KIWI: Waiheke Island – Paradise FoundParadise it can be said is never far away on Waiheke Island, listed by Frommers Travel Guides as one of the top 12 destinations in the world in 2009. Situated 35 minutes away by ferry from downtown Auckland, this sensational island escape is the sparkling jewel in Auckland’s crown and is today considered one of the major draw cards for visitors to New Zealand.
AUTHOR & PHOTOGRAPHER: ©Shane Boocock 2013
Paradise it can be said is never far away on Waiheke Island, listed by Frommers Travel Guides as one of the top 12 destinations in the world in 2009. Situated just 35 minutes away by Quickcat ferry from downtown Auckland, this sensational island escape is the sparkling jewel in Auckland’s crown and is today considered one of the major draw cards for visitors to New Zealand’s largest metropolitan city.
What makes this island so attractive is its laid-back approach and stress-free environment as there are none of the pressures and hurried rush of the big city nearby. With about 6,000 inhabitants it is also home to a diverse range of people from all walks of life from down-to-earth alternative lifestylers to multi-millionaires and a few aging hippies. Just wander through the local market at Ostend any Saturday and you’ll soon get a feeling for island life.
The island is also endowed with 35 artist’s studios and galleries, amazing sculptures, fine wine, amazing vineyards, a mixture of adventure activities and a wonderful selection of restaurants. Waiheke’s many charms can easily seduce you into spending more than a few days with a wide range of accommodation from backpacker lodges to luxury retreats and none of them are very far from secluded bays or enamel white sandy beaches to rival the world’s best – some with hardly a soul on them.
Dining on Waiheke Island
With 35 wineries on the island it is little wonder that a highlight for many visitors is a vineyard tour complemented by a lunch or dinner amongst the vines. However with well over 30 additional restaurants, cafés, bistros, bars and takeaway outlets, Waiheke Island has a huge selection of dining options that include a diverse choice, Thai, Turkish, Indian, Japanese, Italian, Spanish as well as good down to earth New Zealand tucker! It’s no wonder then that this little pearl of an island is where you can sample some mouth-watering cuisine.
Vineyards and Olive Estates
For a inspired lunch or dinner location with wonderful sea views and Auckland in the distance visit Cable Bay Vineyards and Restaurant where the wine list also won’t disappoint you. Their signature wine is Cable Bay Five Hills a blend of merlot, malbec, and cabernet. Expect fine dining and superb cuisine in their award-winning restaurant or sample tapas in their cozy bar and tasting room. Mudbrick Vineyard & Restaurant, Church Bay, is a wonderful location with fantastic views looking back to the city has been a favourite for over 15 years with mature landscaping and French-style organic garden potagers. Try a bottle of their Velvet, so named due to its decadently rich texture; a seductive wine, only made in the most special of vintages. If you don’t want a full sit down meal try their casual platters by the cellar door overlooking the gardens. Goldwater Estate in Ostend was the first vineyard established on Waiheke and over the years has garnered some exceptional wine awards. Their trademark wine is Goldwater Sauvignon Blanc. Their restaurant is usually only open for lunches, and if you get the chance to book one of their monthly long lunches – don’t miss it.
Along Onetangi Valley you’ll find a number of wineries including Stonyridge Vineyard, which specialises in producing ultra-premium organic red wines. Their popular restaurant delivers a fine selection of Pacific Rim cuisine and the terrace has stunning views overlooking melodic rows of vines. Its flagship wine is called Larouse – a blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, malbec, and petit verdot, now considered one of the top Bordeaux-style reds in the world. Hidden away in another valley is Casito Miro Vineyard, a delightful spot with highly-praised Spanish raciones (large) tapas and Moroccan dishes where menus change daily and views out over the vineyard and ocean are to die for. Expect dramatic award-winning architecture and unique ambience. For aperitif lovers sneak off with a bottle of Madame Rouge. Finally don’t leave Waiheke without stopping in at Rangihoua Olive Estate, where their timbered tasting room opens onto their lovely gardens and olive groves.
For casual food and drink start with Vino Vino Restaurant, Oneroa - this is a great spot in the centre of the village with indoor/outdoor seating and wonderful sea views out to Great Barrier Island from their deck area. In Oneroa you’ll find The Oyster Bar Inn, a worthy lunch and dinner locale located in the heart of the island. Relax and unwind indoors or alfresco in their outdoor balcony and enjoy the very best in delicious seasonal cafe food, freshly roasted coffee and superb New Zealand wines. Charlie Farley’s in Onetangi is perfectly located right across the road from the longest beach on the island, where you can dine al fresco on their outer deck feasting on rabbit stew or ginger beer battered fish and chips.
