Waiheke Island is a little island paradise in the Hauraki Gulf in New Zealand. Just a 35-minute ferry ride from Auckland, it’s perfect for a weekend away from the city – although chances are, you’ll want to stay longer. After our month-long stay in Auckland, we spent two nights in Waiheke and wished we had spent the month there instead.
First off, Waiheke Island is beautiful. The landscape varies so much throughout the island, making it perfect for a scenic drive. One second you’re driving by a beautiful beach, then you’re in the vineyard-covered hills.
You’ll find that the west side of the island is more populated and home to the center of “town”. It’s definitely worth walking along the main street and stopping in one of the cafes or restaurants for a cup of coffee or a meal.
Despite its proximity to Auckland, Waiheke Island is blessed with warmer and drier weather throughout the year. Its unique climate makes it perfect for growing grapes, and due to its long and mild growing season, Waiheke can grow a wider range of varietals than many other regions. With over 20 wineries covering its 36 square miles, it’s been given the nickname of “Island of Wine”.
Wineries in Waiheke come with incredible views. Perched on the hills throughout the island, you’ll get stunning scenery of vineyards and ocean.
In terms of views, Cable Bay is a personal favorite. They have bean bags set up on a big lawn that overlooks the ocean, giving you views of Auckland in the distance. It’s a pretty spectacular place to drink a glass of their delicious Pinot Gris.
Stoneyridge Vineyard has a laid-back, garden vibe and some of our favorite wines on Waiheke. They specialize in making Bordeaux blends in traditional methods, and their efforts haven’t gone unnoticed in the world of wine.
Their award-winning Larose is Cabernet dominant and is highly sought after in wine auctions. Apparently, it’s so profitable that Stoneyridge itself even buys back previous vintages of Larose to keep in their cellar.
We were lucky enough to taste Larose, as well as do a barrel tasting of it. Straight out of the barrel, the flavors were pretty bold and luscious, ensuring what I’m certain will be another successful vintage once bottled and aged.
The sunshine and the gentle sea breeze that regulates the temperatures on Waiheke Island make it an excellent olive growing region as well.
Similar to Tuscany, the olives here aren’t great to eat. They do, however, make some of the world’s best olive oil.
Rangihoua Estate is the OG olive oil producer on the island, and they continue to make award-winning olive oil. They offer tours of the estate so you can learn more about the production process.
You can also stop by their tasting room and shop for a tasting of some of their olive oils, spreads, and chutneys. Make sure to try their herb spread that’s made from their olive oil and fresh herbs – SO good!
When it comes to food, Waiheke Island does not disappoint! With a focus on local ingredients, it’s gained a foodie reputation – though luckily, without any pretension.
Many of the wineries have restaurants or cafes as well, making experiencing a good meal a seamless part of a day of wine tasting.
When we did a wine tasting at Man O War Vineyards, we were told we HAD to go to Alibi Brewing to try their truffle fries. Feeling like the truffle fries moment had passed, I was skeptical, but we did it anyway – And honestly… They are so freaking good!
If you’re looking for something high-end, Mudbrick is a great choice for a nice meal. We only stopped in for an appetizer and wine, but really enjoyed our time there. The charcuterie was delicious, especially the rillettes. Plus, the service was awesome.
We heard great things about Poderi Crisci. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to make it there, but it’s on my must-do list for next time we visit Waiheke Island. They have their own garden and the rustic-Italian menu changes based on what’s fresh. Every Sunday, they do a long-lunch which is their take on the Italian Sunday lunch, featuring a feast of fresh food and matching wine that spans over four hours.
Stunning scenery combined with great wine, olive oil, and food makes Waiheke Island the perfect getaway from Auckland. Whether it’s for a weekend trip or longer stay, Waiheke Island is a top destination for guaranteed fun in New Zealand.
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