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A little oasis of calm, Waiheke Island in New Zealand is a bohemian bliss with heaps of fun things to do. It is only a short ferry ride away which makes it the perfect day trip from Auckland.
In short – we LOVE Waiheke Island and we visited several times when we lived in Auckland. Whether it be the boutique wineries, beautiful sandy beaches, rolling green hills or the charming coastal walks, we always found something to do when visiting (mainly the wineries to be honest!).
Here is our list of things to do in our ultimate guide to Waiheke Island!
Fun fact – The Māori name for Waiheke Island is Motu-Wai-Heke, which means “island of trickling water”
Table of Contents
Best time to visit Waiheke Island
Waiheke Island is great to visit any time as it has warm temperatures all year round. The summer months (November – March) are peak tourist season and a wonderful time of year to visit with minimal rainfall and warm summer nights (which are perfect for alfresco sunset drinking).
We recommend visiting Waiheke Island on a weekday rather than a weekend as you will find the ferries, wineries and beaches a lot quieter.
Note: a lot of wineries close around 4pm, so make sure you arrive at Waiheke Island early enough to enjoy them if you are just visiting for the day.
How long should you stay on Waiheke Island?
Waiheke Island is a very easy day trip from Auckland, but if you have more time we would recommend staying at least a night or two as there are so many things to do, plus there are plenty of hotel options to suit all budgets across the island. We have listed lots of accommodation recommendations towards the end of this blog post – click here to skip to this section.
How to get to Waiheke Island guide
Travelling by passenger only ferry is the most popular and cheapest way to reach Waiheke Island. The ferry takes you from downtown Auckland (Quay Street) to Waiheke Island’s Matiatia ferry terminal in just 40 minutes, costing around $42 NZD for a round trip ticket. The ferries are fairly large (holding about 650 passengers at a time) and run pretty regularly, departing every 30 minutes from around 6am to 11.45pm on weekdays – click here for the Fuller’s ferry timetable.
Note: we recommend booking your ferry tickets in advance if you are visiting Waiheke during busy times such as weekends and public holidays. We advise boarding the ferry as early as possible to avoid waiting in long queues.
The Fuller’s website offers wine and activity tour packages that include a return ferry ticket and transportation around the island. Click here to view the tour options.
Sealink car ferry
If you want to take your car over to Waiheke Island then the Sealink car ferry departs from either Half Moon Bay in East Auckland or Wynyard Wharf in Auckland City and takes you to Kennedy Point on Waiheke Island. One vehicle with two adults costs around $250 NZD for a return trip – you may however find it is much cheaper to rent a car for the day once you arrive on Waiheke Island. Click here for the Sealink ferry timetable.
Helicopter or Seaplane
If you have the cash to splash then why not treat yourself to a scenic seaplane or helicopter flight to Waiheke island? You’ll take in amazing views of the Hauraki Gulf Islands and the 800 year-old volcanic Rangitoto Island.
Arriving at Waiheke Island
If you are travelling by passenger ferry you will arrive at Matiatia ferry terminal. Here you can buy bus tickets, top up your Auckland Transport HOP card, sort out your hire car and pick up maps and brochures from the visitor centre / i-SITE.
How to get around Waiheke Island guide
You can pre-book a group wine tour online which includes a transportation on the island and sometimes a roundtrip ferry ride. This is a great option if you have just one day to explore the island, or if you have limited mobility.
You can find affordable tours on Fullers and GetYourGuide, or the discount website bookme.co.nz usually has a few reduced-price wine tours. Ananda Tours run very highly rated food and wine tours which are slightly more expensive, but the group sizes are a lot smaller than the cheaper ones.
The Waiheke Bus Company operates a network of public buses that are very reliable and can drop you off within walking distance of many wineries and beaches. You can purchase an all day bus pass from the ferry ticket office in Auckland or Waiheke and on-board the ferries for $10 (adult), $26 (family), $6 (child), or you can use your pre-loaded Auckland Transport HOP card if you have one.
There are four separate bus routes which all start outside Matiatia ferry terminal (buses are scheduled to meet ferries arriving and departing). Click here for the Waiheke Island bus schedule and the Waiheke Island bus network map.
Note: a handful of the bus drivers in Waiheke Island are super cranky, so only ring the bus bell if you are 100% sure you want to get off at that stop, or you will witness them having a total meltdown (we have witnessed this on two separate occasions!)
Hop-on hop-off bus
A fairly new addition to Waiheke Island, the hop-on hop-off bus allows you to jump off at 17 different locations around the island, or if you prefer, you can stay on board and enjoy a 1.5 hour scenic tour with commentary. Tour only prices start at $48, and package fares starting from $68 include a return ferry ticket from downtown Auckland. Click here to book your hop-on hop-off bus ticket.
