Waiheke Island: Slow down, you are here! This is paradise!
January 1, 1970
by Linda Bold
Narrow, winding roads, up and down the hill, going through jungles and fields covered with hundreds of white dots. If you look closer though, you realise that those are not just some white cotton clumps, left by someone as a joke, but the famous New Zealand sheep.
Yes, this is a very common scenery on Waiheke Island. Getting to this relaxing paradise island takes only 40 minutes of enjoyable ferry ride from the biggest New Zealand city- Auckland.
It’s a perfect getaway from all the fuzz and hustle in the city. If you are fine with all the hustle and bustle, than you can choose to spend a busy afternoon on one of the most popular beaches in Oneroa village. There is a handful of bars and restaurants almost on the coast, offering you to enjoy amazing scenery and kill some waiting time for the food by counting all the yachts and boats anchored on the bay. When it gets dark, all the boats and yachts become like a little stars, rocking on the waving surface of the sea, as it wouldn’t be enough with millions of bright stars in the clear sky, which you can easily see from any point on Waiheke Island.
Ex-paradise for hippies, now- playground of the richest
Waiheke used to be a hippies, artists and weird misfits paradise, who were sick of city and pressure from society to get a “decent job and life in general, by obeying the law’’. Electricity became accessible for everyone on regular bases only 60 years ago. Now it all has changed. Nowadays one of the richest people on planet like to hung out here, buy land and build some massive, super expensive summer homes, where they spend one month per year. Most of the houses look very posh, high class and elegant, but the sad part is that for more than six months these beautiful, massive giants are just lonely and slowly rotting away, not being used by their owners. In a way, seems that these summer houses are just asking for a cuddle and a human touch.
If you want to hide from everyone, it is quite easy to find a quiet beach further away from all the socializing places.It’s a shame though, that a lot of the beautiful, untouched beaches are not accessible for public, especially on the east of Waiheke, where it is almost impossible to get to a beach. Here is one tip how you can still get to these beaches: rent a kayak and- off you go!- around the whole island or just some parts, you just have to choose, where do you want to go and get some chocolaty tan. Never the less, all of the beaches are gorgeous and white as whitest sheep.
How about a hike around the island?
Waiheke itself is not quite adjusted for pedestrians. There is barely a room for 2 cars passing by each other, leaving no room for people who might like to walk.If you are brave or crazy enough to walk on these roads during the dark time of the day, than, each time, when a car is passing by, you might be blinded by the lights and feel like a frightened animal, jumping off the road into the bushes just to save your tail.
But- don’t worry- it is not all bad with walking on Waiheke. In fact, island is perfect for hiking, whit all of its’ trails through reserves, fields and coasts, it’s easy to catch the diversity of the island. There is a trail, called Te Ara Hura, which is approximately 100 km long and goes around almost the whole island. That’s a great way, how to see and explore the island and reach places, where it’s impossible to get by car or even by bike. So you could make it as a few day expedition, getting closer to the nature by sleeping in tents or even under the clear sky. It’s not allowed to just camp wherever you want, because New Zealanders are very protective over their environment, so mostly you would have to stay in camp grounds and pay for it, but you can use all the facilities provided. So you don’t have to go to “say ”hi” to the mother nature” behind some bush, exposing your behind to mosquito attack. But a good plan, and definitely more memorable as well, could be sleeping on the beach just in your sleeping bag and let the sound of the waves take you to your sweet, sweet dreamland.
One big family
Local community on island is something quite unique as well. It seems that all the locals know each other and actually are really good friends, taking care of each other and helping out whenever it is needed. Most of people don’t bother to lock their cars and even homes, which is very surprising nowadays. This island is a lovely example of human companionship and compassion. Random strangers on a street will say “Hello” to you and without hesitation will start a chat and offer local and valuable advice about anything you might want to know or anything what could be useful to you. Don’t get me wrong though, it is something special indeed, but it’s not only sunshines and rainbows on the island. You still should be careful about your belongings and your wellbeing, as a lot of people go to the island only for a weekend to get drunk, cause some trouble and leave.
Palce to remember, how to be human
This was the place where I quit my hesitation on daily bases, to walk up to someone and offer my help, really listen, when asking- how they are doing. And most of all, I was blown away by the peoples trust in humans in general. You can honestly say that you haven’t done some kind of a job before, which would be a problem in Europe, but here, people say- ok, that’s great! Today you can learn something new and most likely you will learn through mistakes, but that’s life! I messed up so many things while working in gardening, painting and renovation, but through that I learned so much and rebuild trust in myself.
Let the wine flow!
Waiheke is well known for its’ wineries, which on island are 27 in total. Sometimes it’s called “the island of wines”. That’s quite a big number for such a small piece of land. Despite of that, some of the best wines in New Zealand come directly from here. Cruising around most popular wineries, such as: Mudbrick, Man O’War, Cable Bay and Miro vineyard, across the whole island in a tour bus, hopping off, attending tons of different kinds of wine tastings and spoiling your taste buds not only with the profuse wine, but incredibly delicious food in vineyard restaurants. Don’t know, how about you, but for me that sounds like a brilliant plan for a day or two!