Waiheke Island is a tranquil, beautiful jewel in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf. Located just a 35 minute, ferry ride from downtown Auckland. Perfect for a day trip, wine-tasting tour, Honeymoon or just a relaxing vacation.
Having been to New Zealand before, when I was 17yrs old, I had high expectations for my return visit. We have been travelling for 6 weeks now, from Tokyo, right down the East coast of Australia and now to New Zealand, North and South islands. My excitement mounts as we touch down in Auckland, I can’t wait to see what this trip has to offer and how I will feel 16yrs on about the country I have held with such high regard.
First things first, we had to get ourselves from the airport to the ferry terminal where we had arranged to meet my Uncle and Aunt, who my husband and I will be staying with for the duration of our visit to North Island. I can well recommend SkyBus if you’re travelling on a budget. It costs $64 dollars for a return journey to the airport for two or slightly less if you book online. All buses have wifi on board, which is ideal for updating your social media and letting your family and friends know you’ve arrived safe and sound. The journey takes roughly 45 minutes to Auckland city centre and from here you can hop on a free transfer bus to a number of different locations around the city. Perfectly comfortable with plenty of room to fit everyone’s luggage and far cheaper than the ridiculous quotes you get for taxis.
Waiting eagerly for us at the Pier destined for Waiheke, our Uncle and Aunt stood with Nigel the dog. With minutes to spare we purchased and boarded the ferry, which would take 35 minutes to our island destination. After a rather windy ride over and non stop chatting, we were greeted by paradise. I mean wow, Waiheke is just stunning. Turquoise waters, sandy beaches and lush green hills met our gaze, as we looked towards our new home for the next 10 days.
Waiheke was rated the fifth best destination in the world to visit in 2016 by Lonely Planet and also voted the fourth best island in the world in the Condé Nast Best Islands in the World List.”
The drive couldn’t have been cooler, an open-topped Jeep to Enclosure Bay, the wind whipping up our hair and the sun glistening from our already bronzed faces. I’m sure our grins filled the entire review mirror. Now I have to say at this point, that we were very privileged and lucky to be able to stay in such a fantastic and award-winning Boutique Hotel. Enclosure Bay is owned and run by Andy and Jenny Osborn, who also happen to be my relatives. While we didn’t stay in the hotel wing of the property, we did share in the paradise that this hotel has to offer. The view from every direction of Enclosure Bay is just jaw-droppingly beautiful. You’ll be spoilt with panoramic views of the Hauraki Gulf and its islands. As well as, uninterrupted views out as far as Great Barrier Island and the Coromandel Peninsula to the east, Rakino Island, Little Barrier Island and the setting sun behind Rangitoto, a volcanic island to the west.
‘Enclosure Bay – Featured by Lonely Planet 2017’
‘Enclosure Bay awarded Trivago Top 25 hotels in New Zealand 2017’
Our first evening was spent soaking up the last of the evening sun before we were treated to one heck of a sunset, sipping on delicious local wine. It’s reminiscent of Stockholm, with its many archipelago islands and water, it makes us feel right at home. I can only imagine for paying guests who have an entire wing of the hotel to themselves with a private balcony and terrace, this is exceptionally romantic and idyllic. Throw in a Jacuzzi which is ideally positioned looking out across the sea and the many islands, you have plenty of options for soaking up the scenery and gazing at the sun and stars as it goes dark. You’ll be in relaxation heaven.
Our first day we decided to try our luck at Paddle Boarding. Now I can thoroughly recommend checking the direction of the wind before setting off, as David and I learnt the hard way. Heading out from Palm Beach, we were momentarily and prematurely tricked into believing this was going to be a smooth ride. Thank god for the fantastic views, or we may well have had to lie down and start making SOS signals or perhaps less dramatically swim back to shore. Two hours of paddling into the wind and travelling less than 10Km we finally made it to Little Oneroa Beach where we had been recommended to get a stone baked pizza from Dragonfired. Now let me tell you, thoughts of that pizza had kept us going for at least the last 40 mins of paddling. By the time we had hit the shore and pulled our boards and paddles out of the water and onto the white sandy beach, we could have eaten a horse (which I would never do, just for the record). When the pizza came we were not disappointed, I hear you saying ‘well you would have eaten anything,’ but trust me these were really delicious. Freshly baked with local ingredients, the crisp base basically melts in your mouth as the inner components ooze out and explode with flavour. Accompanied by singing chefs, this was a great little spot.
Noteworthy Waiheke Vineyards
A white shingle drive leads you to the intimate location of Stonyridge nestled amongst a valley of olive trees and their vibrant vineyards. Specialising in red wines, particularly the Cabernet varieties, Stonyridge has some of the highest accolades from the likes of The Wine Advocate, Lonely Planet in 2015, The Guardian and not forgetting my sister Natalie. The family’s very own connoisseur of wines, who worked at Stonyridge during the 2016 season.
