Arriving in New Zealand, we were pleasantly surprised by the Auckland Day celebration along the waterfront. We LOVE when you don’t plan for a special event and it just appears in your path like a gift from the travel gods. The day was a quick hit of a gorgeous city! We most enjoyed the Tamaki Herenga Waka Festival, which shared Maori culture and heritage though many free activities, including an awesome indoor music venue with glampy bean bag chairs to relax and escape the strong sun.
The next day Josh told me he wanted to take his humble earnings from his South Australia craft fair and treat us to a day of wine tasting and oysters on Waiheke Island. Well twist my arm (what a guy!)
We boarded the ferry from Auckland and in a half hour docked on the popular island, boasting more that 30 wineries and many walking tracks. At the ferry terminal at Matiatia Wharf we found wonderful hiking maps of the “Walk Waiheke” trail network-one for each of the island’s four areas: the headlands, beaches, “forest heart,” and the “far end.” Waiheke in Maori translates to “Cascading Waters,” but on this particular visit the island was in a drought state with rain water supply running VERY low. One of our servers during the day informed us, “you’ll know a local when you SMELL them. I can’t remember the last time I showered!”
Having purchased a “Hop on, Hop off” bus pass, we stopped in the town of Ostend and savored a deli lunch on the half shell at Te Matuku Oysters, with fresh coleslaw and potato salad to boot. A few picnic supplies from the market next door and we were on the bus again, heading to a few wineries on our short list. The island has a unique microclimate, warmer than the mainland, lending nicely to the jammy Pinot Noirs and other unique reds found here.
We sampled wines at three stops on the Vineyard Walking Trail. First at luxurious Tantalus Estate with it’s stunning lighting installations made of vines by James Russ of Epsilon Lighting and it’s cushy lawn with lounge seating and oversized lawn games. Then we shared a glass of Pinot and snacks on the chill deck at Stonyridge. Our favorite wine and atmosphere was at Obsidian Cellar Door near Onetangi Beach on Te Makiri Road, tucked away at the bottom of the walking trail, our servers were incredibly articulate and fun young locals. The Viognier was delectable!
After a steep descent down walking paths leading past the island hostel and nature reserves, we arrived at Onetangi Beach and did some dreamy body surfing in perfect cool water. Super-salty, burning the eyes, but worth every little wave! A quick costume change out of our swimsuits and we caught the last hop-on bus of the day to Cable Bay Vineyard to watch the sunset on the expansive lawn before a two-kilometer twilight stroll back to the ferry.
More to do: If we had a few more days here we would have likely done the olive oil tastings, rented bikes and taken the public bus to the far end of the island for more remote hiking. There is also a big art culture on Waiheke: a map is available to stroll the local galleries. Endless activities abound, including kayaking, scooters, zip lining, mountain biking. Never a dull moment...unless of course that is what your spirit calls for. There are plenty of beaches and peaceful places to just chill! Stay a few nights and island camp or Airbnb it!