Road trips in NZ with must-see pit stops: Warkworth
Stretch your legs as you stroll along the pretty promenade by the Mahurangi River. Photo / 123rf
While on his quest to find the best places for a pit stop on a classic Kiwi road trip, this week Peter Dragicevich discovers The Tahi is # 1 in Warkworth.
Nowadays, the drive from Auckland to Whāngārei or Dargaville usually takes less than 2.5 hours and many Kiwi fathers will insist on driving by. However, if you are looking for a pit stop, you have options. Kaiwaka is a contender, but other than its excellent cheese factory and a few decent cafes, there isn’t much to do. Wellsford’s crowded main street is barely full of charm, and Waipū requires a detour on State Highway 1.
This brings us to Warkworth, the choice of the peloton. If you’re from Auckland it’s about 45 minutes away and it’s the first decent contender for a coffee or a pee. During peak vacation times, the traffic heats up anyway, so you might as well get out there and stretch your legs. It is also the exit to major vacation spots such as Matakana, Snells Beach, Mahurangi, Tawharanui, Ōmaha, Leigh and Pākiri. In the summer, the town’s two oversized supermarkets do a lively trade with holidaymakers stocking up on Bach supplies.
The local iwi, Ngāti Manuhiri, knew this area at the head of Mahurangi port as Puhinui. In 1843, a guy named John Anderson Brown built a hydraulic sawmill and a house where the Bridge House Lodge is now located. The small settlement was originally known as Brown’s Mill, with Brown and around 35 employees actually squatting on Maori lands. In 1853 Brown was able to purchase 62 ha and drew up a street map, calling it Warkworth after a town in his native Northumberland.
The English Warkworth has a Norman church and a large imposing medieval castle towering above it – so a little different from our Warkworth, then. All that cities seem to have in common is that they are both located in the meanders of a river. Brown took his nostalgia for Northumberland to an even more ridiculous level when he named the streets after aristocratic families in his home county. For example, Percy St is named after the Dukes of Northumberland. The current Duke, Ralph Percy, also holds the title of Baron Warkworth and is the current owner of the aforementioned castle. It seems unlikely that he ever visited our Warkworth but who knows? Maybe he has a bachelor’s degree in Ōmaha.
This brings us back to South Warkworth. He may not have Dukes or Barons, but he’s known for raising athletic royalty, specializing in fraternal duos: All Blacks Zinzan and Robin Brooke and Black Caps Hamish and James Marshall.
Drive into the city center and stop by the very helpful i-SITE at the start of Baxter St. Once you’ve all used the restroom, regroup inside to stock up on information about your location. intended destination. If you’re interested in heritage architecture, stop to take a look at the Corinthian columns and classical pediments of the elegant Masonic Hall next door (built in 1883). The Mahurangi River is just behind, so stretch your legs as you stroll along the pretty riverside promenade. If you have small children there is also a play area here.
If you’re hungry or parched, Warkworth has plenty to choose from. Our favorite establishment is the Tahi Bar & Kitchen (reopening at a red light). Straddling an alleyway across from i-SITE, this hip corner wouldn’t be out of place in downtown Melbourne and yet it offers the most typical Warkworth experience. In fact, “local” is the obsession here. All of the craft beer is sourced from local producers (including 8-Wired Brewery in Warkworth and Colab Brewery in Kaipara Flats), as is most of the wine (Matakana being a close neighbor) and much of the food cooked in the kitchen. . The butcher across the road even cooks sausages for them according to Tahi’s recipe.
A few doors up, the Gourmet Burger Co. lives up to its name with burgers stuffed with roast duck and topped with duck eggs. If you are more in the mood for a sit-down meal, Aldo’s next door serves delicious Italian cuisine in a friendly, family atmosphere.
Back on Main Street, the newly refurbished Warkworth Hotel dates back to 1864, as does the spectacular Norfolk Island Pine before it. Inside there are only burnished hardwood floors and sparkling chandeliers, but the sun terrace out front is the perfect place to see and be seen, especially for late afternoon drinkers. . Further afield, Pete & Mary’s Eatery is the city’s choice of cafes. It’s not a big space but it’s open and airy, and the food is great and reliable.
So, no castles, but plenty of good excuses to stop, stretch your legs, wet your whistle and fill your stomach.
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