Back to Waiheke for wine

Waiheke

High on our list of things to do before we leave Auckland was to return to Waiheke island for some winetasting.

On our first trip to the island we enjoyed archery, clay bird shooting and cider, but somehow missed the wine! At the weekend we took the ferry back and had chosen vineyards in walking distance of Matiatia harbour.

Waiheke

Our first stop was Cable Bay for lunch with a view. After some tapas style dishes and a glass of their Pinot Gris we descended to the cellar door for a $10 tasting of three whites, a rose and a red. We asked the staff about the difference between Pinot Gris & Pinot Grigio… turns out there is very little. Feeling a little tipsy we blew our weekly budget on bottle of their finest P-Gris and one of their reds. Oops.

5 minutes up the road is Jurassic Ridge (great name for a winery!), which had also been recommended to us. It provides a notable contrast to the bigger vineyards as it seemed to be a one-man show. We had a short sit in the sun and look around while we overheard him lecturing a group of Americans. After 10 mins we got tired of not being acknowledged and headed next door to Mudbrick for a glass of their bubbles and more glorious views.

Waiheke

Both vineyards are pretty decadent and offer a relaxing slice of island luxury. There’s no need to book ahead, although when we visited they were both closing early for weddings. For getting further around Waiheke you can hire bikes/scooters and their are various vineyard hopper buses.

Cheers!

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Scaling a volcano: Rangitoto island

30 minutes ferry-ride from downtown Auckland took us to the island that casts its majestic silhouette over the harbour. Rangitoto is an dormant volcano that erupted 600 years ago and most recently reopened to the public in 2011.

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The island really is other-worldly and mostly covered in black lava rocks. It has no natural soil or surface water and yet, thanks to a water source deep beneath ground, it is covered in trees and bush. We visited on a very hot day and joined the volcanic explorer tour. This was a bumpy, tractor-pulled train that takes you on a loop of the island, stopping halfway at the base of a boardwalk leading to the summit. This was definitely the most gentle way to see the island and reach the summit, which (from a higher point than the Sky Tower) gives cracking views across the Hauraki Gulf.

The crater itself is now completely covered in trees – thanks to the porous ground, which also stops it from flooding.

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Rangitoto crater

The tour was a great introduction to the island and its history. There are no permanent residents on Rangitoto, just a few remaining ‘baches’ (holiday homes) that have been passed down through generations and survived various government disputes. There are also no shops on the island, so you need to take all supplies with you.

We returned to the wharf at lunchtime. Wanting to feel like intrepid explorers, we then headed out on a 3 hour coastal walk to a bay across the island. Along the unforgiving rocky terrain of the track we saw more fantastic views and a chance to see the resident seagull colony up close.

Rangitoto is remote and you knew that in the (very possible) event that you twisted an ankle on the rocks, you’d be stuffed. As we were about to surrender to the midday heat and turn around, a passing man reassured us that we were only 20 minutes away from the wharf. Reaching the sea felt like the equivalent of our Ironman (happening in Auckland on the same day).

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As with our trip to Waiheke island, we had to run for the ferry and made it back by the skin our teeth. We had a brilliant day on Rangitoto and were astounded by this natural wonder looming just across the harbour.

Day tripping to Waiheke

We took advantage of Monday being a bank holiday in NZ and took our first trip out of the city to Waiheke island.

Somehow we managed to make the 9am ferry from Auckland and headed across the bay to experience our first slice of island beauty that NZ is famous for.

On arrival at Matiatia bay on Waiheke, we followed a scenic woodland track for 20 mins to the nearest town, Oneroa. This is a charming strip of independent shops and cafés along the beach. We had a wander around and popped into the tourist info to find the bus stop to our main stop of the day, Wild on Waiheke. After reading positive reviews of this activity centre on Tripadvisor, I booked us in for archery & clay bird shooting, followed by lunch.

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We were a little early, so we sat in the sun and took in the view of adults wine tasting and playing boules & giant chess and children attempting to play volleyball! We were then taken by instructor Kelly for our activities, which were such fun (!) Starting with archery; we shot arrows amongst the grape vines, Rob effectively channeled his inner Robin Hood and, when aiming to pop a balloon, I managed to shoot my arrow to rest on top of it.

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Not my best round…

We were shooting with another couple and we all achieved respectable scores, with the men doing particularly well. However, during the clay bird shooting, we took it back for the women! We were using real shotguns that had been fitted with lasers and shot at flying disks overhead. It was made quite tricky by the breeze and took a few rounds for any of us to score. After half an hour’s shooting the girls proved a better aim, but our scores weren’t good enough to catch up after the archery and Rob won overall with a handsome score of 155.

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Food worthy of a photo

We worked up quite an appetite and were clamming to try some of the locally produced food. For lunch we had burgers and tried the Waiheke cider. They also had beers and wine tasting on offer, there was to much to choose from! My burger was delicious, with chicken from the grill, brie and apricot chutney.

To walk it off, we to a stroll to Onetangi – the biggest beach on the island and had an afternoon doze.

Waiheke felt to have a very strong community, of artists, surfers and those retiring to a slice of paradise. When we were planning our trip, there were so many options for activities and ways to get around the island. It is known for its vineyards, which we barely saw and you can hire a car, bike or even an electric tandem. However, I agree with advice that we were given that for a first day trip, Oneroa and Onetangi are good places to start, and we enjoy exploring places on foot where possible.

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Onetangi beach

After an hour or so on the beach, we took the bus back to our first stop at Oneroa for a coffee with a view over the bay. We walked back to the ferry and made the 5pm it by a whisper for a very blowy return crossing to Auckland.

I left Waiheke island with sunburnt ears & hair parting and a desire to return for a weekend of wine tasting.
Hopefully we’ll be back!

 

Details, details

  • We took a Fullers ferry, which runs on the hour, takes 45 mins and costs $35.50pp for a return ticket. There’s a 10% off coupon in the Auckland A-Z. They also offer good looking tours on the island.
  • Fullers also offer a day bus pass for $9, 4 routes cover much of the island but not all of the vineyards. Pick up a timetable, as they’re not very regular.
  • Wild On Waiheke offer archery and clay bird shooting for $25 for 30 mins or the combined hour we did cost $45.
  • Most activities and cafés seemed to close at 4pm.