There are a handful of taxi operators running on the island which you can call to pick you up, plus there is a taxi stand outside Matiatia ferry terminal. Note: Uber does not currently operate on Waiheke Island but Ryda taxis do.
Rent a car or scooter
Renting a car or scooter on the island gives you an advantage of being able to venture to parts of the island that the buses and tours do not go to. Click here for a list of rental companies.
Oneroa Village is a relaxed town and most likely your first stop on the island if arriving by passenger ferry (it’s a 5 minute drive from Matiatia ferry terminal). The village is located next to Oneroa beach and it’s main street is filled with independant boutique shops, art galleries, cafes and restaurants.
As Oneroa Village is so close to the ferry terminal, it is a great place to start and end your day in Waiheke Island. Arrive early and you’ll find several cafes open for breakfast, try Solar Eating House for sweeping views of Oneroa Bay and great food and coffee.
If you want to purchase some picnic items for the beach or for your self catering accomodation, then Oneroa has a small branch of Fourquare supermarket, plus an amazing gourmet food store called The Island Grocer. If you want something sweet, Island Gelato Company has a great range of delicious ice creams and is located in a converted shipping container.
FURTHER READING – the 10 best day trips from Auckland
Waiheke Island beaches
Waiheke has 80 miles of coastline and is well known for its gorgeous pristine beaches and turquoise-blue waters. The island has a warm microclimate which makes it an ideal spot for swimming!
Here are some beaches that are very popular and also accessible by public bus:
This golden crescent of sand is a very popular beach as it is just a short walk from Waiheke Island’s busiest village. It is also an excellent swimming spot and has a large grass area with BBQ facilities.
Little Oneroa Beach
Located a bit further down from Oneroa beach, Little Oneroa beach is a much smaller, but picturesque bay. It is great for swimming. and there are plenty of beachside facilities here such as free BBQ’s, a children’s playground, a convenience store, a woodfired pizza van and a fish and chip shop.
Palm Beach is one of our favourite beaches on Waiheke Island with pristine golden sand, palm trees and clear turquoise waters. The waters are safe for swimming, and there is a beach store and cafe nearby.
Note: the far western end of Palm Beach is frequently used for nudey swimming and sunbathing!! You have been warned!
Onetangi is the island’s biggest beach and is a beautiful 2.5 km stretch of white sand. It is a great walking beach and another good spot for swimming. There are two beachfront restaurants at the water’s edge, and Obsidian and Casita Miro vineyards are just a short walk away.
Other great beaches worth a visit if you have more time include:
- Shelly Beach
- Enclosure Bay
- Sandy Bay
- Man O’War Bay
Wining and dining at Waiheke Island’s wineries
Waiheke (or Wine-heke) is known as New Zealand’s “island of wine”, with around 30 wineries and cellar doors. Waiheke produces some of the country’s best wines, as it has a favorable soil structure and unique micro-climate that allows for a long growing season. Most of the wineries can be visited for tastings and tours, and many have award winning restaurants with menus to complement their wines. Some of the venues are so spectacular that they are hired out for weddings!
Our top 3 favourite Waiheke Vineyards to visit are:
Mudbrick Restaurant and Vineyard
Mudbrick Vineyard is super pretty and has been described as one of the romantic places in the world! This Italian-inspired rustic winery is surrounded by perfectly manicured gardens and perched on a hill with panoramic views of the sea, vineyards and Auckland’s downtown skyline. Wine tastings are available from the cellar door everyday and the restaurant features a menu with fresh seafood and New Zealand lamb. If you are are lucky enough to be arriving by helicopter then Mudbrick has it’s very own landing pad…fancy!
Wild on Waiheke
Wild on Waiheke has a relaxing and casual atmosphere combining a vineyard, a craft brewery and archery/clay bird shooting! We recommend ordering their tasting trays of wine or beer and epic antipasti tasting platters, plus ensure you arrive early to claim a comfy bean bag on the lawn!
Cable Bay Vineyards
Cable Bay has breathtaking views of downtown Auckland’s skyline and the Hauraki Gulf from it’s grassy slope. There are two-award winning restaurants on-site and an outdoor lounge where bean bags are strewn across the lawn. Cable Bay is located a brisk 20 minute walk from Oneroa Village so it can easily be visited if you have limited time on the island.
