Waiheke is a haven of beautiful vineyards, olive groves and beaches, all just a 40-minute ferry ride from downtown Auckland.

 

The original Māori name for Waiheke was Te Motu-arai-roa, meaning
"the long sheltering island" and then when the first European visitors arrived it became
known as Motu-Wai-Heke, "island of trickling waters".

Waiheke Island came 4th on Conde Nast Traveler’s list of the Best Islands in the World and has rated as the 5th region to visit in Lonely Planet's Best in Travel publication.

With pristine white sandy beaches and turquoise blue waters, gorgeous landscapes, world class wines, and fantastic cuisine, it’s easy to see why Waiheke Island is considered the Hauraki Gulf’s jewel. Although only 40 minutes from Auckland, you’ll feel like you’re a world away as your browse through art galleries, sample award-winning olive oils and soak in stunning sea views.

The white sandy beaches at Oneroa, Little Oneroa, Palm Beach and Onetangi slope gently down into the Hauraki Gulf and are perfect for swimming, kayaking, or having a picnic.

Oneroa is known to be a diverse island shopping experience with stunning Northern sea-views. Oneroa is a lively strip just above the beach and is the main hub on the Island. Offering a vibrant cafe scene, excellent bars and restaurants, boutique arts and crafts stores, cinema, banks, post office, butchery, library and is ideal for all your practical shopping needs.

Little Oneroa is situated just next to Oneroa, separated only by a small headland and rocks which are easily navigable at low tide. It is a wide, safe swimming beach for kids with showers, changing rooms and toilets. There is a shaded playground and a big grassy area with free BBQs and picnic tables for general use.

A general store on the other side of the car parking area has good coffee and ice cream cones. If you’re hungry for pizza, Dragonfired Pizzas are worth checking out or grab some Fish ‘n Chips or a Burger at the Little Oneroa Takeaways behind the general store.

Palm Beach is a well-known favorite with a world-renowned beach just 4km from Oneroa and the kids will love the large playground.

Two public BBQ areas and a wonderful boat-shaped children's playground are very popular meeting spots for a gathering of friends or family. Just across the road you'll find the Palm Beach Store with plenty of general store supplies as well as delicious ice creams and takeaway coffee.

Arcadia is a lovely new Cafe, Restaurant & Bar that serves delicious food for breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as takeaways.

Onetangi is located just under 10 kms from Oneroa Village with Explorer buses operating regularly between the two. There is a general store, playground and takeaways as well as a liquor outlet in Onetangi itself.

A range of fantastic activities are close by including the attractive 9-hole Waiheke golf course and the spectacular EcoZip zipline through the trees.

The Onetangi Loop Track is a popular 1-hour walkway with spectacular sea views and there are other beautiful walks in the nearby Onetangi Forest and Bird Reserve

The Reserve is a natural wilderness area with impressive kauri groves and bursting with birdlife. Orcas and dolphins are also regular sights offshore.

Indulge at the popular restaurants overlooking the beach such as Charlie Farley’s and The Boathouse.

Every year, in March, Onetangi hosts the Onetangi Beach Races where horses, tractors and 'Sea Leg' boats race along the beach! It's a great fun family day out with lots of competitions and fun for the kids as well as the adults.

There are numerous lesser known areas throughout the Island that offer a more private setting such as Enclosure Bay, Te Whau Point and Woodside Bay.

Enclosure Bay

Enclosure Bay is just 100 metres or so along the road to the East from Sandy Bay. Almost enclosed by rocks, it's like a huge, crystal clear swimming pool at mid to high tides. The beach is right beside the road and is very easily accessed. The rocks around the sides of Enclosure Bay are a wonderful spot for rock clambering and snorkeling.

Te Whau Peninsula

At the entry of Rocky Bay, an area of beautiful life-style blocks provides some of the best Waiheke walks, glorious views and vistas on the Island.

At the eastern side of Rocky Bay is Waiheke Island's beautiful Whakanewha Regional Park. This beautiful place has a lovely white sand & shell beach and delicious crystal-clear water.

The DOC Park provides picnic tables, free public Gas BBQ's and toilet facilities and it's a lovely spot to take a picnic and enjoy the views back to Auckland and the Sky Tower. A favorite spot for a sunset dip and a picnic dinner.

