Image: Jodi Clark
AUCKLAND: Waiheke Island is often described as the jewel of Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf, and visitors will quickly discover why. A beacon for Auckland’s creative community, lovers of food and wine will also be drawn to the delights of the Island.
The Journey to Waiheke is All Part of the Adventure
Waiheke (pronounced Why-heck-ee) Island is just a leisurely 35-minute ferry ride from downtown Auckland, but it's world's away in terms of what you'll experience. Here, an eclectic community binds together in a bohemian bubble of creativity across food, wine, art, activities and produce - and they welcome visitors with open arms (in a semi-social distancing kind of way).
Often referred to as The Hamptons of New Zealand, the largest island in the Hauraki Gulf, invites you to leave airs and graces on the mainland and simply immerse yourself in the local culture. After all, this is an island that knows community. It's the third most populated island in New Zealand with a population of 8000, and so close knit that it's not unusual for a friendly local to offer directions (if you're cycling the island); suggestions for cool things to see and do (if you're travelling by bus or taxi) or offer a lift if you're on foot.
There are plenty of things to do in Waiheke, but when packing for a day on island, definitely bring your bathing suit to make the most of the island's picture-perfect beaches. If you’re in New Zealand during Summer, sunblock is a must, as the UV index can get very high, and burn time very low. Don’t worry about packing lunch, the island boasts plenty of amazing, authentic New Zealand food to gorge on. Snacks are a good idea though as is bottled water as convenience stores aren’t in abundance.
You can choose to rent a car on the island, or use a combination of bus, bicycle and taxi services to get around – which is a better option if you’re going to be enjoying the charms of a vineyard or two. You’ll see people getting around in all manner of ways, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself sharing the road with a horse or two.
Must-sees on your Island Adventure
Oneroa is one place where locals and tourists mingle. You won’t find any chain stores here. Instead you can browse the quirky offerings of local suppliers. Don’t miss the chance to buy produce from the island and visit Island Gelato (124 Ocean View Road) for a few scoops.
While you’re in Oneroa, Toi Gallery (145 Ocean View Road) is the perfect chance to pick up a local souvenir. The artist-owned space features the work of local artists and sculptors and is a lovely spot to browse. Or visit Space Art Gallery across the road for some incredible, world class art from local and international artists.
Did you know? The original Māori name for Waiheke was Te Motu-arai-roa, meaning "the long sheltering island" and then when the first European visitors arrived it became known as Motu-Wai-Heke, "island of trickling waters."
Many of Waiheke’s vineyards offer wonderful and world-renowned fine dining. Of these, Mudbrick Vineyard and Restaurant (126 Church Bay Road - see main image) is one of the best known. If you’re planning to pop by, be sure to book ahead as this place is incredibly popular. If you’re visiting on the spur of the moment, there are wonderful, slightly more casual options to be found. Try the Veranda Cafe at Stonyridge Vineyard along with one of their signature Cabernets (80 Onetangi Road) or local favourite Casita Miro (3 Brown Road), which features a beautiful mosaic garden.
Insider Tip: If you’re taking the kids along, choose to visit a family-friendly vineyard like Wild on Waiheke (82 Onetangi Road), which has a playground and activities like archery and boules for the young ones to get involved.
As well as producing excellent wine, Waiheke’s climate is perfect for crafting beautiful olive oil. A visit to one of the many olive groves on the Eastern shore of the island is a wonderful experience, and a great chance to learn more about the delicately flavoured oil. Rangihoua Estate (1 Gordons Road) offers tours that give visitors firsthand insight into the process of producing the oil, and a chance to pick up some bottles to take home.
It’s hard to go wrong when choosing activities on Waiheke. Enjoy the gentle pace of the island or explore to your heart's content. Whatever your motivation for visiting, Waiheke Island casts a spell – it’s a magical place that captures the heart and makes you want to return.
Where to Stay
As New Zealand eases into post-Covid normality, downtown Auckland’s hottest new waterfront hotel has announced an October opening date. The scaffolding is down on The Hotel Britomart, revealing its breath-taking brick exterior. Work is now focused on the interiors of the 104 guest rooms and suites, for the hotel's grand opening on 1 October. And, best of all, it's just a leisurely stroll from The Hotel Britomart to the Waiheke Ferry departure point, so you'll easily be able to enjoy the best of Auckland and the Hauraki Gulf on any stay with us.
Peace of mind when you stay with us: Introducing Clean Touch.