Just a short 35 minute trip by fast ferry from downtown Auckland, New Zealand’s Waiheke Island is just the spot to get away from, …well, Auckland. A blend of beaches, forest and farmland, the picturesque Waiheke Island is located in the Hauraki Gulf of New Zealand. Offering a great range of things to do, it is a popular destination for day trips and longer visits. Waiheke Island is a popular holiday spot and during the main summer season, especially around Christmas and Easter, the population on the island increases substantially.
A few years ago, I spent a day on Waiheke driving all around the island. Just after disembarking at Maiatia Ferry Wharf, I could see that getting around was going to be easy as there is a huge range of rental cars, vans, motorcycles, scooters and bicycles to explore the island as you wish. There are bus and taxi services as well. After I picked out a car and agreed on a price, I set off to the northern side of Waiheke to check out some of its well known and relatively uncrowded white sand beaches. Waiheke Island is famous for its numerous scenic beaches which allow for good times both on and off the water. I also found a great mix of scenic points and light hikes along with some amazing restaurants, cafes and wineries.
On Waiheke Island, vineyards and wineries are located throughout the island and visitors can either visit on their own or take a tour. The island’s hot, dry summers and stony soil make Waiheke home to some boutique wineries that produce unique, high quality wines based on cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc and a few other grape varieties.
I really liked my visits to the sculpture park at Connells Bay and to the Stony Batter gun emplacements from WWII. Located on the eastern tip of Waiheke, Stony Batter is a historic WWII defense complex that is accessible by hiking through farmland with striking views of the Hauraki Gulf and Coromandel Peninsula. The purpose of the complex was to provide outer harbor protection in case of an invasion. Visitors can rent flashlights and walk through the network of underground tunnels and chambers that link to the gun emplacements.
After a solid day of driving around the island, I dropped of the car and stopped at a cool pub for a few rounds on the pool table as I waited for the ferry. I often hear of travelers mention that Auckland is their least favorite destination in New Zealand. To those who feel this way, I would recommend a trip to Waiheke as it is a lot of fun and is a great place to go to kick back.
IMAGES VIA: pie4dan on flickr