Other excellent wineries on Waiheke Island
One of New Zealand’s most respected wineries is nestled amongst olive trees and vines. Tours of the cellar, vineyard and own olive grove are available on weekends and lunches are available at the Veranda Café.
Te Motu Vineyard
One of the oldest wineries in Waiheke Island with a five-star restaurant. Their outdoor deck has amazing views overlooking the Onetangi Valley. Advanced booking is recommended.
One of the newest winery’s on the island (founded in 2013), with beautifully landscaped gardens, a restaurant, a brewery and award winning wines and architecture! Advanced booking is again recommended.
Man O’ War Vineyard
Beauitful winery in a spectacular coastal location. The restaurant serves amazing lunch platters and wine tastings are complimentary at their beach-front cellar door. This winery is a little isolated and located on the east coast of the island so you will need your own car to get there (or take a taxi).
Obsidian is a relaxed winery nestled in the coastal hills of Onetangi. Tastings are done in an amphitheater setting amongst the vines, and their Syrahs are voted as some of the best on the island.
Waiheke Island walks guide
Waiheke Island offers a number of native bush and scenic coastal walks lasting from around 30 to 90 minutes.
One of our favourite walks is the Matiatia Headland Path which takes around 90 minutes to complete. During our last visit we timed it with evening golden hour and the light over Matiatia Harbour, Church Bay and Park Point was beautiful.
Here is a list (with links to maps) of a few of the many walks on Waiheke Island:
- Oneroa Art Path (30 minutes)
- Matiatia to Oneroa Forest Path (40 minutes)
- Onetangi Beach Path (40 minutes)
- Esplanade Path (60 minutes)
- Palm Beach Lookout Path (60 minutes)
- Okahuiti Path (60 minutes)
- Fishermans Rock Path (60 minutes)
- McKenzie Reserve Path (60 minutes)
Other fun things to do on Waiheke Island
For the ultimate adrenaline rush, choose from three flying fox ziplines across vineyards and native forest. Click here to book
Waiheke Horse Tours
Sightseeing horse treks suitable for beginners through to experts. Starting from Te Makutu Bay you will ride across marine and bush reserves. Click here to book
Electric Fat Bike tours
Explore the island’s beaches whilst riding electric fat bikes – ride off-road trails and native bush tracks amongst stunning scenery. Click here to book
Sea kayaking and paddle boarding
Explore the beautiful waters surrounding Waiheke Island from a sea kayak or stand-up-paddle board. Click here to book
Connells Bay sculpture park
Giant sculptures by New Zealand artists are showcased here – you will need to book a guided tour to view them though. Click here to book
Waiheke Community Cinema
This quirky 50 seat venue is filled with comfy sofas donated by the community, and shows a mix of new and cult classic films. Click here to view the showtimes
The Botanical Distillery
Located at Batch Winery, Botanical Distillery holds events that allows visitors to create their own bespoke gin, which will be distilled for you during the experience. Click here to book
Olive oil tasting
Rangihoua Estate is a gorgeous boutique venue which is open daily for free tastings and tours of the estate. Sample award-winning extra virgin oil in their lovely gardens surrounded by olive groves. Click here to book
FURTHER READING – The ultimate New Zealand bucket list: top 50 things to do
Where to eat in Waiheke Island guide
Waiheke is the ultimate culinary destination with some great seafood dining (don’t leave the island without trying the local Te Mataku oysters!).
Many of the wineries on Waiheke Island have a restaurant onsite (some award winning), but a lot of them close late afternoon around 4-5pm. So if you are looking for somewhere else to eat then there are a variety of great restaurants and cafes dotted around the island. Here are some dining recommendations for all budgets:
Waiheke Island cheap eats guide
This wood-fired food truck is located in a car park right by Little Oneroa beach and serves a variety of really tasty pizzas, calzones and pocket breads. If it is a lovely warm summer’s evening, we recommend taking your food to the beach with a bottle of Kiwi wine to enjoy the sunset (you can thank us later!) Dragonfired is open everyday in the summer and Friday-Sunday during the winter months.
Little Oneroa Takeaways
This take-away joint is also located by Little Oneroa Beach and sells very cheap fish and chips meals and other battered seafood items. This place is always popular with locals so expect queues.
Too Fat Buns
This small burger restaurant serves up some really great tasting burgers and is located only a few minutes walk from Oneroa beach. The menu is nice and simple with chicken, beef or veggie options (gluten free buns available), and side dishes of hot chips, spicy chicken wings and malt shakes. Open Wednesday – Sunday.
Mid priced – expensive eats
Beach front bar serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus a variety of fun cocktails located in Onetangi beach.
