By Bachchat staff
Waiheke is the most popular of the Hauraki Gulf islands. Holiday-makers flock to the island’s gorgeous coastline and scenic vineyards, enjoy its sub-tropical climate and laid-back feel.
It’s a large island with a resident population of about 8700 - many of whom commute to Auckland City, just 35 minutes away on one of the frequent ferries. The island’s west is the most developed, with settlements peppered along pretty beaches backed with vineyards and olive groves. It’s the ‘happening’ side of Waiheke, with some excellent vineyard restaurants, cafes and art galleries. Te Whau Vineyard Cafe, with spectacular views in Oneroa, has been honoured by New York-based “Wine Spectator” magazine as “One of the Best Restaurants in the World for Wine Lovers”. Oneroa, facing north, is the main beach and township. Palm Beach is beautiful, and Little Palm Beach at the far end is the place to sunbathe if you like to get your kit off. Further east, the long, white sandy beach of Onetangi has Pohutukawa trees to recline under. If you have a boat or kayak, you could try and get around to Cactus Bay, an idyllic beach that no longer has public land access. On the south coast, the beach at Blackpool is good for kayaking and windsurfing, and is linked by an esplanade to Surfdale, where the beach is popular with kitesurfers.
The east of the island is less populated, with farms and vineyards, and secluded coves stretching along the coast. Few are easily accessible, but in some of the bays you’ll find some magical baches and holiday homes to rent.
What to see and do
If you like markets head to Ostend - from 7.30 every Saturday morning you can chat and shop with the locals for arts and crafts, fresh produce, baking and preserves, jewelry and toffee apples perhaps. For a bit of a walk with tranquil scenery and art to boot, try the gardens and sculpture park at Dead Dog Bay, 10 minutes drive from Matiatia, or Connells Bay in the southeast of the island. From 25th January to 17th February visit headland Sculpture on the Gulf, an outdoor sculpture exhibition set on a spectacular coastal walkway at Matiatia Headland. If you’re into mountain biking you’ll find single track at the Onetangi Sports Park. The Waiheke Island Historical Village is in Onetangi - trawl their website for historical titbits, such as plans to set up a city of 200,000 Belgians on Waiheke after Belgium was struck by the potato famine in the 1840s!
At the northeastern end of the island, Stony Batter is a popular place to walk to, with its tunnels and gun emplacements from the end of the Second World War. Take a torch - or rent one - and you’ll be greeted by tame sheep and a volunteer guide.
Distance from Auckland by ferry: 17.7km (35 minutes on fast ferry)
Where to stay
www.doc.govt.nz - Waiheke walks and Stony Batter
www.aucklandnz.com - Waiheke vineyards and olive groves
www.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz - Waiheke Island walks
www.deaddogbay.co.nz - Dead Dog Bay wetland garden and sculpture
www.sculptureonthegulf.co.nz - Headland sculpture on the gulf exhibition
www.waihekecinema.net - Waiheke Island Community Cinema
What to do
- Visit a vineyard
- Walk through the bush
- Visit local art galleries and studios or view outdoor sculpture
- Go sea kayaking
- Explore the World War ll tunnels and gun sites at Stony Batter
- Discover the Ostend market, on Saturday mornings
Waiheke coast and vineyards. Photo: www.bookabach.co.nz/17555
Oneroa Bay. Photo: www.bookabach.co.nz/17638
Little Oneroa. Photo: www.bookabach.co.nz/17638