistic pots and platters you’ll see anywhere. If you book ahead you can create your own.

A bit further afield are the seaside resorts of Omaha, Leigh, and Pakiri beach. At Sandspit you can catch the ferry to Kawau Island for the day (or longer) and Goat Island Marine Reserve isn’t far either.

Travelling between Auckland and Warkworth on the motorway (part of the way is a toll road) is fast and easy but I like to take the slightly longer but more scenic route which goes through Orewa (check out the view of the beach from the viewing platform on the hill on the north end of the town) and Waiwera (hot pools, spa) and passes the turn off to Wenderholm Regional Park.  So the next time you head north, take some time to stop in Warkworth and explore all that the area has to offer. You won’t regret it :)