New Zealand: Waiheke Island Part I

6 04 2009

On our second day in New Zealand, we headed to Waiheke Island, a popular holiday destination for Aucklanders.  Just 40 minutes away by ferry, Waiheke Island has everything an urban holiday maker would want, including miles of sandy beaches and gentle harbors, several outstanding wineries, a well developed artist community, a quaint downtown, and a relatively unpopulated east side containing hilly farms and scenic views.  Did I mention that the hot dry microclimate is perfect beach weather?

Oneroa Beach on Waiheke Island is reminiscent of Nantucket with its sailboats and quaint downtown.

We decided on Waiheke Island primarily because we were looking for a beachy place to relax after arriving in NZ. We had also looked into the Bay of Islands and the Coromandel Penninsula as possible beach destinations, but decided on Waiheke Island because of its easy proximity from Auckland and the wine. If we had more time, we certainly would have gone to all three places!

To get to Waiheke Island, we boarded the ferry at the Ferry Terminal on Quay Street in Auckland. You can’t miss the historic ferry building. As you can see in the photo below, it’s a large orange building right on the water. Ferries to Waiheke Island run every hour, and advance reservations are generally not needed. Incidentally, if you are looking for NZ souvenirs such as lanolin and wool, there are a bunch of souvenir shops between the Ferry Terminal and the Westgate shopping center. I found some of the lowest prices for lanolin there.

The beautiful and historic Ferry Building on Quay Street in Auckland.

Once you board the ferry, it’s a quick and scenic ride to Waiheke Island. You will see wonderful views of Auckland and Devonport, along with several smaller islands in the bay. The approach to Waiheke Island itself is quite impressive because of the mansions you see on the hills and the sailboats in the harbor.

A view from the life raft on the ferry.  Don’t worry, we didn’t row all the way to Waiheke Island.

Our first views of Waiheke Island included these beautiful cliffs and hills.

A mansion sitting atop a hill on Waiheke Island.

Is the twisted metal art or trash?

Sailboats in the  ferry harbor on Waiheke Island.

After arriving at Waiheke Island, we were picked up by our B&B.  If you are renting a car, the rental car center is right next to the ferry dock.  I would highly recommend renting a car if you want to explore the island.  Although we were picked up, we ended up renting a car later in the day anyway.  It was one of the most painless car rental experiences we ever had.  We were able to call and rent a car minutes later.  We rented it for 24 hours, and returned it to the ferry right before we boarded to return to Auckland.  Best of all, it was really inexpensive at around $50 USD for a large car with gas, insurance, and taxes included.

This is not the car we rented, I only took a photo because it’s a cute car with my favorite food painted on it.

After getting situated at our B&B, we had a quick lunch at one of the cafes in Oneroa town. By quick, I mean island slow. At least we had a fantastic view!  We picked a cafe with a view of Oneroa Beach.  

You can see me in the reflection!

The turquoise waters of Oneroa Beach.

I loved the sailboats on the beach.

We enjoyed some local Waiheke Island beer and gigantic New Zealand green lipped mussels for lunch.  I have to say, I think the mussels were a little too big for my taste.  At least at this restaurant, the larger mussels tasted tougher.  I would also recommend that no matter the size of the mussel, try to to eat it all in one bite!  Seeing the insides of a mussel will not help your appetite, and this is coming from a huge mussel lover.

Some crisp cold Waiheke Island brewed beer.

I’m trying for a beachy shot here, with a Jack Johnson vibe.

The mussels were literally as big as my hand!

After lunch and picking up our rental car, we decided to go and witness the crystal clear waters of Onetangi Bay. Said to be one of the best beaches in New Zealand, we were not disappointed. The surprising thing was that it was a beautiful, sunny, perfect beach day in summer, albeit a weekday, and there was almost no one there! We literally saw maybe 6 people total.

We saw one family enjoying the beach.

For a perfect finish to our relaxing day on Waiheke Island, we dined at Cable Bay Vineyards for dinner. The food was superb, and Charles enjoyed the wine immensely. I don’t have any photos of the food because well, it was a fancy restaurant and it would have been weird if I took out my big SLR camera in this kind of establishment. I did manage to catch a few pics of the magnificent sunset we had though!

The view from our table at Cable Bay Vineyards, with the Auckland skyline in the background:

Here is the wide angle view of the glorious sunset we saw at Cable Bay:

Next: Waiheke Island Part 2




5 responses

7 04 2009

beautiful pictures of sunset

9 04 2009

Great photos, Sandy. It looks like you had a fabulous time!

9 04 2009


21 05 2009

Great post. It really made me excited to go to Waiheke Island for a few days in early October. I was wondering at which B&B you stayed and would you recommend it. I’ll be traveling alone and hope to stay walking distance to both the town and the beach.

I also have one night in Auckland- any suggestions?



22 05 2009

Thanks Chuck. We stayed at Breakfast on the Beach on Waiheke. We were able to take advantage of a strong dollar and splurge for this place. I would encourage you to check out their reviews on Tripadvisor (they are #1), which were pretty accurate. I’m eventually going to review this place, but just haven’t had the chance. It’s a beautiful B&B right on the water (though not a swimming beach) that is walking distance to town. There is a beach in town (Oneroa), but if you are on Waiheke you have to go visit Onetangi Beach, which was spectacular. I would recommend renting a car. There are cabs and tours on the island, but renting a car was much easier and not expensive.

In Auckland, I would just browse Tripadvisor’s hotel reviews and pick the best one you can afford that is near the Central Business District (CBD). As you probably saw, we stayed at the Langham, which I loved.

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