A long weekend with friends near Goat Island Marine Reserve

Over a decade ago friends of ours moved from Wellington to the north of the north Island, settling an hour’s drive north of Auckland, on the east coast near New Zealand’s first marine reserve, Cape Rodney-Okakari Point Marine Reserve (Goat Island).

Their place is a ten minute drive from the thriving small town of Matakana, which is a gem of place with a wonderful sense of community spirit, and a lovely collection of small independent shops, cafes, restaurant and cinema (plus a great Saturday market!).

Over the years our friends have created a home of such serenity in amongst the native bush, just a kilometre’s walk to the beach. At the beginning of December I spent four wonderful nights there, sleeping with the natural rhythm of the light. I returned to Wellington with a renewed sense of energy. It was the perfect time for me to enjoy some time to reflect, as the anniversary of my dear Mum’s passing approached, and to be in such wonderful company.

I spent hours reading, listening to the birds, painting and chatting with my lovely friends. I took daily walks and went for a couple of runs, immersing myself in the gorgeous scenery.

I stayed in the beautiful cob cottage they have built, using a mix of clay, sand and straw, and slept the deepest sleep I’ve had in a long time. The round building, with a living roof, was so peaceful and calm. I lay on the bed in savasana pose feeling totally relaxed and did not stir until the birds woke me with their dawn chorus. Cob Cottages have incredible thermal properties – soaking up sunlight in the walls during the day, and slowing releasing the heat. This keeps the inside of the building warm in the winter, and cool in the summer.

In the morning I sat outside on the grass and watched a pair of kingfishers in the trees nearby and kaka flying high overhead, welcoming in the day. A couple of mornings I started my day by heading down to the sea and enjoying and Goat Island Walkway, a 3km return walk which traverses the coast part way to Cape Rodney. The turn around point is at Tabletop Reef, with spectacular views over the Hauraki Gulf and Hauturu or Little Barrier Island and the Hen and Chicken Islands.

A further section, through a kissing gate at the turn around point, follows the fence line to Matheson Bush Road and along the road to Cape Rodney Road, before turning right towards the lookout.

Another day I ran along the Leigh Coastal Walk, a stunning coastline edged with large pohutukawa trees that were just starting to bloom their vivid red blossom. As I ran along the coastline, taking little side trips down to the many little bays, I was frequently accompanied by gannets swooping along and spectacularly diving into the sea to catch a meal.

Another gem of a walk is the Matheson Bay Bush Walk, set back from the beautiful Matheson Bay Beach (where we went for a refreshing swim in the sheltered bay).

Matheson Bay Beach

The track follows the stream past a series of waterfalls, with lovely spots for a dip. Native bush includes mature kauri, pohutukawa, rimu, totara and kaihikatea trees. There are also many nikau palms and ferns.

The morning before we visited Matheson Bay Beach I had rolled up my sleeves to help my friends do a little plastering on their latest build, a bathroom looking out to native bush. It was a fun experience, but I was glad to cool off afterwards with a dip in the sea!

All too soon my long weekend came to an end and I grabbed a quick run to the beach for a dip in the sea. Before making my way back to Auckland, for my flight down to Wellington, I popped into Mataka village to see my lovely friend at her art shop and grab a photo with ‘Bob Ross‘ who was hanging out in the window (ha!).