Very popular seafood restaurant in Oneroa Village with sea views from it’s large balcony. It is also a boutique hotel and sometimes a gig venue.
Beautiful Spanish influenced restaurant in Onetangi, with a menu featuring tapas, homemade focaccia bread and fine Iberian meats and cheeses, plus an excellent range of Spanish sherry. Advanced booking recommended.
Excellent Italian food and wood fired pizzas in Oneroa Village. Takeaway available.
Family-owned Italian restaurant and winery in a stunning hillside location. Well known for its Sunday long lunch. Advanced booking recommended.
Waiheke Island accommodation guide
Waiheke Island has a variety of accommodation options – boutique hotels, vineyard stays and backpackers, there is something to suit all budgets! The island has mantained it’s charm by not allowing big hotel chains to build here.
During our last stay on Waiheke island in March 2019 we stayed at The Courtyard – a boutique studio stay with private patio, just 5 minutes walk from Little Oneroa beach and 3 minutes walk from Blackpool beach. The host Jilly was extremely warm and welcoming, and had the cutest dog called Felix. We would highly recommend staying here if you are on a mid range budget! Check out prices and availability for The Courtyard.
Other highly rated accommodation options on Waiheke Island
Black Bird Boutique – stylish adult only apartments with sea views. Located a 10-minute walk from Oneroa village. Check out prices and availability for Black Bird Boutique.
Vista del Mare – 1 bedroom apartments with a terrace and views of the Hauraki Gulf. Located in Onetangi. Check out prices and availability for Vista del Mare.
Oneroa Secret Garden Apartments – self catering studio accommodation with private balcony and BBQ. Located just a 12 minute walk from Oneroa Beach. Check out prices and availability for Oneroa Secret Garden Apartments.
Cable Bay Views – studio apartments, a 2-bedroom Lodge and a 5-bedroom House. Located a 5 minute walk from Cable Bay Vineyard and Mudbrick Restaurant and Vineyard. Check out prices and availability for Cable Bay Views.
Te Whau Lodge – stunning luxury suites with private balconies and spectacular panoramic views of the Hauraki Gulf. Check out prices and availability for Te Whau Lodge.
Delamore Lodge – luxury 5-star accommodation – each suite has floor-to-ceiling windows and a private patio. The lodge’s courtyard features a tropical infinity pool with waterfall, a cave-like spa pool and a sauna, plus the hotel has it’s own wine cellar. Check out prices and availability for Delamore Lodge.
Mid range – budget accomodation options
Fossil Bay Lodge – small lodge offering boutique accommodation and glamping. Close to Oneroa Village. Check out prices and availability for Fossil Bay Lodge.
Guesthouse On Queens – 1 bedroom apartments with a garden and a terrace. Check out prices and availability for Guesthouse On Queens.
Onetangi Beach Apartments – self-contained apartments with a private deck or balcony. Facilities include 2 spa-pools and beachfront BBQs. Check out prices and availability for Onetangi Beach Apartments.
Kiwi House Waiheke – bed and breakfast with a shared lounge, kitchen and garden, plus a BBQ and outdoor terrace. Walking distance to Little Oneroa beach. Check out prices and availability for Kiwi House Waiheke.
Waiheke Backpackers Hostel – hostel located above Onetangi Beach, with a BBQ deck and a huge lawn overlooking the ocean. Check out prices and availability for Waiheke Backpackers Hostel.
Note: we once stayed at Hekerua Lodge Backpackers and would not recommend it after a bloody awful stay there in 2016.
Camping is available at Poukaraka Flats in Whakanewha Regional Park and costs $16 per night per person. Click here to book your camping spot.
Festivals and events on Waiheke Island guide
There are several events held throughout the year, here are a selection of the most popular ones!
Sculpture on the Gulf
This coastal art exhibition is held every 2 years in summer along the Matiatia Headland Path walk (the next one is scheduled for 2022).
Flamingo Pier festival
One-day music festival held at the Rangihoua Olive Grove every February. Live acts and DJs play across an open-air stage and a second dance floor hidden under the forest canopy.
Onetangi Beach Races
Family fun day out where horses, tractors, kids carts and sealegs charge down Onetangi beach! This iconic event has been running for over 100 years and is held in February every year.
Waiheke Jazz Festival
Iconic jazz, art and music festival held every Easter. Line up includes local and international stars with jazz concerts, DJs, bands, performance art, exhibitions, painting workshops and food and drink.
Waiheke Walking Festival
An event hosting 10 days of free guided walks. Walk alongside experts talking about history, wine, olives, conservation and everything Waiheke. Held every year in November.
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