With its village atmosphere and "city comforts", Matakana has become a magnet for Aucklanders looking for a better lifestyle.

Bayleys agent Shailenne Parkes knows the phenomenon only too well, having moved with her family to the village from the suburb of Westmere eight years ago.

"When I first got here I found it a bit sleepy because I was a real Ponsonby girl but we love the lifestyle up here and we love going out eating and drinking in the area," says Parkes.

"It's interesting because the people I sold houses to over 12 years down in Auckland are the ones I am now selling houses to in Matakana. They are coming up for the lifestyle and most of them want to be within walking distance of the village because they like that village atmosphere."


New arrivals in Matakana are generally Aucklanders selling high-value homes, but there is a mix of ages.

"You get the young families with children coming in for the school and there are also the semi-retirees who go to Auckland twice a week, which is 40 or 45 minutes' drive."

Garry Knapp, of Premium Real Estate, says "The new and very self-evident trend is the extent to which Aucklanders of all kinds are selling up and migrating to the district. Across the range from $700k to $3 million there is real demand. Consisting of age 30-plus with young families through to the retired there is demand for quality property and sales flow swiftly after listing." Shailenne says, "When anything comes on the market we are getting multiple offers and prices are heading north."

Knapp adds, "These new arrivals are taking advantage of the price differentials between properties they have in Auckland and the cost of resettling in the Matakana District. We notice a significant proportion of these buyers have North Shore origins. We feel this probably reflects the fact that people travel in tribes. Over the early years Matakana and its waterfront environs has been the backyard or playground of particularly the North Shore community -- surfing and boating being primary drivers."

The popularity of Matakana is a tribute to the vision of property investor Richard Didsbury, who bought the old sawmill site in Matakana in 1992 and, with the help of architect Noel Lane, redeveloped it to accommodate the renowned farmers' market, a movie theatre and shops.

About the same time Didsbury began planting grapes at Brick Bay that would eventually supply the eponymous winery, which is among a group of destination wineries and vineyards, some of which were set up in the 1970s and 1980s.

Before it became known as a wine, food and boutique shopping destination, Matakana was largely a rural service centre for the farming and horticulture in the surrounding area. Settled in the 1840s, Matakana was home to brickmaking, flax-harvesting and sawmilling. Its kauri was supplied to shipwrights.

At high tide, boats would come and go from a port on the Matakana River, picking up and delivering supplies.

Remnants of those early origins are still around but for most people Matakana is a place to enjoy food and wine at the expanding number of market stalls, shops, wineries, bars, restaurants and cafes.

Shailenne says more restaurants and boutique shops are opening, pushing development down Matakana Valley Rd.

Residential subdivisions have also been part of the growth picture. Sites are being snapped up at Laly Haddon Place, Tamahunga Lane and Matakana Green developments.

Knapp says without careful planning Matakana could become "a victim of its own success" as the roading infrastructure and education and health systems come under pressure.

"Matakana is very attractive to a broad section of the market and has a massive future. Maintaining its character and charm will be a challenge."