Warkworth lies an hour north of Auckland, nestled against the head of the Mahurangi River. Originally a timber camp, the area was purchased by John Anderson Brown and Warkworth was founded in 1853. He named it after Warkworth in Northumberland. This area is rich in history and an easy place to spend a day.
How to get there
For the motorcyclist, the easiest way to Warkworth is via State Highway 1. Head over the harbour bridge and keep going for 57km. An alternate (better) route is via State Highway 16. There are different options for getting on to State Highway 16. Once there head north past Kaukapakapa and turn on to West Coast Road. This is a longer journey but well worth it if you have the time.
If you do go via State Highway 1 take the Orewa off-ramp and make your way around the coast. This is a better ride and misses the tunnels. Remember if you do go through the tunnels you will need to pay the toll ($2.30 each way), within 3 days. This can be paid online, at the NZTA website or some service stations.
Traffic can be particularly heavy, especially on Friday afternoon’s, on State Highway 1. It can be difficult to pass as the road is heavily used by trucks. Electronic signs will normally advise if there are significant delays, allowing you to exit the motorway at Silverdale (turn left at the Silverdale off-ramp and then first right into Pine Valley Rd), and continue via State Highway 16.
Here are 10 ideas for enjoying a day in Warkworth once you get there.
#1. Eat at one of the many cafe’s in the town.
Warkworth is known for being a pretty town, with the Mahurangi River providing an interesting backdrop. Take some time to wander through the town. There are plenty of cafes and bars, with a number bordering the river itself. The town has a number of historic buildings, including the heritage listed Town Hall, which was built in 1910. It is the only building in New Zealand to be constructed from hollow glazed blocks.
#2. Take a ride on the Jane Gifford
The Mahurangi River was used as a transport route to ship Kauri and Cement from Warkworth to afar afield as Australia. The river remains home to the historical scow Jame Gifford. Built-in 1908 she is a magnificent vessel and does daily tours on the river.
#3. Visit the Parry Kauri Park Museum
Less than 3km from the town is Parry Kauri Park. Stop in here to see some mighty Kauri Trees, and take a gentle stroll through the surrounding bush. The park also features a museum. For a modest fee, you can wander through the time capsule that is managed an maintained by volunteers. They do an amazing job of keeping the local history alive. Hundreds of children from local and not so local schools visit the museum each year. Of special interest is the WWII US Army Huts. This serves as a reminder that the Warkworth area was home to 1000’s of United States Army personnel in the 1940s as they trained for operations in the Pacific.
#4. Take a swim at the Cement Works
Not far from the Parry Kauri Park is the Cement Works. The cement works began producing high quality ‘portland’ cement in 1865. By 1903 there were 180 men employed at the site, producing some 20,000 tons of cement per year. In 1918 the company was wound up and amalgamated with the New Zealand Portland cement company. The site focused on producing hydrated lime until closing in 1929.
The ruins of the cement works remain and are an impressive sight. The flooded quarry is used as a swimming hole by locals and visitors alike. Be warned that it can get very busy, and at times is closed due to high levels of bacteria in the water from the many visitors. In early summer, after a winter of rain, and before the visitors arrive, it is truly a magical spot for a swim.
#5. Visit Scotts Landing and Scotts Homestead
Heading back through town you will find the infamous Hill Street Intersection. This is really 5 intersections within metres of each other and can be confusing for non-locals. Take the Sandspit Road intersection and head out to Snells Beach and Martins Bay. On the way take a detour to Scotts Landing. Follow the road to the very end (Scotts Point) and you will find the original Scotts Homestead, surrounded by gently sloping land and 100-year-old trees. Take some time to explore and imagine the laughter and adventure that was had here as it was used as a batch (holiday home) for so many years. This is a busy bay full of fishing vessels and sailing craft.
#6. Stay the night at Martins Bay Holiday Park
Continue to Martins Bay and you will find the Martins Bay Holiday Park. This is a great place to spend a night, with a range of accommodation options, or simply take the time to enjoy a swim in the Pacific Ocean.
#7. Take the ferry to Kawau Island
If you have time head to Sandspit Wharf, park the bikes and catch the Ferry to Kawau Island. The ferry runs 5 x per day in summer, and while there are no roads on the island, you will find the amazing Mansion House, complete with cafe and restaurant.
#8. Have a wine at Brick Bay and do the Sculpture Trail
If you don’t have time to visit Kawau Island stop in at the Brick Bay Wine and Sculpture Trail. Leave your gear on the bike, put on your walking shoes and take a gentle stroll around the 2km sculpture trail. Once finished enjoy some fine dining in the restaurant, or simply relax with a coffee or glass of wine.
#9. Breakfast at the Matakana Markets
If you are in Warkworth on a Saturday morning it is suggested you head out to the Matakana Markets. This is one of the best-known markets in the area, many Aucklanders make the trip especially. The markets have a range of fresh fruit, vegetables, and even Gin. Enjoy the superb smells as you wander through the market, and treat yourself to a coffee and a mussel-fritter. This is one of the best places in New Zealand for a hungry motorcyclist to get breakfast.
#10. Enjoy the ride as you head north
Matakana is the gateway to the north, with many fantastic roads heading north. We will have a look at these in a future post.
#11. Bonus – Sheep World
If you are into sheep head north on State Highway 1 for a couple of km’s and enjoy the farm show and a coffee at Sheep World.
There are two motorcycle shops in Warkworth.
Warkworth Motorcycles on Whitaker Road are open 8am to 5pm, Monday to Friday and 8.30 to 12 on Sundays.
Cyclespot North are located at 10 Morrison Drive and open from 8.30 am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.