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A Travel Guide to Waiheke Island

 

Nestled in the Hauraki Gulf off the North Island of New Zealand, Waiheke Island beckons. At just 38 square miles (about the area of Manhattan), the island isn’t huge, but its offerings are diverse with stunning natural landscapes, world-class wineries and restaurants, and a thriving artistic community. Lush vineyards and olive groves give way to beautiful white sand beaches and lush native forests. It’s rare to find such an idyllic and rural destination so close to an urban hub, yet Waiheke Island is just that. Hop on a ferry from Auckland and you can be there in 30 minutes. For the more adventurous traveler, it’s just 12 minutes by helicopter. While this sought-after destination is an easy day trip, Waiheke Island warrants several days to fully take in and appreciate all the island has to offer.  

Where to Stay

The Boatshed 

Our favorite place to stay on the island is The Boatshed. The cozy hotel sits just above the sun-drenched bay of Oneroa and its inviting white sand beaches. With an intimate atmosphere that harmonizes with its seaside location, the boutique hotel offers a variety of designer luxury suites that each boast panoramic views of the ocean. The Boatshed exudes a nostalgic beach feel, while the Lighthouse Suite boasts a whitewashed wooden bedroom overlooking the bay. The ocean-facing Owner’s Cottage is ideal for families with its private heated swimming pool and dedicated staff. 

The Boatshed Where to Stay on Waiheke Island
The Boatshed

When to Go to Waiheke Island

The mild climate of Waiheke Island makes visits year-round enjoyable, with each season offering something unique for travelers. While wine tastings happen all year, travel between February and April to witness the wineries in full swing during the grape harvest season. If you want to spend a lot of time on the water swimming and boating, plan to visit during the austral summer months (October/November to March/April). 

Waiheke Island is undeniably an island paradise with pristine beaches, outdoor adventures, and effortless beachside luxury. Paired with its thriving culinary, wine, and art scene, a journey to Waiheke Island is sure to be an unforgettable escape. 

What to Do on Waiheke Island

Part of Waiheke’s allure lies in its diverse landscapes, which can easily be explored in a variety of ways.  

Traverse the Trails 

The island has numerous walking trails that wind through lush native forests. Rolling hills covered in vineyards and olive groves are the perfect backdrop for leisurely strolls and bike rides.  

Waiheke Island Travel Guide Luxury Zew Zealand Travel

Take to the Water 

Meanwhile, the coastline boasts breathtaking views of crystal-clear water lapping against unpopulated sandy beaches. There are ample opportunities to swim, kayak, sail, and windsurf along the coast.  

Go Zip Lining 

For adventure seekers, there’s also a three-hour zip line adventure that makes its way through the forest canopies and above working vineyards. 

Drive a Picnic Truck 

One of the most unique activities on the island is The Boatshed's Picnic Trucks. From the Boatshed, collect a picnic basket from the staff that is packed with delicious local produce: fresh bread, cheeses, meats, salads, and fruit. A lot of Waiheke’s hidden gems are off the beaten track, but with The Boatshed’s open-top 4WD Jeeps at your disposal, all of Waiheke Island is accessible to you. Explore the eastern end of the island, the pristine beaches, and local galleries at your own pace. Or set out on one of Waiheke’s many hiking trails, then head down to the beach for a swim. Alternatively, stop in at the local galleries and shops before enjoying a glass of wine at one of the local wineries. With a picnic truck, the choice is yours. 

View the Art 

Beyond Waiheke’s natural beauty and outdoor activities, the island boasts a thriving art scene with a large group of international artists showcasing their work in various galleries, studios, and workshops. More than 100 glassblowers, sculptors, painters, woodworkers, and the like call Waiheke home. Art and nature converge at Connells Bay Waiheke Sculpture Park, a unique place to see some of the island’s artistic talent. You’ll see it by air first as you approach by seaplane before a guided tour of the sculpture park.  

Where to Eat & Drink

From casual eateries with a view to award-winning prix fixe menus, Waiheke Island offers a range of culinary options. Additionally, Waiheke boasts an exceptional wine culture thanks to its ideal climate and soil conditions. The "Island of Wine" is home to more than 30 wineries producing award-winning Syrah, Montepulciano, Pinot Gris, Tempranillo, and Viognier. For wine lovers, tours and tastings at the island’s renowned wineries are a must. 