Woodside Bay

Situated on the southern coast of the Island, east of Half Moon Bay, accessed through Whakanewha Regional Park and home to what is reportedly the oldest wooden home on the island, a simple villa owned for many years by left-wing intellectual Peter Lee. It is also one of the top Windsurfing spots on the island.

Expansive sea views are matched by big, bold beautiful skies and the most colorful sunsets. This is the perfect place to recharge your batteries and indulge the senses. The pace of life slows in this special part of the world where you are surrounded by nature.

Other areas of interest include Surfdale Village, Blackpool, Sandy Bay, Ostend Village, Picnic Bay, Rock Bay, Shelly beach and Orapiu.

Surfdale is a small village with 3 cafes/restaurants, a mini market, fruit and vegetable store and takeaways all available. It's located just 3 kms from Oneroa Village and it's just a 2- or 3-minute drive or a pleasant 30-minute walk.

Lovely Huruhi Bay was given the name Blackpool many years ago, a rather un-picturesque name for such a pretty bay! Located on the southern side of Waiheke Island, Blackpool Beach has a white shell/sand tidal beach which provides wonderful swimming for a couple of hours before and after the high tide.

Sandy Bay is located half way between Oneroa and Palm Beach, just 4 kms by road from Oneroa Village. The Coastal Walkway track runs from Sandy Bay to Little Oneroa Beach and on to Oneroa Village and provides spectacular views along the way. The path is about 2.5 kms and takes around 30 mins to walk.

Ostend Village is located in the center of the populated part of Waiheke, it is the Island's ‘service center' and home to Waiheke Island's famous Saturday Morning Markets, held at the R.S.A. and the R.SA. grounds and a great place to 'See & Be Seen' while enjoying the huge variety of produce, delicious foods and interesting items for sale in a pleasant environment.

The main Countdown Supermarket, Placemakers Hardware and other retail, commercial and industrial outlets, including the pub, doctor, pharmacy and council service center are also located in Ostend.

Situated less than 5kms from Oneroa Village and with buses to the main settlements of the Island, Ostend is the central hub and is central to everywhere on Waiheke.

Lovely little Picnic Bay on the eastern shore of Huruhi Bay is a well-kept Waiheke Island secret. Only 4kms from the center of Oneroa Village and a quick 7-minute drive, it's worth a visit.

The beach is set below a lovely large grassy reserve which has a picnic table and is high set so that you can really take in the magical vistas over the bay and on to Auckland in the far distance.

Delightful Rocky Bay, also known as Omiha, is a sheltered South-side bay offering the peace, tranquility and ambiance of the Waiheke Island of years gone by. A choice of two peaceful beaches to relax on and watch the native Tui's play in the trees or enjoy wonderful walks where an outstanding view meets you around every bend.

A picnic table and free Gas BBQ provide a great spot to relax and enjoy the views of the boats in the bay and at times, boats being worked on at the boat sheds along the side of the bay.

Shelly Beach is very centrally located, it's a very short walk to Ostend Village to enjoy Waiheke Island's famous Saturday Morning Markets or replenish supplies at the supermarket. 

The Eastern End of Waiheke is wonderfully quiet and well and truly away from it all' and 'off the beaten track'. Less than 10kms from Onetangi Beach, it's only around a 15-minute drive on sealed road to Orapiu through beautiful farmland and features glorious views all the way.

Orapiu has a public wharf which is very popular with fishermen. 360 Discovery Ferry’s call here on their way to Rotoroa Island and Coromandel Township on weekends and during peak times.

Otakawhe Bay is just a 10-minute walk or a few minutes’ drive from Orapiu wharf and is a quiet, south facing beach with good swimming at mid - high tide. There are some lovely walking tracks in the area and lots of beautiful, magical scenery for you to enjoy.

A short drive further along the road heading north, you will find Man 'o War Bay. This is a lovely bay, often filled with visiting boats enjoying the delights offered at the Man 'o War Winery. There are also picnic tables and free public Gas BBQs right beside the beach.

Due to Waiheke Island not having any streetlights and the whole communities effort to minimize light pollution and remain eco-friendly, The Waiheke Local Board are in the process of developing a Lightscape Management Plan with the overall goal of Waiheke Island being named a Dark Sky Sanctuary. With the ongoing support from local and international organizations, Waiheke is well on the way to gaining its accreditation.

