Image source: Flickr - Taz
Connoisseurs of good red wines probably know of Waiheke Island, a pleasant little speck of land off the coast of Auckland, New Zealand. Thanks to the Mediterranean-like climate here, the vineyards on Waiheke Island produce some lovely, rich reds that have made a name for themselves around the world. At last count, there are about 18 vineyards and wineries on the island.
A tour of those wineries, their restaurants and many adjacent olive tree groves is perhaps the most mellow of activities in which to partake on Waiheke. The 35-square mile island is actually the epitome of mellow, a place that has been described as bohemian. It really is just a little funky and you get the feeling that just about everything is OK here – no matter what you wear, what you do or where you’re from.
The ferry service between Auckland and the village of Oneroa is reliable and efficient. Many people who live on Waiheke commute to work each day using the ferry.
Once you get to the island, unless you’re just coming for the day and are planning to stay only in Oneroa, you need some sort of transportation. There is a public bus service, but have a little fun and rent a moped or four-wheel drive vehicle. That way you can stay as long as you like at any one place without worrying about catching the bus. The island roadway is primarily one big loop, so take the day and loop your way around the island.
Waiheke Island has about 56 miles of coastline, much of that filled by lovely white sand beaches, perfect for all of those activities that require a beach and an ocean. Paddle boarding is extremely popular here, as is sea kayaking. Lessons and guided tours are available, which are really great for those who want to sneak into lesser-known coves and mangroves filled with rare bird species.
Many people agree that the beach at Onetangi Bay is the best beach in New Zealand with the clearest, calmest water, so that should be on your list. New Zealand has no laws against public nudity, so occasionally on public beaches you will see nude sunbathers. Little Palm Beach, near Oneroa, is the designated nude beach and as such is well-known among locals and visitors. Again, it’s a very mellow place.
The distinctive avant-garde atmosphere of Waiheke attracts artists and therefore the island benefits from numerous art galleries and public art spaces. Grab a copy of the Waiheke Art Guide from the visitor’s center. They are also usually available on the ferry so you can map out your strategy during the 30 minute ride.
One of the most enjoyable places on the island is the Ostend Market in the little village of Ostend. This is a Saturday event only, but worthy of arranging your schedule to make it here. Everything from fine craft items and pottery to used books and homemade clothing, fresh fruits and veggies, all arranged in a haphazard but appealing design. Strolling musicians really set the stage and fresh crepes are made to order right before your eyes.
If your schedule doesn’t permit a Saturday visit to the Ostend Market, an equally enjoyable spot on the island is the Connells Bay Sculpture Park. Nestled right in the midst of some of New Zealand’s most lush flora and fauna are 28 outdoor sculptures by some of the country’s most celebrated artists. Although an appointment is necessary, it is worth structuring your day around this peaceful enclave of creativity. Bring a picnic lunch and simply enjoy the guided walk, learning about art and nature simultaneously.
There are any number of good restaurants with great views and unusual experiences on Waiheke. This is where you might want to combine a winery visit with lunch or dinner. The Passage Rock Vineyard Restaurant has wonderful wood-fired pizza, as does the restaurant at Wild On Waiheke. This is a combination winery, micro-brewery and event center where you can enjoy your favorite adult beverage while shooting archery and skeet through the rows of grapes, or play some volleyball or a game of chess with oversized, outdoor pieces.
Whatever you do on Waiheke Island, there’s a very good chance that you’ll remember your time here as your favorite part of your New Zealand vacation.
Please drink responsibly and use a designated driver, as your RoamRight policy does not cover loss resulting from or caused by being under the influence of alcohol.
Is New Zealand on your travel bucket list?