Jump on the ferry from Auckland and in half an hour you could be on Waiheke Island – a favourite nature escape for locals where wine country meets beach-lined coast in the heart of the Hauraki Gulf. With just under 100 square kilometres of native bushland hugging quaint seaside towns, Waihenke Island is a pleasant retreat from the buzz of Auckland city.
New Zealand's north island city Auckland is the gateway to Waiheke Island. Ferry port Matilda Bay provides easy access to the island's main town, Oneroa, which is a great base to start your islands adventures surrounded by the best swimming beaches and cosy cafes. Waiheke Island attracts visitors with promises of oceanic adventures, from fishing charters to sea kayaking, stand up paddle boarding and sailing. For those who like to keep both feet on the ground, there are plenty of dry-land experiences including bike riding, nature walks and wine tours.
Waiheke's hot, dry summers are ideal for grape growing, with the humble island producing some of the most sought-after vintages in New Zealand. Treat your palate to locally produced cabernet sauvignon, merlot, malbec, cabernet franc and chardonnay. Some of the best cellar doors on the island include Cable Bay winery with sea views looking out towards the mainland and the incredibly picturesque, well-established Goldie Vineyard which also has a cafe on site. Wine lovers should consider joining a Waiheke Island wine tour to sample the best of the wineries scattered around the region.
Waiheke Island is a popular summer holiday destination for Auckland city dwellers chasing an outdoor reprieve along unsealed roads off the beaten track, breathing in the sweet sea breeze drifting in from the surf-drenched coast – the jagged east cost of the island is particularly bountiful with small bays and scenic beaches. On the south side, Whakanewha Regional Park is popular for hikers and picnickers while a number of walking tracks across the island show off Waiheke's best natural assets. A day is the optimal amount of time to explore Waiheke Island although a half-day trip is an option, as is staying on longer in a beachside apartment or a bed and breakfast with vineyard views.