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Waiheke Island: A treasure trove of sensational food, wine & beaches

Waiheke Island
North Island
Jason Granville
Jason Granville
Tour Guide
March 23, 2023
minute read

Longing for an escape? Waiheke Island’s paradise is closer than you think

Need a much-deserved getaway? Grab your partner or your dearest friends, and just a stone's throw away from Auckland, indulge in some R&R on a laid-back escape to Waiheke Island. Discover why this must-see gem of a place is a frequent retreat for creatives and attracts travellers worldwide to appreciate the wonders jam-packed into this second-largest island in the Hauraki Gulf. 

Waiheke Island

The charming seaside village of Oneroa is Waiheke’s main town. Relish the delectables at local eateries and purchase collectables in local galleries and shops. Just up the road is the highly-rated Mudbrick Vinyard & Restaurant. This picturesque location offers relaxed dining with sensational ocean views, perfect for watching the sunset. 

Stroll back in time through the Waiheke Museum and Historical Village, or listen to the joyous sounds of Whittaker’s Musical Museum staff playing and explaining the history of over 100 antique musical instruments on display.

For serious time travellers, head to the eastern side with your walking shoes on to explore the underground passages and chambers of Stoney Batter Tunnels. This architectural marvel was hand built by soldiers and locals in secrecy during WWII. Wander amongst the massive boulders in the Stoney Batter Scenic Reserve too. Some exhibit rare karst solution features. 

Nearby, visit Man O War winery to sample their fine wine selection while enjoying the views of New Zealand’s only beachfront winery. You may even spot the Kororā - little blue penguins returning to their nests dotted along the island’s coastline at dusk. 

Sample some local fine wine

If you’re a food or wine connoisseur, there are plenty of opportunities to tantalise your senses at Waiheke’s world-class boutique wineries and restaurants. The richness of the island soil has enabled diverse grape varieties to flourish, creating unique flavours and notes for your taste buds. Delicious local produce includes olive oil, artisan cheese, and fresh oysters. 

Waiheke Wine & Food Festival runs each May and showcases the best offerings. Enjoy unique vineyard experiences with wine tastings, culinary delights and live music. Throughout the year, the vibrant community-operated Waiheke Ostend market runs every Saturday. You’ll find friendly locals coming together to showcase their talents and fresh produce here. 

Nature lovers of all ages can enjoy zip-lining above the treetops overlooking the spectacular landscape or experience a birds-eye view of the island’s beautiful beaches and wineries by chartering a scenic flight. 

If you prefer to be grounded, the 100 km Te Ara Hura walking track network provides a perfect way to explore the area’s natural beauty. With trails weaving through native bush, across streams, wetlands and coastlines extending to the headlands, you can start and finish where you like. Alternatively, explore the island’s most scenic and secluded beaches by horseback or sea kayak. The options are endless. 

Nothing ignites creativity like nature, and it's no wonder Waiheke is renowned for its art galleries, studios, and unique sculptures. Wherever you are, you’ll find art on display or hiding in gardens across the island. Meander through two acres of sculptures and art scattered throughout the stunning Sacred Blessing Sanctuary Gardens. You’ll find significant sculptors Paul Dibble, Phil Price & Ray Haydon set amongst colourful exotic blooms fused with New Zealand natives—fragrant roses, perennials, magnolias, and camellias support an abundance of native birds and wildlife. 

A 10-minute drive further south is Dead Dog Bay Wetland Garden and Sculpture Park. Here you can enjoy a tranquil stroll through beautifully landscaped gardens and wetlands interspersed with spectacular sculptures. Also worth a visit, the Matiatia Coastal Walkway from Oneroa is transformed into an Artscape for Sculpture on the Gulf every second year.

Onetangi Beach is one of the best beaches on the island. Its 2 km stretch of fine white sand with crystal turquoise waters makes it popular for swimming, picnicking and water sports. People come from far and wide every February to enjoy the iconic Onetangi Beach Races carnival.

Onetangi beach

Whatever getaway adventure or escape you’re looking for, you’re sure to find something on this island to pique your interest. So don’t wistfully stare at your screen thinking, “one day”, clear your calendar, grab your mates and hop on the next ferry to Waiheke Island. Go on.