Waiheke Island is definitely a feast for the senses upon taking a 35 minute ferry from down town Auckland you arrive on to an idyllic island that is so far away from the hectic culture of Auckland. If you can only visit one place in Auckland this should be it, you can get a real sense of what the rest of New Zealand is really like! Here are our tips on how to explore Waiheke and where to visit, but trust me you will be spoilt for choice!
Waiheke is in the Hauraki Gulf and is the second largest island, it has a population of nearly 8,000 people its popularity is mainly due to its ease and proximity to Auckland city centre. Fullers offer a ferry service on a daily basis every hour as well as Explore Waiheke Ferry. However, to take the 35 minute ferry ride here is not necessarily cheap, but if you check out Book Me you will often find ferry return tickets on certain days for just $1! So definitely worth planning your trip around these deals!
Upon arrival you can be collected by one of the many bus tours or hire a car (near the car park) or an even better idea rent an electric Bike from our friends at eCycles NZ, they are also situated in the main car park. We have had the delight of visiting twice, once on foot and took the public bus around the island and most recently we decided to take our bikes over. However they are not E-Bikes and we were naïve in thinking we would be able to explore a lot of the island in the time that we had! E-bikes are almost a necessity, lots of locals have them and you soon realise why!
Waiheke Executive Travel is the coach company that took us around for the day on my recent Waiheke Wine Tour. We had a local driver guide who filled us in on what life is like on Waiheke with very quirky and fun facts. Their coaches were comfortable and spacious, they also offer private cars for 1-2 people and they can even cater for larger groups of up to 250 people!
Where to Visit:
Without a doubt your first stop which ever mode of transport you take will be the main town of Oneroa. It has the tourist information centre, all the banks, all the shops and most of the best restaurants. It is only really worth a pit stop, for the view and maybe if you fancy stopping for lunch!
Okahuiti Creek we discovered on our cycle ride as we were trying to find a flat route from the central hub of Ostend (where Countdown supermarket is) to Surfdale. It is an inlet that has a lovely community of house boat owners! We had lunch amongst the locals who went about chatting to each other about their day! A beautiful spot for a picnic lunch!
Onetangi is all about its long stunning white sandy beach. Dotted with privately owned Bach’s and sea front restaurants this place would probably be your last stop on any tours you partake in as it is a good 20 minutes from Oneroa town centre and the ferry terminal. It is also the last settlement before you reach the real remote eastern side of the island that is often left unexplored by day trippers – even weekend trippers like us! This eastern side of the island is meant to be very different to any of the areas that I have mentioned above and is on the top of list to explore for next time!
But don’t forget to visit a Vineyard or two! Read my article here on my day with Explore Waiheke.
Where to Eat:
There are so many great restaurants in Waiheke it is hard to choose! And for a budget conscious visitor like our selves you may have to be prepared that wallet may take the hit! We can only really comment on the ones we visited! The Oyster Inn in central Oneroa would be my top suggestion to anyone that loves shellfish and seafood. They had the most incredible locally grown mussels that I just had to try! Dinners are on the pricey side but the quality and the service outweighs this downside.
Fenice is a great small Italian just a few doors up from the Oyster Inn, we had our evening meal here on our most recent visit and had the most beautiful wine and chocolate desert I have tasted in a long time! The staff were attentive and friendly all the combinations you need for an great evening out!
Where to Stay:
On our first visit 5 years ago we stayed at the islands only camp ground, but it is extremely far out of the main attractions of the island! On our second visit we decided to stay at an Air BnB, a concept we have grown to love whist living in New Zealand. You get to meet some locals, stay in some really unique accommodation and often it is cheaper to stay at an Air BnB than a local hotel, don’t diss it until you have tried it!
Don’t Under Estimate The Size of The Island:
I don’t like to finish on a negative tone but I feel like this is an appropriate and most important point to make! We were very mislead that Waiheke Island was an easy island to explore. We learnt how big and difficult it was to get around on our first visit 5 years ago on foot and when we decided to visit a few weeks ago for a weekend getaway as I have previously mentioned we opted to take our bikes. We thought we had learned from our past mistake! We were wrong! If you really want to get off the beaten track, push the boat out and hire a car or an electric bike and make your life that bit more easier! We will be doing this next time to reach further afield than Onetangi!
I would love to hear your views on Waiheke, where to visit and where to stay! Post below!