Tours and Activities:
Another unique venue along Onetangi Valley is Wild On Waiheke, a place to engage in some diverse activities as well as being a popular vineyard and brewery: Archery between the vines, laser guided Clay Bird shooting, petonque, tennis, corporate team building and when you’re all finished sample their unique crafted beers especially the Baroona Pale Ale in their Brew Bar and Bistro. Ross Adventures Sea Kayaking is easy to spot as your ferry arrives at Matiatia Wharf. There is no experience required to kayak the headlands, bays and inlets, it’s just a case of learning to sit in the kayak without falling out. Guided tours are also available.
Fancy exploring a little? Waiheke’s landscape varies greatly between the western end of the island, where most visitors arrive, which buzzes with village and beach life and the eastern end of the island which is far less populated and a real get-away-from-it all-place. There are eight great walkways on the island all averaging about two hours. These walks deliver diversity and tranquillity with often breathtaking views of bush and sea. At the eastern end of the island you’ll find the walking track to the historic Stony Batter WWII defences where you’ll discover the history associated with this remote location. If you prefer to see the land on horseback, that is also possible as well. For water sport enthusiasts there is superb fishing minutes away from the wharf.
Culture - Art Trails and Galleries:
One of the most popular trips is to take a self-drive or scheduled art tour to any one of 37 galleries and artist’s studios – including paintings, sculpture, ceramics, jewellery and fibre materials. A number of popular galleries include the Toi Gallery in the centre of Oneroa featuring the work of Sally Smith and Chris Bailey as well as other established Waiheke artists who exhibit nationally and internationally. Works range from contemporary Maori and Pacific art and stone jewellery, fine Maori weaving, contemporary Waiheke artists’ paintings, hard stone and timber sculptures. The Artist Goldsmith, Christine Hafermalz-Wheeler’s jewellery is personally crafted. No two pieces are the same and neither setting nor polishing is entrusted to others. Whether bold or delicate, in gold or silver, each piece is built and shaped with traditional tools.
Over at Palm Beach you’ll find The Red Shed, an art collective with 40 members offering diverse talents including painters, sculptors and photographers etc. The gallery is managed by volunteers and is only open on weekends. Back in Oneroa there is the Waiheke Community Art Gallery where acclaimed artists from Waiheke and all around New Zealand exhibit regularly. Every three weeks there is a new collection of eclectic, iconic, and stimulating art on show: including national exhibitions of paintings, ceramics, jewellery, photography and design. One event not to miss is the annual Headland SCULPTURE ON THE GULF that takes places every year in February, a fantastic free journey of large scale contemporary sculptures as you walk on Waiheke Island’s magnificent two kilometer coastal walkway.
One of the excellent aspects of Waiheke Island is the wildly diverse range of accommodation options that are readily available, a veritable smorgasbord of pillows to lay your head on, especially if you want a weekend away from the kids or a romantic break with your partner. Either way the island caters to all types of visitors, from quaint Bed and Breakfasts, bach rental (a simple Kiwi home), cottages, motels, self-catering apartments and holiday homes, to luxury lodges and retreats.
Only minutes walk to the village you’ll find Oneroa Bay Villas convenient to shops, restaurants and bars, cafes, a funky retro cinema, galleries and beautiful Oneroa Beach, a place to stay if you want to be close to where all the laid-back action is. Waiheke Island Resort above Palm Beach consists of spacious Mediterranean-style chalets and villas with spectacular views over the Hauraki Gulf. They offer full restaurant facilities, swimming pool and health spa. Inlet Villas is located on in Te Whau, Rocky Bay where you can relax on your private verandah or in your luxury accommodation and look out over the olive grove to beautiful Rangihoua Inlet and through to some of Waiheke's most famous vineyards. The Sands Waiheke Island, nestled along the beachfront at Onetangi have quality one, two and three bedroom fully self-contained apartments and villas offering a varying layout, with outstanding sea views and excellent facilities. Perfect for a romantic weekend, each apartment is no more than a minute’s stroll to Onetangi Beach.
Vineyards and Restaurants
Cable Bay Vineyards and Restaurant
Mudbrick Vineyard & Restaurant
Casito Miro Vineyard and Eatery
Rangihoua Estate Olive Grove
Tours and Attractions
Sea Kayaking: Ross Adventures
Adventure Fishing Charters
Wild On Waiheke
Shepherds Point Horse Riding Centre
The Artist Goldsmith
The Red Shed
Waiheke Community Art Gallery
Oneroa Bay Villas
Waiheke Island Resort
The Sands Waiheke Island
On The Go:
Fullers Ferries and Fullers Explorer Tour:
Waiheke Car and Scooter Rentals:
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