We enjoyed a great afternoon wine tasting and nibbling on the great variety of snacks the restaurant has to offer while soaking up the astonishing scenery.
Mudbrick Vineyard & Restaurant
Mudbrick not unlike the other vineyards you will come across is Waiheke, can be found tucked away in the hill-side of Church Bay road. Completely constructed of Mudbrick the unique building adds to the ambience and romance of the setting. A perfect venue for a wedding, party or private function or just a simple stop for wine tasting and lunch. Patrick Newton of Mudbrick has also been named Riedel Young Winemaker of the Year 2 years running, which makes this vineyard another gem of Waiheke.
Is a perfect stop on your tour, not only for the well-crafted wines but also the exquisite panoramic views of Waiheke.
Here you can sit back and relax on some very well placed garden loungers soaking up the scenery of the ocean while sipping on one of the many wines offered. Historically the most interesting of Waiheke’s vineyards, it was first discovered by Captain James Cook on his first voyage of New Zealand’s islands in 1769. He noted that the Kauri trees would make ideal masts for the Man-O’-War battleships of the Royal Navy, thus bestowing the name on this special location. Each of their wines, or ‘discoveries’ as they call it, bears a name in honour of family history, naval legacy, and of the unique location.
Cable Bay Vineyards
By far one of my favourite viewpoints of the island Cable Bay Vineyards looks out across the expanse of archipelagos scattered around Waiheke’s coastline. Offering views over to Auckland and out to Rangitoto.
Undoubtedly the most contemporary of the vineyards in Waiheke, it has a mixture of both casual or formal dining options. Indulge in their hand-crafted wines grown in their two small-batch vineyards or feast on their award-winning cuisine. They also play host to many different music concerts including; opera, classical, DJ sessions and famous bands.
Casita Miro in Onetangi
Casita Miro is an award-winning Spanish Tapas restaurant offering a selection of Tapas and Racoines (sharing plates). Casita’s Miros’ distinguishing feature is its art deco mosaic pavilion which houses the restaurant. Inspired by Gaudi and Picasso, it’s quite a marvel to look at. It was created by the owner Cat Vosper, after six years labour of love.
While there, you can’t miss tasting the famous Madame Rouge aperitif wine, either drunk neat or with soda. Sourced from their own vineyard its a delicious little tipple.
Poderi Crisci Vineyard and Restaurant
Tucked away down a long country track is Poderi Crisci an exquisite Italian inspired, family run restaurant and vineyard. Most notably Poderi Crisci is widely recognised as one of the finest restaurants on Waiheke. ‘In 2014 Poderi Crisci was the only Waiheke restaurant to receive the recognition of being a Metro Top 50 restaurant, as well as being listed in the Cuisine Good Food Guide containing the best 70 restaurants in New Zealand.’ It is not surprising then that it draws in some famous visitors. We learnt that within an hour of our visit, mine and my husband’s idol, Richard Branson had dined. It really would have been the icing on the cake to have met him.
Waiheke is spoilt for its number of glistening white sandy beaches and lush scenery, keen for some beach time, David and I head out in search of our perfect tanning spot. We need not have gone far, as just down the road we came to Palm Beach and Little Palm Beach. We’d heard that Little Palm is a nudist beach, so in true Swedish style we snuck down the snaky path towards the beach. Alone on the shore, we turned to one another and quickly stripped off and sprinted towards the ocean. A little colder than expected the waves lapping at our naked skin, the feeling of freedom was exhilarating. No photos of this I’m afraid!
Jumping into Andy and Jenny’s spare old banger, which they had kindly lent us to tour the island, we headed to the city centre for a well-needed coffee. Little frog cafe and store had come with a good recommendation for their coffee’s and healthy food. I’m a big fan of Golden Latte’s, which I opted for and it didn’t disappoint. The cafe is a lovely, quirky little gem, bursting full of personality and eccentricity.
Just opposite the road is Waiheke’s famous Island gelato shack, serving freshly made artisan gelato. With over 70+ flavours and weekly specials, all created from naturally sourced ingredients, there is a flavour to suit every taste. It would have been rude not to try some, so we dashed across the road to test some of the flavours. The burnt caramel and coconut and coconut latte were particularly lovely.
Having indulged our bellies, it was time to take a long walk. We headed towards Cable Bay where we parked up and walked towards our starting point. Following the Matiatia and Te Miro Bay’s coastline, we walked for a good 1hr, looking out across the stunning scenery. You’re spoilt for views all along this walk, each offering a slightly different perspective of the land and seascape.
Follow our trip to North Island in part two of our adventures around New Zealand.
I hope you’re enjoying reading about our travels, please do like and comment I’d love to hear your thoughts. 🙂