Several small coastal villages make up 12-mile (19-kilometer) long Waiheke Island, where you’ll find gourmet restaurants and beaches. Over 100 artists live and work on the island; they display their wares in the community gallery at Oneroa near the ferry stop and in studios around the island. A woolshed museum and two restored cottages at Onetangi display photos and textiles, while a musical museum at Oneroa gives visitors a chance to play instruments dating as far back as the 1500s.
The island is easy to navigate by buses, which leave regularly from the ferry terminal. An all-day bus pass is the best value for money for those wanting to tour the island’s beaches and vineyards.
Sample the Bordeaux-type, Syrah and Chardonnay wines grown in more than thirty vineyards on the island. Some vineyards also grow their own olives, which you can try along with lunch in on-site cafés and restaurants.
Fly above the island on a zip line at Onetangi, a beach in the north of the island. Take a chartered sailing tour to get your bearings around Waiheke and its neighboring islands, and to see some of the marine life that inhabits the pristine waters, including orca whales. Some sailing tours offer gourmet meals with Waiheke wines, or bushwalking and kayaking tours. Sign up for a tour from kiosks near the main ferry terminal.
Catch a bus or drive to Whakanewha Regional Park on the south coast of Waiheke Island. Here, you can walk through taraire, kohekohe and kanuka forest, and wetlands inhabited by some of New Zealand’s rare bird species, such as the dotterel and the banded rail. Whakanewha Park provides the only camping area on the island.
There are a number of ways to get to Waiheke Island from Auckland, from small charter planes and luxurious sailing boats, to a short ferry ride. Three companies operate ferries that leave from the mainland several times a day. Book in advance or turn up to the ferry terminal at Auckland’s Viaduct Harbour on the day.