Top 10 things to do in Matakana with Kids

Top 10 things to do in Matakana with Kids

There are lots of fun things to see and do in Matakana for families with children.  Matakana is only an hour’s drive away from Auckland so you can go for a day trip, or for a weekend away.

Elephants at Sculpture - Auckland for Kids

1. Visit Sculptureum

Enjoy all the sculptures, animals and art at Sculptureum in Matakana.  The three sculpture gardens were the most popular with our children. As well as sculpture there are live animals and reflective quotes in the gardens.  There are six themed indoor galleries as well, based on animals, modern abstract works, recycled materials, glass art and figurative work. If it turns out to be a rainy day when you visit don’t worry as they have plenty of umbrellas you can use when you are there or on super hot days,  you can use them as a parasol too.

2. Go for coffee and brunch at the Tramcar Diner in Matakana

Perfect spot to start your visit to Matakana for a quick brunch and a coffee. We like the casual style of the Tramcar Diner  in Matakana which makes it a fun place for the kids to eat and a spot to watch everyone passing by.

They are open for lunch, snacks and ice cream not just for brunch too. Plus on Friday and Saturday night they stay open late for casual burgers and fish n chips to either eat in or takeaway.

Auckland for Kids visits Tramcar dinner in Matakana
Auckland for Kids at the Tramcar Diner in Matakana

3. Visit the Matakana Country Park

Younger kids and families can enjoy the Country Park Express miniature ride-on trains, petting zoo animal experience and pony rides. There is a fun large playground of large wooden objects like buzzy bees, aeroplane, fire trucks and more at the 50 acre Matakana Country Park Estate.  Galleries and eateries are on site as well. Plus Action Ninja World is moving down from Paihia to Matakana Country Park soon too. 

Matakana CountryPark animals
Matakana Country Park

4. Enjoy an ice cream at Charlies Gelato

Take the kids for ice cream at Charlies Gelato at Sharp Road off Matakana Road. With over 40 flavours of ice cream and lots of them made from fruit grown on the property there is something for everyone.  If you don’t feel like ice cream, they do a good coffee and they make fresh pizzas in the outdoor pizza oven on weekends too.  The courtyard at the back of the shop has shady gardens with a fish pond and vineyards for the kids to enjoy exploring.

Charlies Gelato Ice Cream in Matakana
Just some of the ice cream flavours at Charlies Gelato
Water lilies at Charlies gelato ice cream and pizza at Matakana
Auckland for Kids at Charlies Gelato

5. Watch a movie at Matakana Cinemas

Matakana Cinemas has three theatres each with their own unique style. We like the Paradiso theatre which has a ceiling adorned with 32,000 paper flowers. All cinemas have wheelchair access.

Matakana Cinema
Entrance to Matakana Cinemas

6. Visit Morris and James Pottery

Morris and James is well known for its hand made pots, ceramics and homewares in New Zealand. They use clay harvested from the banks of the Matakana river to create their colourful ceramics.  They have a free factory tour every day at 11:30am where you can see a behind the scenes glimpse of the pottery factory. We like their fun outdoor playground complete with their own pottery playground equipment for the kids. Plus their cafe, the Coffee Pot-tery Cafe is right next to the playground so you can easily keep an eye on the kids while having a coffee.

Morris & James Pottery in Matakana
Playground area at Matakana Morris and James

7. Go shopping at the Matakana Village Famers Market and Village shops

Matakana Village is well known for its farmers market where you can buy fresh local produce, coffee, flowers, cheeses and more and is on each Saturday morning.  We especially like that there is also a kids playground that is behind the market and next to the river (make sure you keep an eye on your little kids as it is not fenced).  Plus if you are bringing your family dog with you there is a dog station where you can leave your dog in the shade of the tree with a bowl of water before you enter the outdoor market.

The Village is a nice place to shop with Matakana Book Shop (complete with a good kids book section at the back of the store), art galleries, chocolate shop, homewares shop, four square and a pharmacy.

Matakana River and Playground - Photo by Auckland for Kids
Playground behind the Farmers Market and next to the river | Photo by Auckland for Kids
Matakana Village shops and waterfall sculpture
Auckland for Kids visits Matakana Village
Matakana Farmers Market
Matakana Farmers Market

8. Go on a Matakana River Tour

Take a one hour Matakana river cruise and listen to Captain Phil tell the kids all about the river and its history to Sandspit Basin where the boat turns around and heads back to Matakana. Departure times vary due to the tide but there is usually a blackboard sign in the village telling you when the next departure is.

9. Go out for dinner at one of the local restaurants

Before heading back to Auckland go out for dinner at one of the local restaurants. There are plenty to choose from such as the Rusty Pelican for pizza, Matakana Market Kitchen next to the river and the kids playground, Matakana Village Pub, Jin Jin modern Asian restaurant with a kids menu (and they do takeaways), Plume Restaurant or slightly out of the village there is Rothko Restaurant at Sculptureum.

Matakana Riverside Restaurant - Auckland for Kids
Matakana Market Kitchen
Rusty Pelican in Matakana
Rusty Pelican in Matakana
Sculptureum restaurant and elephant sculpture

10. Check out the stylish public toilets

Now going to the public toilets don’t normally make it on our list of things to do. However before your drive back home, you should check out the unique public toilets designed by New Zealand artist Steffan de Haan and built in 2009.

Terry Stringer Public toilets in Matakana - Photo by Auckland for Kids

Family friendly places to stay

Matakana Motel

We have stayed at Matakana Motel a couple of times and the kids always like it as there is a pool, trampolines and swings to play on.  The motel was clean and well maintained and had everything you needed. Plus it’s right next to the village so you can easily walk to dinner, the movies, shops and the market even with your toddlers.

Matakana Motel

Riverside Matakana

Our family has also stayed at the Riverside Matakana which has 17 self contained luxury baches set amongst the olive groves and vineyards. There is a pool and tennis court down by the river which the kids enjoyed. 

The baches are in groups, so you can book a few to go away as a group of families. The baches were clean, had comfortable beds and everything you need for a short holiday away. It’s only a short drive from Matakana village, but it is too far to walk with younger kids.

Other places to visit near Matakana if you are staying longer

If you have time to explore further afield or choose to stay for a weekend, then you can also visit: 
– Brick Bay Wines & Sculpture Tail in Snells Beach;
– Visit Leigh and go on a clearyak, glass bottom boat or snorkel at Goat Island Marine Reserve. Then visit Goat Island Marine Discovery Centre to learn about the sea creatures and afterwards stop off for lunch  at the Leigh Sawmill Cafe;
– Go swimming or horse riding on the stunning Pakiri Beach;
– Visit Sheep World in Warkworth;
– Check out the native and exotic reptiles at Ti Point Reptile Park;
– Visit Warkworth Museum and Parry Kaur Park;
– Drive to Omaha Beach for a swim (which has lifeguard supervised areas in summertime) and a children’s playground and stop in at the Farmer’s Daughter on the way for a coffee or a bite to eat and buy some fruit from the local orchards;
– Visit the Highfield Garden Reserve and Donkey Sanctuary in Mahurangi;
– Go on a cruise out to Kawau Island, one of the largest islands in the Hauraki Gulf.
– Visit Tawharanui Regional Park and it’s beautiful white sand beaches with beach swimming at any tide and at low tides there are pools to splash around in.

Map of the Matakana local area