 

If you’re a walker, explore the island’s trails which meander along cliff tops, down to the beaches and into cool enclaves of native forest. At the eastern end of the island the Stony Batter walkway leads you to a system of World War II gun emplacements and underground tunnels. 

INDULGE IN AWARD WINING WINE AND EXPLORE GORGEOUS VINEYARDS

Waiheke Island is a renowned wine region that produces critically acclaimed artisan wines and provides distinctive wine and cuisine experiences.

Waiheke Island has become known as New Zealand’s ‘Island of Wine’ – home to a dedicated group of award-winning winegrowers who have successfully matched the unique maritime climate and ancient soil structures to the selection of classical grape varieties in order to produce red and white wines with distinctive varietal character.

With a total planted area of just 216 hectares divided among 30 growers, wine production is small and top vintages are keenly awaited with labels such as Goldwater Estate, Stonyridge Larose, Destiny Bay, Passage Rock and Cable Bay having an international following and most small producers having a loyal mail order clientele.

Waiheke is also the ‘Island of wine tourism’, attracting up to 800,000 visitors a year and providing the main economic driver for the island’s 8,000 permanent residents.

We are predominantly a red wine region with 57% of all wine produced on Waiheke Island being of red varietals, the most widely planted being Merlot (19%) and Syrah (18%). We have seen an increase in the white varietals in recent years with Chardonnay (16%), Sauvignon Blanc (12%) and Pinot Gris (10%) being the most common on Waiheke Island at this time.

Waiheke wines have garnered numerous prestigious awards, medals, trophies and other accolades over many years, with more information about the more recent successes to be found on our Vineyards page.

VISIT AUCKLAND’S ISLAND OF ART

Filled with a range of exhibitions to inspire and delight, the best of New Zealand art is featured on Waiheke Island and offers the best of Waiheke art to the world.

Currently home to over 100 working artists, a gathering of like-minded painters, potters and glass makers who have been inspired by the Islands dramatic beauty.

There is also a strong group of indigenous local artists who predominantly engage in the carving of stone, wood and Pounamu (greenstone) as well as traditional flax weaving.

The Island has regular art programmes and festivals, with a major bi-annual event called Perpetual Guardian Sculpture on the Gulf featuring roughly 40 creations on the gorgeous Matiatia walkway, making this New Zealand’s leading contemporary outdoor exhibition featuring large scale works in a three-week summer extravaganza.

Nestled between world-famous vineyards, olive groves, stunning beaches you will find the Waiheke Community Art Gallery ~Te Whare Taonga o Waiheke. They promote visual arts to an international standard and provide a focal point for arts-related activities.

Their diverse range of exhibitions inspire and delight guests worldwide, with a wonderful gallery shop featuring high quality New Zealand ceramics, glass, jewellery and art forms.

The Gallery’s two national award exhibitions attract entries from all over New Zealand. These are the Walker & Hall Waiheke Art Award (for 2D work) and the Small Sculpture Prize.

The Waiheke Community Art Gallery is an incorporated not-for-profit society, established in 1995. As they are a registered charity, all donations to them are tax deductible.

The Waiheke Community Art Gallery publishes an easy-to-read Art Map which outlines who's who, what's where and how to get there. The gallery is the best place to start an art tour. It holds about 30 exhibitions each year in three gallery spaces and shows work by artists long established on Waiheke as well as those new to the Hauraki Gulf Island.

The artists take turns in the gallery and you're always welcomed by one of them, who can talk more about the exhibitions and their own practice.

OLIVE OIL

The same poor soils that make Waiheke’s great wine, is also making our wonderful Olive Oil. The grassy slopes, sunshine and gentle sea breezes are good for the olive trees and because the groves are small, every care is taken in the growing and harvesting process so that a premium blend is always achieved.

Since 1997 Waiheke Island has been producing its own superb quality and award-wining olive oils. Producing fresh, healthy and delicious olive oils that are entirely natural.

The oil not only tastes delectable, it has the benefit of containing high levels of natural anti-oxidants, sterols and polyphenols and is a healthy addition to your daily diet. Proven through the centuries as a major source of health and well-being for young and old. It has no additives or preservatives.

