With so many things on offer Auckland and as someone who grew up here, I didn’t know where to start but I decided to stick with what I know best: Waiheke Island.
Wining and dining on Waiheke Island
Rated as one of the top Islands in the world to visit by TripAdvisor in 2015 it’s no wonder Waiheke’s popularity has skyrocketed since then. And while there always seems to be an abundance of visitors, that doesn’t mean there aren’t still some hidden gems. (Take it from a local.)
To get to Waiheke is a 40 min boat ride from the CBD of Auckland Make sure you are at the Fullers ferry building at least an hour before you plan to depart as the queue can be ridiculous some days. The boats are fully licensed and have an array of drinks and snacks to purchase on board. The ferry takes you out through the Auckland harbor, past the Rangitoto volcano (another great day trip for the adventures type) and many smaller islands like Motatapu, Rakino and Motahi, to name a few.
The ferry costs around $36 NZD return and once you arrive you can opt to hire a car or purchase an all day bus pass. Buses run every 30 min in both directions. Coming into summer fullers are going to put on a hop on hop off bus in lieu of the old vineyard hopper.
Arriving into Matiatia offers a quick glimpse of what Waiheke has to offer, lush greenery, hills promising magnificent views and some sculptures that can still be seen that are left over from the sculpture on the gulf festival.
If you are after a relaxing day at a vineyard that boasts it all, stunning views, world-class food and wine, friendly staff and a scenic walk back to the ferry, I would suggest either Mudbrick Vineyard or Cable bay. These 2 vineyards are maybe 1/2 a mile apart and the walk between them offers stunning views of Auckland, the harbor and the surrounding islands. While neither of these vineyards are cheap they are well worth the price tag. To get there you can either walk up from the ferry, this would take around 40 min or you can catch a cab (not advised as it’s obscenely expensive on Waiheke).
For a cheaper day, you can catch the bus from the ferry to just about anywhere on the island. I would suggest you make your way out to Onetangi beach at the bottom end of the island. You will first pass through the main township of Oneroa, here you can explore a few of the boutique locally owned shops. And yes trust me when I say Oneroa is the main town even though you won’t see any franchised brands aside from the mini supermarket. Waiheke prides itself on being a locally run community and you won’t find any McDonald’s, or Subways here.
Once back en-route you’ll pass by a few smaller but no less beautiful beaches, as you come down onto a road nicknamed the Onetangi straight, you will pass 4 vineyards a stones throw from each other. The bus stops right outside all of them.
Wild on Waiheke, Stoneyridge, Te Motu and Tantilus, all offering a different experience.
Wild on Waiheke offers clay shooting, archery, life-sized chess outside the restaurant and it’s own brewery. You’ll find this is a place with families more than couples but it’s still worth a visit.
Next is Stoneyridge, with one of the best rates rosés’s in the world a tasting at this cellar is a must do. The vineyard does also have a restaurant but is more on the pricey end.
Te Motu is similar to Stoneyridge in terms of price but this is a boutique vineyard, most times of the year you can get some stunning photos in between the vines or try some local oysters.
Last on this strip is Tantillus, recently opened (spring 2016) its reviews prove this is one to watch, with a beautiful menu and certain locally sourced products, prices that are equally as enticing as the venue itself, I would highly recommend this as a lunch stop. Once your inner wine guru is satisfied the bus stops right outside any of your chosen vineyards to carry on to the beach front.
Onetangi is the longest beach on the island at around 1.5 km long. The name Onetangi translates to ‘weeping sands’ as there was once a tribal war here that killed hundreds of Maori people.
There are 2 restaurants here, situated on the beach front, both offering either a quick coffee stop or a meal along with stunning waterfront views of the Coromandel peninsula and on a clear day sometimes Great Barrier Island. This is a great place to strip down to your swimmers and take a dip the in refreshing water, the beach has a few Pohutukawa trees (New Zealand’s native Christmas tree) scattered on the edge if you want a bit of refuge from the sun.
Much like Australia, sunscreen in a necessity here as the sun is the strongest in the world, 10 min in the sun here can burn you.
While sadly you must as some point return to reality you can still take a scenic 40 min bus ride to the ferry terminal where you once again make your way onto the ferry to witness the multitude of islands that make up the Hauraki Gulf.
I would suggest you buy a few bottles of wine or locally made products to remind yourself that no it wasn’t a dream and places like Waiheke do really exist.