36 Hours on Waiheke Island, New Zealand

This is an article in the 36 Hours In… series. To find more in the series, head here.

Do you want a break from Auckland, but don’t feel like driving too far? Well, a half hour ferry ride away is a great place to spend the weekend – the island of Waiheke – with its beautiful beaches, wonderful wineries, and amazing art.

Here are a few hints on getting there, getting around, and how to enjoy your stay. This 36 Hours In… post has a different format to usual, but you’ll find plenty of things to do in this post to keep you busy for a weekend – if not more!

Man O' War Bay

Man O’ War Bay [Photo: Dan Chappell]

Getting to Waiheke Island

Fullers and Explore ferries leave regularly from Downtown Auckland to Matiatia – just buy tickets on the wharf. But if like us you want to take your car over, you’ll need to book on Sealink. They leave from Wynyard Wharf in Downtown or Half Moon Bay in East Auckland, and land at Kennedy Point on Waiheke. The cheapest deal for a car and passengers is around $145, but there are plenty of car rental places on the island as well, with rates around $80 per day. A car is best if you want to really see what the island has to offer – buses, bikes and taxis don’t give you quite as much independence.

Little Oneroa Beach

Little Oneroa Beach [Photo: Dan Chappell]

Where to eat

Sitting on the balcony of The Oyster Inn, in the main town of Oneroa for lunch on a hot Saturday, sipping on a glass of rose or a cool beer doesn’t come any better – the view down to the beach and out to sea is divine. We had the kingfish sashimi with chili entrée, and mains of heirloom tomato tart with mozzarella, and locally caught gurnard and triple-cooked chips. Gorgeous! The rest of the menu looked great, and as the name implies, there were oysters galore!

We also drove right to the bottom (eastern) end of the island to Man O’ War Vineyard the next day – it’s a good but dusty half hour plus drive from Oneroa, but well worth the trip, as it is one of the few bays at the far end of the island accessible to the public. Make sure you’ve got your togs for a refreshing dip at the end! The vineyard’s tasting room does a pretty good tasting platter (under $30 for two) and all their wines are available for tasting and purchase. We tried the Great Harry Lager made for the winery by Ghost Brewing Company – the perfect drop for a hot, hot day.

Platter at Man O' War Vineyard

Platter at Man O’ War Vineyard [Photo: Dan Chappell]

There’s no shortage of places to eat on Waiheke. Oneroa has plenty of choice, with cafes and eateries galore, and many of the wineries have great eating – from the fine dining at Te Whau to the more casual tapas at Casita Miro. Other recommendations are The Shed at Te Motu, and Cable Bay, where you can sit and look back at the distant Auckland you’ve left behind…

Cable Bay Vineyard

Cable Bay Vineyard [Photo: Dan Chappell]

What else to do?

Plenty! There’s lots of lovely beaches, from the expanse of Onetangi (long enough for the annual horse-races) to tiny coves like Enclosure Bay and Little Oneroa.

Enclosure Bay

Enclosure Bay [Photo: Dan Chappell]

While we were there, they were holding the two-yearly Headland Sculpture on the Gulf event, with over 30 amazing artworks on display around a coastal pathway near the Matiatia ferry – on from late January until mid February. There are also other art destinations, the best being Connells Bay Sculpture Park, at the far eastern end of the island. It’s open by appointment, but worth the effort to visit, offering great sculptures by some of the country’s best artists in a fantastic bush setting. You can also stay in the cottages on the property (perfect spot for that special celebration) totally relaxing away from the madding crowds. Other art venues worth a visit are the Waiheke Art Gallery and Toi Gallery, both in Oneroa, featuring local artists’ works for sale.

And then?

For a bit of an adrenaline rush, there’s EcoZip flying fox ziplines, near Onetangi, or you can try your hand at archery or clay bird shooting – and sampling craft beers – at Wild on Waiheke (next to Stonyridge Winery) And to cool down, grab a gelato from the Island Gelato Company in Oneroa – almost too many flavours, but hard to go past the Waiheke Plum, or our current favourite, salted caramel.

Island Gelato Company

Island Gelato Company [Photo: Dan Chappell]

To finish?

Head for Dragonfired Pizzas at Little Oneroa Beach for a wood-fired pizza on the beach – could be the best pizzas in the country… We had pepperoni, caramelized onion, anchovy and artichoke hearts, and sat in the sand watching the rest of the world sail by.

Dragonfired Pizza

Dragonfired Pizza [Photo: Dan Chappell]

Thanks to Dan Chappell for writing this post – it’s always great when family members go to interesting destinations and are happy to contribute an article to The Global Couple!


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