Where To Eat On Waiheke Island The Oyster Inn

The Oyster Inn 

While there are three guest rooms at The Oyster Inn, its coastal-inspired bistro by Josh Emmett is the main draw. His uncomplicated dishes allow fresh ingredients from the garden and local produce to shine, such as the fresh oysters that are harvested from the island’s Te Matuku farm and delivered daily. Fish and chips and mac ‘n’ cheese are also favorite dishes on the menu.  

Waiheke Island Where To Eat And Drink On Waiheke Island New Zealand

Tantalus 

Tantalus is a family-owned, award-winning restaurant and vineyard in the heart of the Onetangi Valley. For foodies, go with the “Trust the Chef” set dinner available on Saturday nights. Inspired by the estate, the six-course menu created by Gideon Landman and his team is a culinary journey across New Zealand. Due to high demand, reservations are essential at Tantalus.  

Batch Winery 

Batch Winery, located on one of the highest peaks on the island, enjoys 360-degree views from Auckland to Coromandel. But besides its incredible panoramas, two vineyards planted with Chardonnay, Syrah, Pinot Gris, and Bordeaux varieties produce high quality wines. Plan to spend time not only enjoying wine tastings with winery ambassadors, but also on a special barrel tasting and winery tour with the winemaker. The restaurant, too, offers dishes made from fresh, healthy, and local ingredients, as well as perfectly seared meats from their unique Josper grill.  

Casita Miro Vineyard 

For over 25 years, Barnett and Cat Bond have been producing wine in the Onetangi wine-growing region near Onetangi Beach. Wine tastings and exclusive Sherry tastings take place at the Antoni Gaudi-inspired Bond Bar, which sits at the top of the vineyard with views that stretch from the vines to the sea. In addition to the vineyard, the Bonds run the award-winning Casita Miro, a tapas restaurant specializing in Mediterranean and Spanish cuisine. 

The Heke Where To Eat On Waiheke Island

The HEKE 

For a relaxed, local vibe, head to The HEKE, a family and dog-friendly restaurant set on four acres of beautiful gardens. You’ll find a range of options, including Italian wood fired pizzas, fried chicken, and fresh local seafood prepared over open wood fires. The HEKE is also home to a growing craft distillery and brewery with craft beer on tap and award-winning whisky. 

Mudbrick 

Mudbrick is a staple on Waiheke Island. As such, it tends to draw crowds. However, it is renowned for its exceptional wine and picturesque setting on the hillside overlooking the Hauraki Gulf and vineyards that extend as far as the eye can see. The winery is constructed mainly of handcrafted mud bricks, creating a warm and inviting atmosphere. Enjoy tasting the internationally recognized vintages with the sommeliers, and plan to dine at their New Zealand and Mediterranean fusion Mudbrick Restaurant.  

Man O’ War 

In contrast to some of the more frequented wineries on the island, Man O’ War feels like it is in a world of its own. Located on the far eastern end of Waiheke Island, Man O’ War has 150 acres of vines planted in 75 individual hillside blocks spread across the island. Each block has its own soil profile and microclimate, allowing the winemaker to create unique blends. Man O’ War’s tasting room enjoys a privileged location along the beachfront. In fact, it’s the only beachfront tasting room on Waiheke Island. Enjoy a flight with a cheese plate and views that stretch across the sea to the Coromandel Peninsula.  

Waiheke Island vineyards and wine tastings

Pro Tip!

To fully immerse yourself in the culture and wonders of Waiheke Island, plan to stay for at least two days. Including Waiheke Island at the very start of your journey to New Zealand as a nice way to refresh and unwind after a long international flight.

- Ker & Downey Designer Catherine Brown 

 

Travel to Waiheke Island in New Zealand with Ker & Downey

Ready to incorporate these Waiheke Island travel experiences into your next trip to New Zealand? Then contact a Ker & Downey designer to start planning your journey. In the meantime, follow us on FacebookInstagram, and X for daily travel inspiration.

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