go for cycling by the beach
ferry ride from Sandspit Wharf to Kawau Island
local activities and attractions
go for cycling by the beachferry ride from Sandspit Wharf to Kawau Islandlocal activities and attractions

See and Do

  • Taste and tour top vineyards – Ascension, Brick Bay, Mahurangi River, Runner Duck, Herons Flight, OBV and Ransoms
  • Matakana Farmers' Market (world-famous in NZ!) and Matakana Country Park Market
  • Walk to stores, cafés, restaurants and of course the beach
  • Acclaimed arts and crafts, including NZ's best pottery at Morris & James, and the awesome Brick Bay Sculpture Trail at the northern end of Snells Beach
  • Jane Gifford – NZ's oldest sailing scow – now beautifully restored and cruising out of Warkworth
  • Great golf courses to choose from and an all-weather driving range
  • Brilliant fishing and diving – best beach dive in NZ – snapper for dinner?
  • Blue Adventures – kitesurfing, SUP, wakeboarding and jet boating
  • Horseriding – 2 of the best, including iconic Pakiri Horse Rides, featured in BBC's "Unforgettable Things To Do", and "Horseriding Warkworth"
  • Many superb and varied beach and bush walks
  • Royal Mail Run Cruise to Historic Kawau Island and Governor Grey's Mansion House
  • Beautiful regional parks including 'must-see' Scotts Landing and Scandretts
  • Goat Island Marine Reserve
  • Famous Glass Bottom Boat... or even Glass Bottom Kayaks!
  • Farm and sheep dog displays at the very popular Sheepworld
  • NZs only reptile park – turtles, dragons and alligators!
  • Only 8mins to Matakana and Warkworth

Less than an hour north of Auckland, the Matakana Coast and Country stretches along meandering river valleys and a stunning coastline from Puhoi in the south to the endless miles of perfect white sand of Pakiri Beach in the north – full of magical bays and picture-perfect islands.

Snells Beach Motel gives easy access to the Warkworth/Sandspit/Matakana/Leigh area, where you can catch a ferry to Kawau Island, indulge in some food and wine tasting, or visit a range of excellent swimming beaches. The area offers wineries, boutique food operations and the chance to mellow out. The whole area has become one of the 'must-visit' areas of New Zealand.

You'll find a nice little cluster of activities in the Sandspit and Matakana areas just a few minutes away. There are several craft outlets, among them Morris & James Pottery & Café, makers of award-winning quality terracotta and glazed pots, tiles, and platters. It's open daily with free guided pottery tours at 11.30am. Don't miss Brick Bay Wines & Sculpture Trail at Snells Beach, another fine choice for art lovers and make sure you visit Zealandia Sculpture Garden (just south of Warkworth) created by our leading NZ sculptor Terry Stringer. It features a fascinating sculpture park surrounded by farmland.

Stop off at the cellar doors of Ascension, Hyperion, Ransoms, Mahurangi River, Runner Duck, Brick Bay, Omaha Bay, and Herons Flight vineyards – and try the wide range of lovely wines on offer and sample the local food platters. Between them these wineries offer some of the best local gastronomic experiences you can imagine, and all in a variety of the most amazing locations, providing some stunning settings and views.

The Matakana Village Farmers' Market and the Matakana Country Park Market are both staged every Saturday from 8am to 12.30pm. And while you are there explore the trendy new Matakana shopping complex and boutique cinemas adjacent to the market (voted NZ's best independent cinema!). Refresh yourself afterward at Plume Café or pick up perfect bread and picnic foods from the Black Dog before visiting wonderful regional parks, like Scandretts, Tawharanui and Scotts Landing at Mahurangi, swim or wander the many perfect surf beaches and hidden bays. A visit to Sheepworld gives you an insight into country life with sheep dog display, sheep shearing, bottle feeding lambs and more.

No trip to this area is complete without a cruise or ferry ride from Sandspit Wharf to Kawau Island. Sir George Grey, an early governor of NZ built the Mansion House 150 years ago. It's now open for visits and about to undergo a further major refit. It's a wonderful days outing visiting all the bays on the 'Mail Run Cruise'. All steeped in history, plus there are shipwrecks, wallabies and peacocks and if you're lucky dolphins cavorting in the Bay.

Come and see the underwater world from The Glass Bottom Boat, operating at the world renowned Goat Island Marine Reserve at Leigh. All trips have full commentary and are fun and educational for all ages. Goat Island is a wonderful way to scuba dive or snorkel amongst the many, many marine reserve protected fish. It is considered the 'best beach dive' in NZ. Just 15 mins north of Goat Island is Pakiri Horse Riding, a magical horse ride up the deserted Pakiri Beach and through the sand dunes.

Snells Beach village itself has lots to offer. The Salty Dog Inn is a traditional English-style pub offering excellent pub fare. Little & Local and Chairs are two popular high-quality cafés open everyday and supplying an array of delicious foods and services. Leave some time to drive to the top of Highfield Reserve for a great view of this magical bay, and if you've got some kids with you, the small herd of donkeys on the south slope of the reserve is a free bonus attraction. The kids all love them.

Snells Beach Motel is a great place to base yourself for a golfing trip, with wonderful nearby options at Warkworth Golf Club (8 mins), Omaha Golf Links (15mins), Wellsford Golf Club (25mins) or the international course at Gulf Harbour (50mins). There is also an all weather driving range, just south of Warkworth, that combines golf, cricket, softball and shooting... something for everybody!

Or... just sit by our beautiful heated swimming pool, take in the views of Kawau Bay and it's islands... and relax! On a clear day, you can see right over to the Coromandel and out to Great and Little Barrier Islands.

Life's good. Slow down, you're here!


Sandspit Fishing Charters
Matakana Village
Kawau Cruises
Matakana Wine
Warkworth NZ Golf
See & Do New Zealand (Video)