Let's live in... Warkworth
It's okay to feel left out, Warkworth. Your younger sibling, Matakana, gets all the attention. People tend to describe you as 'sleepy' and 'adequate' and 'definitely a thing'. Aucklanders will be able to hurtle right past you once the much-anticipated Puhoi to Wellsford motorway is built.
So why should I move there?
Warkworth's definitely got something going on. It's the mainframe of the Kowhai coast, the beating heart with veins coiling out to the best places north of Auckland. Its population keeps going up; a 20% increase over five years.
Goat Island, Tawharanui Regional Park, the Puhoi River - none of those things are in Warkworth, but they're nearby, and they wouldn't be the hot-spots they are without Warkworth anchoring the entire district.
The Kowhai Festival, a week-long celebration, is a delight of colour and bombast. The old cement works with its ruined buildings and exhilarating jumping spots (that you're *technically* not allowed to jump from) might be one of the best swimming holes in the country. The duck-ridden river boardwalk is wide and generous and the perfect place to sit on a sunny day.
And perhaps best of all, Warkworth demands a leisurely lifestyle. No-one's in any particular rush, because, well, there's nowhere really to go. Which may be the greatest thing you can ask for.
Why it's not for everyone
It tends to draw the older crowd. The median age is 44, 10 years higher than the Auckland average. A quarter of residents are 65 or older. It's not the most rollicking place for youngsters.
The aging population doesn't help another local issue; Warkworth's famously treacherous intersections. All you can do is slowly roll through them with your eyes closed and a prayer in your heart (not actually, please).
And it's easy to feel cynical about the town's future. It has long rested on its laurels as a pause for travellers heading north, but the 'Holiday Highway' (note: locals don't like this term) will change that. Warkworth can't survive purely on its proximity to 'better' places.
What's the transport like?
It's 40 minutes to the Auckland CBD on a good day. Great access to Silverdale, with its new shopping development and Park and Ride, which is the closest thing Rodney has to an effective public transport option.
Warkworth Primary; decile 8, roll of 550. Mahurangi College; decile 8, roll of 1300.
Where to eat out
Chocolate Brown, a newish cafe and chocolaterie, is as good as it sounds. Seafood and Eat It is the most popular fish and chip shop, with a great name to match.
The Bakehouse's old owners were sued for emotional damage after maggots came crawling out of one of their quiches - the current owners have turned it into the archetypal small town bakery.
Claim to fame
Warkworth has a knack for producing genetically-linked sporting talent. Rugby legend Zinzan Brooke and his brother, fellow All Black Robin, went to Mahurangi college, as did Black Cap cricketing twins Hamish and James Marshall.
Nowadays its greatest claim to fame is as the home of hideously expensive America's Cup boats, with local company Core Builders building boats for teams like the US-based Oracle.
Two supermarkets, petrol stations, eateries, fashion stores, even a Dick Smith Electronics - it's very well serviced for a town of only 4000.
Where to buy
Warkworth is a hilly place, so properties at the bottom of the hill near the river tend to go for a bit more, particularly among the more experienced generation.
'The Meadows', a popular subdivision a couple of minutes out of town, has rocketed up in value over the years - houses there used to go for $400,000, but now edge up to just over $600,000. Properties there tend to sell like hotcakes when they appear on the market.
A small two bedroom will go for under $400,000; a three bedroom will go for $450,000-$500,000; a four bedroom will take you up to $600,000.
This cute, recently refurbished house is lovingly presented and on the market for $489,000, view it here.
What the locals say:
"I was brought up in Warkworth before I moved to Queenstown. Queenstown was amazing but coming back to Warkworth, it's definitely more of a community, you can feel that it is. People get around each other and help each other out. I love the vibe - it's close to Matakana but away from the business slightly. It's close to everything, really, beaches, Auckland - I go there almost every day."
"I could spend hours talking about why it's a great place to live. We moved here from Auckland about four years ago and we hate going back. It's a lovely, unique little village by a beautiful river, with lovely people. Auckland's slowly creeping up here, there's not a lot of parking because it's getting so busy."
"It's friendly and village-like. And Unicorn Books is an excellent bookshop!"