RAINFORESTS, sandy BEACHES, VINEYARDS and top end RESTAURANTS – all on one island which you can circle in just 1 day? Yes please! Before we flew further to Cook islands we had a couple of days to spend in Auckland and were determined to visit one of the islands close by as a day trip. And so we landed on WAIHEKE ISLAND a day before Christmas and were blown away by its unexpected beauty and diversity. Here is a post about what we saw and did.
HOW TO GET TO WAIHEKE ISLAND
There are ferries departing Auckland´s DOWNTOWN FERRY TERMINAL every 20 to 40 minutes – you can pre book tickets online or buy them in the FULLERS OFFICE at the terminal (we went on a Saturday and there was no big line). We were staying in an apartment on Queen street in Auckland which was very convenient and only about a 5 minute walk to the ferry terminal. There are drinks and snack you can buy on board. A RETURN ADULT TICKET costs 36 NZ$, for CHILDREN (5-15 years) is 18 NZ$.
After about 40 minutes you dock at MATIAIA FERRY TERMINAL at Waiheke island, where besides a beach, a bus station and the terminal with cafes and shop there is not much.
Just a week before we visited, the double decker EXPLORER HOP-ON HOP-OFF BUSES started operating on the island – we decided to try it out! You can buy COMBINED TICKETS (FERRY + BUS) – for adults they cost 45 NZ $ and for kids 23 NZ$. This seemed to be the easiest and most flexible way to see the island. Every 30 minutes, the bus pulls up at 8 stops at all the major sights which include beaches, wineries & restaurants and others. The whole circle takes you 1,5 hrs without stopping, the on-board hosts are great at providing information about the island via microphone and will be happy to answer any questions you might have.
We were very satisfied with the whole experience. Check out the timetables and prices online before you go, as this might change in the winter season.
ONETANGI BEACH | wonderful sandy beach bay and blooming Pohutukawa trees
It was really cold and grey in Europe when we set off to New Zealand so you can imagine our enthusiasm about hitting the beach first! After a short bus ride we got dropped off at ONETANGI BEACH – almost 2 kilometres of sandy beach seemed like a perfect place to start our day on the island.
Running up and down and admiring the beautiful POHUTUKAWA TREES, which are also called New Zealand´s Christmas tree – it was our first time seeing those.
Unfortunately the sea way much TOO COLD FOR SWIMMING, although some other kids obviously had a different opinion about that. As we already had breakfast, we skipped the good lucking brunch offer and enjoyed a local CRAFT BEER at one of the charming seaside cafes.
BATCH WINERY | one of the most known wineries on Waiheke island
Travelling with my two men always means – we have to eat often. And since Waiheke is known to be a PARADISE FOR WINE LOVERS, it was clear we are going to have a light lunch at a winery. BATCH WINERY was next on our bus stop map so the decision where to go was easy.
My GREEN MUSSELS were sooo delicious. I never had them before and they seem to be popular here in New Zealand. A glass of PINOT GRIS to go with them, just perfect.
The outside area is nice and the views are just hard to beat – if you stop by at Batch make sure you take a WALK AROUND THE VINEYARDS.
WHAKANEWHA REGIONAL PARK | a wonderful luch rainforest close to the Batch winery
Completely unexpected we took this WILDERNESS WALK which starts just a couple of minutes on foot from the BATCH WINERY. After missing one sign a friendly local who lived down the road greeted us with a line “are you guys lost?” and directed us to the right path.
As soon as we took the right turn from the dirt road we found ourselves in this WONDERFUL RAINFOREST which seemed like a real JUNGLE, but without the usual heat! It was very pleasant in here.
The path led us along various CASCADES which we sometimes had to cross. The best thing about it was the silence (we were completely alone) and these huuuge FERNS. We could walk like this for hours, but we still had a couple stops on our way.
LITTLE ONEROA BEACH | a great beach for swimming and relaxing
Just before the main island town (coming from this direction) you will spot the LITTLE ONEROA BEACH – it´s a wonderful stop if you have kids who love PLAYGROUNDS (which kid doesn´t?), since there is a really nice one. The beach itself also seemed nice than the one at Oneroa town, so you might want to stop here especially if the weather is suitable for a swim.
ONEROA | the main town on Waiheke island
Oneroa, THE MAIN TOWN seems like a perfect neighbourhood and I can understand why people see it as THE place to move to when they have enough of their busy schedules in Auckland. Here you will find cute shops, a big wine shop, cafes, restaurants, a nice library (free wifi) and surprisingly lots of ART! SCULPTURES of all kinds are scattered across the town, some of them really interesting, some funny and some unexplainable.
Oh yes and then there is of course also a BEACH! The sea was still too cold for a swim but it sure was fun to just enjoy walking around and spotting the most beautiful shell.
CABLE BAY VINEYARDS | a paradise for wine lovers
After an ice cream it was time to move again and we ended up in front of the CABLE BAY WINERY which possibly has the most AMAZING VIEW of them all. If you have the time make sure you sit in one of those comfy sitting bags and enjoy a glass of wine.
MUDBRICK VINEYARD | French flair and one of the most prestige wineries on the island
A little further and opposite of Cable Bay you see the MUDBRICK WINERY – this place looks like little France and certainly does not lack charm on the first sight! We did not have the time to stop, but if you are spending more days on Waiheke you have to visit this one also, it seems like a wonderful place to spend the whole day at.
The day was slowly coming to an end and guess what? It was actually CHRISTMAS EVENING. We bought some yummy ingredients for our dinner already the day before so we were looking forward to a nice home cooked dinner in the evening. Waving goodbye to this wonderful island – you should definitely visit it while in Auckland.
Have your cameras ready when you APPROACH AUCKLAND, some great views ahead.
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