With summer nipping at spring’s heels – it’s less than two weeks (25 September) until daylight saving commences in New Zealand – a day trip to Waiheke Island before the holiday crush is the perfect initiation. Thirty five minutes from Auckland’s ferry terminal to the wharf at Matiatia Bay, you arrive in less time than it takes most Aucklanders to drive home at the end of a working day. Jump on board and relax; grab a coffee or even a beer. Wonder at the sanity of fishermen who rhythmically bob up and down in their aluminium tinnies, patiently waiting to snare their dinner, as the city skyline disappears.
Buses meet all ferries and their routes take in the villages and key points of interest dotted throughout the island. But if you can convince someone to be the nominated sober driver, hiring a car at Matiaita wharf (book ahead for weekends and summer holidays) gives you the flexibility to get off the main roads, take in breathtaking vantage points and explore at your own pace.
Undeniably, a sojourn to Waiheke Island would not be complete without a visit to a winery or two. With more than 24 wineries dotted throughout the island (vineyards map) you are spoilt for choice: from wine tastings and cellar doors, to vineyard restaurants, long lunches, shared platters and picnics on the grass. Late last summer with UK visitors in tow, we took in the breathtaking views and a glass of chardonnay from Te Whau Vineyard’s veranda before meandering to the other end of the island to Passage Rock Wines for a leisurely lunch.
There are countless ways to fill a day, a weekend or a week on Waiheke Island from beaches, watersports and golf to cafes and restaurants, artisan producers, local artists and galleries and more. But if you fancy a day trip, Waiheke is accessible and simple to navigate, and there’s always a little more sunshine than the mainland – well, so we are lead to believe!