Extra virgin olive oil has by far the highest percentage of good monounsaturated fats which protect against cholesterol deposits in your body and reduce your cholesterol. Not only does it benefit your heart, but as olive oil contains the antioxidant vitamin E and oleic acid, it aids normal bone growth, helps brain function and is also shown to prevent aging of body tissues and organs.

Unlike wine, olive oil does not improve with age; quite the opposite in fact and it’s best enjoyed when fresh. Exposure to light, heat and air affect the quality of all oils and will ultimately cause rancidity. It is recommended to use within 2 years, however some varieties can last much longer.

Olives begin to deteriorate the moment they are picked. By carefully controlling all the harvesting and milling processes, we ensure the oil retains all its important health-giving nutrients and flavour. 

Flavours of freshly pressed olives, fresh cut grass, green apples, salad leaves, fresh nuts, a mild pepper finish and deliciously fruity have all being produced on the Island.

GETTING TO WAIHEKE ISLAND 

Getting around is easy too. Catch one of the regular Fullers ferries that run to Waiheke from downtown Auckland or Devonport or bring the car over from Half Moon Bay with Sealink. Once on the island, there are public buses and taxis, or you can hire a mountain bike, motor scooter or car.

 

So, whether you’re wanting to walk around the stunning coastal headlands, tour your way through our many vineyards or simply relax and do nothing at all, we know you’ll enjoy your stay on our magical island.

As Auckland's best day out, but with just too much to see and do it’s best to choose to stay over.

 

Waiheke Unlimited has wonderful accommodation to suit all guest’s budgets and preferences. Booking in advance is advisable, so search our listings and find just the right place for your weekend getaway, family stay or extended holiday.

The History of Waiheke

Waiheke Island is the largest and most urbanized of the inner islands of the Hauraki Gulf, with 96kms of coastline and sits 20 km from Auckland. Before subsidence created the Firth of Thames several million years ago, the island was part of the Coromandel Peninsula, 15 km east.

Many headland  remain from Waiheke’s long occupation by the Te Arawa and Hauraki tribes. By the 1890s the beaches and balmy climate had made it a favorite resort. In recent years the development of vineyards, cafes and a fast ferry service has increased the island’s popularity and led to soaring property prices.

Old Waiheke
In 1769 When Captain Cook's Endeavour entered the Hauraki Gulf the island was in the domain of Ngati Paoa. The first Pakeha arrivals were sealers and whalers who stopped on the island for reserves.

During the 1820's the famous Hongi Heke killed most of the inhabitants in a big battle at Onetangi beach. Unsurprisingly, Onetangi means "weeping sands" - and the name Weeping Sands is now the brand name of one of Waiheke's great wines.

By the mid 1850's European settlement of Waiheke was under way and the process of timber clearance began.

Waiheke Island underwent its first major changes of the modern era between the 1960's-1980's. The population grew to over 4,000 residents by the 1980's, though only a small number of commuting workers were left by 1983, compared to 150 regulars in the sixties. Commuting was held back until faster ferries came on stream in 1990. The "back end" was opened for road access in the mid-sixties.

This eastern end had served as the main settlement, meeting the needs of the kauri industry and as a resort for those in transit to and from the Coromandel. In contrast, the now favored west end was primarily Maori land, eventually transferred to European farmers such as Fred Alison, who purchased Matiatia & Oneroa in 1901. In 1922 Alison sold his Oneroa block enabling the subdivision & commercial development of the main village to proceed. 

The Alison's had a major impact on Waiheke's development - Fred's father Alex started the ferry service from small beginnings, using a single-sailed dinghy with a fare of six pence per trip. Alex was 14 years old, a young entrepreneur then, in 1868.
Old Waiheke, in the post-colonial era featured a declining Maori population though the heart remains in Te Huruhi Bay, with Piritahi Marae sitting close to the water. Ngati Paoa are the tangata whenua.  Large kumara gardens once covered the Blackpool area. The former largest Maori settlement was at Church Bay. Maori land holdings are now a large block in the east end.

In 2010 with a resident population exceeding 8,000, large numbers of workers leave the island by ferry daily for their city employment.

The 1878 Post Office is still on site - elevated above the beach at the western side of Woodside Bay. The house is a classic kauri dwelling of the period & has been restored for ongoing use as a dwelling.

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