From the moment you arrive at Waiheke, the sense that you have left Auckland and entered in to another world is very apparent. Located 40 minutes by ferry from Downtown Auckland, the island is an absolute treat to visitors and locals alike. It is a wonderful day trip (the whole day is recommended!) or alternatively, stay a few nights, a week or even a month. Be prepared to experience unique island culture, some of New Zealand’s best wines and fabulous beaches.
Ferries depart regularly (hourly) from Downtown Auckland Ferry Terminal. The journey takes about 40 minutes and you’ll arrive at the Matiatia wharf on the island. Be sure to absorb the stunning vista on the way, with views of Rangitoto, Mototapu and Motuihe Islands.
On arrival at Waiheke Island, you are approximately 20 minutes walk (or an 8 minute bus ride) from the township of Oneroa and approximately 20 minutes walk from the nearest winery! As for stunning views, they are already upon you.
Backpackers, wine lovers and those on a budget: To make the most of your trip, I recommend the local all-day bus pass for easy transport. The island is almost 20 kilometres long! Although I highly recommend walking where possible, the day pass will help you reach those destinations that are too far by foot.
For those with a bit of spare cash and groups of 3-5: Hiring a car is a very flexible way to see the island and won’t set you back a huge amount, especially if the costs are split. This will give you means to travel beyond the bus route, and doesn’t confine you to the bus timetable. Sober driver = essential!
Alternatively; rent a bike. This is an incredible option for those a little more adventurous.
Please, whatever you do, make the most of the day. Wineries can close early (it pays to check opening times depending on the season) I recommend heading to the island mid-morning (or earlier – get breakfast there!) to ensure the opportunity to see everything on your list.
You do need to pay for tastings at most places. Tastings usually come in packages for $10 (approximately 4 tasting serves) and you can often opt for red or white choices, or pay a bit more for a premium selection. This will vary from place to place so be sure to ask on arrival what the options are. The hosts love what they do so make sure you get the most of your visit by having a conversation, they are always willing to share their knowledge and make suggestions.
My personal picks for wineries are:
– Casita Miro
– Cable Bay
– Wild on Waiheke
But whichever you do choose, even if not from my favourites, winemakers on Waiheke take incredible pride in their wines, you will not be disappointed! If wine is not quite your thing, Wild on Waiheke create beautiful craft beers as well as their own ginger beer. For a treat order the ginger beer with a shot of rum; it’s to die for!
Onetangi is the longest and most popular stretch of sand on the island. Be sure to pack your togs and a towel! The beach is home to a few small cafe style bar/eateries, perfect for an afternoon cocktail. Onetangi is family friendly with calm waters.
Other picks for beaches are Oneroa Bay, Little Oneroa and Palm Beach.
As well as hiring a bicycle as previously mentioned other activities that may be of interest are kayaking and the zipline! There are also various wine tours on the island if you want to sit back, relax and let your guide take care of you for the day.
Oneroa, the township, is filled with art galleries, boutique shops and local treats. Spend an hour or so browsing the stores and maybe take home a few souvenirs. A trip to Oneroa is not complete without visiting the Island Gelato Company. Gorgeous flavours and something for everyone, they have vegan options too!
Waiheke really is the place to just relax. Find a patch of beach, a patch of earth, enjoy the scenery, the birds, the ocean, the trees. Watch the world from Waiheke’s eyes as the clouds pass overhead.
Pick a nature walk! Little Oneroa to Palm Beach is highly recommended, but there are various walks on the island to satisfy restless feet.
Saturday Markets at Ostend are also a highlight. Various stalls ranging from fruit and veg, local produce to gifts and clothing. Well worth a visit if your trip falls on (or over!) a Saturday morning.
The weather on Waiheke Island can provide all four seasons in one day. Layers are best so you can adjust according to the temperature and a water proof jacket is essential in the event of a spot of rain, which can be very likely. And of course, sun safety. It pays to take sunscreen and sunglasses all year round, and a hat during the warmer months. A big beach hat will ensure true Waihekeian style.
The best time for photographs are on clear sky days with low humidity. Waiheke provides beautiful photos regardless, but if you are really looking for that perfect shot, lower humidity will provide the clearest views. And if it happens to be stormy, take the opportunity! I’ve seen some beautiful photos of the island during a storm.
If you are saving money, you might want to take a picnic lunch or head to the town for some take away fish and chips! Otherwise there are some nice restaurants in Oneroa, or choose a winery and splurge!
Take water! This will be provided at dining establishments, but the water on the island is precious as it is limited and very expensive for locals to purchase during shortages. Do your part and pack a water bottle.
In winter be sure to check ahead for any closures (wineries may not be open all days of the week). In summer be sure to book reservations for dining, transport and activities as well as being prepared for the crowds, especially on weekends.
Most of all, take the time to relax!