New Zealand: Waiheke Island Part 2

8 04 2009

After spending the night on Waiheke Island, we had the entire morning and most of the afternoon on the next day before we had to go back to Auckland in order to catch our flight to Wellington.  Since our flight was in the early evening, we planned to take the 4 PM ferry at the latest back to Auckland.  We decided to explore the largely uninhabited east side of Waiheke Island by car followed by a late lunch at Mudbrick Vineyard.  

There is only one road in the eastern part of Waiheke Island and it goes in a loop so it’s hard to get lost.  The drive itself was very scenic, with miles of rolling hills, happy sheep, and terraced vineyards dotting the landscape.  First we passed by several hilly pastures.

We often pulled over to the side of the road to take pictures. Here is one tip that is useful for all of New Zealand: if there is a picnic table or park bench set up in a random location on the side of the road, stop because there is a 99% chance that it is a scenic location.

Once we reached the coast, we saw lots of pretty harbors.

We passed by several vineyards on our drive, including this small one.

In addition to sheep pastures, there are several cattle fields.

The plant life here is almost tropical, and very green.

Back around the top part of the loop, we get back to farmlands.

While most of the roads were paved, be aware that parts of the east side of the island are dirt roads. The rental car agency is aware of this and allows its cars to drive on non-sealed roads.

After our scenic drive around the island, we were more than ready for a hearty lunch at Mudbrick Vineyard.  Mudbrick grows all of its own vegetables in a garden on the premises.


Mudbrick is considered one of the best restaurants on the island and in the Auckland area in general, and the food lived up to its reputation.  I thought the local olive oil and mixed green salad was especially delicious. While I know it’s a cutting edge restaurant, I thought the use of foam for every course was a big much though. LOL!

The views from the restaurant were spectacular though.


After our leisurely lunch, we returned our rental car and took the ferry back to Auckland.  

We had what turned out to be a surprinsingly fancy getaway within a vacation at Waiheke Island.  Between the beaches, our B&B, the sailboats, and the town, we couldn’t help but feel that Waiheke is very similar to a Nantucket or Martha’s Vineyard.  There was even a little bit of that snootiness that comes with these sorts of island/seaside towns.  I kept expecting someone to order some Clam ChowDA.  At the same time, the green hills and vineyards evoked a vibe straight from Sonoma Valley and the hot weather, palm trees, and beaches looked like they would be right at home on the Big Island in Hawaii.  Aucklanders should count themselves lucky that this jewel of an island, an instant classy holiday, can be found only 40 minutes away from the city.


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

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