As summer heads our way, Waiheke beckons, with festivals, boutique wineries, great food and beautiful places to enjoy them all. Here are five tasty snippets to tempt you over there.
1. Festivals to savour
Photo credit: Waiheke Walking Festival
Every year, summer sees the return of some great Waiheke festivals and events. In November there’s the Waiheke Walking Festival which offers 45 guided walks, with subject experts, and the walks are free! The Waiheke Literary Festival takes place in November too; with all manner of events for book lovers. The Waiheke Island Garden Safari runs in November, and is a great chance to explore some of the island’s loveliest gardens on a self-drive tour, while supporting a children’s charity. In December, the Highlife NYE party returns to Stonyridge Vineyard, with DJs, dancers and fireworks. The Onetangi Beach Races take place in February - it’s a great day for the family, and is a beach tradition that’s been going for over 100 years. As well as the excitement of the thundering hooves, you can enjoy street food or a VIP lunch, tractor races or fashion in the field.
2. Garlands for excellent restaurants.
Photo credit: Cable Bay Vineyard
Six out of the Metro Top 50 Restaurants for 2015 are on Waiheke Island. Six! A summery whoop. Congratulations to Cable Bay, The Oyster Inn, Casita Miro, Poderi Crisci, Te Whau and The Shed at Te Motu. All of them offer fine Waiheke wines and beautifully fresh, local produce. Set sail immediately and tick them off your gourmand bucket list.
Cable Bay Vineyards is home to the award-winning winery and restaurant, and is a 5 minute drive or a 15 minute stroll from the Matiatia Ferry Terminal – handy. The Verandah is open daily from 11am , with excellent wine, small plates and glorious views out over the gulf. Sprawl on the lawn, or sip in the shade, while savouring the views. The Dining Room is currently being transformed by Fearon Hay architects, and will re-open early September 2015: ta-dah!!
The kitchen and bar at the ever-popular Oyster Inn are open daily from noon (except Tuesdays, in winter). It’s a lovely spot with a breezy, beachside feel, and fresh, locally sourced produce, including Waiheke’s own Te Matuku oysters.
Casita Miro restaurant brings Spanish flavours, tapas and larger shared plates to Waiheke, thanks to rather legendary proprietor Cat Vosper, and her love of Spain and the Mediterranean. It’s a family affair, with Cat running Casita Miro restaurant, set in an art deco style pavilion, while Barnett focuses on the grapes. Miro is the closest vineyard to Onetangi Beach, and the vineyard has views out over vines, village and sea.
Poderi Crisci is a family-owned vineyard and restaurant famed for its Italian fare, wines and ambience. You can choose between the main menu, try the Degustation or Trust the Chef menu, or the experience the full Sunday Long Lunch, Italian style. The drive out to 205 Awaawaroa Rd gives you a chance to see some more of Waiheke’s scenery, towards the south of the island.
Te Whau is a boutique winery and restaurant, set on a headland, with stunning views of hills and bays. Te Whau is famous for its extensive international cellar and excellent way with seafood.
The Shed at Te Motu overlooks the Onetangi Valley. The first vines were planted at Te Motu in 1989, and you can sample their rich Bordeaux-style wines at their tasting room. Metro gave The Shed the Best Rural Restaurant Award in 2014. It has a designy-rustic vibe, with fresh, modern food, much of it sourced from their own gardens, or local producers.
3. Just cos it’s cheap don’t mean it ain’t fine…
Photo credit: Dragonfired Pizza
What could be more delicious than dinner on the beach, with the sand warm between your toes, looking out at the sea in the balmy evening light?
Dragonfired Pizza offers up organic, artisan, wood-fired food on Little Oneroa Beach. Choose from pizza, calzone, pocket bread or a polenta plate – it’s all tempting. Dragonfired was winner of the Viva 2011 Take Out Awards, but they’re not resting on their laurels. If you like Mediterranean flavours, and lots of seasonal greens, this is the place.
Tuck into the freshest fish and chips, while listening to the waves. Opinion is divided – for the very best fish and chips should you go to Little O, or Palm Beach? Try ‘em both and be the expert.
4. Coffee on the Island
Photo credit: Delight Cafe
Island Coffee is a boutique coffee roastery, tucked behind True Blue, in Ostend. You can grab your first coffee of the day, Tuesday to Saturday 8.30 to 12.00, along with a bag of freshly roasted beans or ground coffee, to take back to the bach.
If you fancy delicious crepes or patisserie with your coffee, head to Frenchot, a traditional French café, bistrot and creperie, in Surfdale. (The name is pronounced “French hot” – remember Winehot, the French wine bar in Kingsland? Same folk.) The café is open Tues to Sunday from 8am. The Bistrot is open Thursday to Saturday from 6p.m. and offers a tempting range of classic French dishes, and a couple of options pour les enfants.
If you’re searching for a cafe in Oneroa, Delight Café wins fans with its lovely views and Turkish influenced food and ambience.
In Onetangi, Charley Farleys sits right on the seafront, with great views, and food. You can go there for a beachside breakfast, linger over lunch, or stay for drinks and dinner. They’re open from 8.30 til late, 7 days.
5. Summer is coming – you can taste it: Island Gelato.
Photo: Island Gelato Company, Oneroa
You’ll find Island Gelato Company in a niftily decorated container at the bottom of Oneroa shops, just a short stroll to the beach. It’s a family business run by Geoff Tippett and Ana Schwarz, who have lived on Waiheke for 12 years. Ana was runner up in Masterchef 2012 and Geoff has had several cafes. They are passionate about fresh food so all the gelato is made fresh, with seasonal fruits, organic milk and the finest ingredients. There are dairy-free, vegan options too, along with Best Ugly bagels and excellent Allpress coffee. They’re open 8-6 from September – June, and til 9pm through January.
Dawdling down to the beach, with a coneful of hand-crafted gelato – summery bliss…