As my toes sink into the golden sand and almost immediately begin to burn, I can’t help but grin despite the slight pain. I’m on Waiheke Island, in Auckland’s Harbour Gulf, and I know that very shortly I’ll be sipping on a cooling wine while gazing over the picture-perfect seas around me.
One of the feelings I hadn’t even realised I missed from home was that first step onto the beach on a hot summer’s day. I love being by the ocean, so I tried to get my fill while I was back in Auckland. One of the best ways to see the city is to get out on the water – it’s not called the City of Sails for nothing!
Leaving Auckland city behind us
Enjoying the top deck of the ferry
Waiheke Island is one of my favourite places to escape – it feels like a weekend away but it’s only half an hour by ferry from the centre of Auckland, so it’s easy to just visit for a day. During that half hour ride you can gaze at the myriad bays lining the waterfront and cast an eye towards some of the other islands of the Gulf. Before you know it you’ll be disembarking at Matiatia wharf, ready to explore! You can hire a car on the island, or bring one over on the car ferry. There’s public buses running regularly, if not that often – or you can join a guided tour and have someone do all the driving for you.
First glimpse of Waiheke’s verdant hills – the island on the left
Waiheke is home to around 9,000 people and over 20 wineries – pretty good distribution if you ask me. From small producers to ultra-slick large scale operations, you’re sure to find a wine to your taste. And if wine is not really your thing, just head to the beach! We jumped on the bus to head over to Onetangi Beach. It was a bone-rattling 45 minutes but well worth it when we were greeted by these views.
Super inviting steps down to the beach!
After grabbing lunch and then stretching our legs on the sand, we jumped back on the bus to head to Goldie Vineyard. This is one of my favourites on the island. It’s actually a teaching facility for the University of Auckland as well as a functioning vineyard – why was viticulture never on my list of career options?! They do generous tastings of their wines, and you can take your last glass up the hill to enjoy looking over the trailing vines and the bay.
We only had time for one winery on this visit, but my other favourites include Wild on Waiheke (archery + alcohol = dangerous but awesome); Stonyridge for its lovely shady lawns; and Mudbrick for its amazing food and setting. Waiheke has a bustling town centre at Oneroa, close to the ferry wharf, where you could easily base yourself for a day – but the best way to appreciate the island is to get out amongst the vines and sands.
As we headed back on the ferry, I soaked in the sunshine and the feeling of freedom I get whenever I’m near the sea. Bliss!
Does an island of wineries sound good to you? Or would you go just for the views and beaches?