So close to Auckland, yet a world away, a Waiheke Island day trip is like a mini holiday. Here you will find some of New Zealand’s top vineyards, culinary excellence, unspoilt beaches, adventure opportunities, and historical sites all on a 92 square km subtropical paradise.
With easy 40-minute access by ferry (see below), no wonder it is such a popular destination for Auckland locals and visitors.
There are so many things to do on Waiheke, we have been known to go for days or even a week. However, with limited time or just a need for a break from the city, a Waiheke Island day trip always meets our needs.
Whether you are seeking a day of wine tasting with friends, romantic world-class meals overlooking expansive greenery, a day splashing in the water and building sandcastles with your family, or an adventure ziplining over vineyards, this island will quickly become your secret sanctuary.
Although, the secret is out now as Waiheke has earned worldwide recognition. So impressive is this tiny island that in 2016 it found itself listed amongst the world’s top ten travel regions (Lonely Planet), and more recently in 2021 on the reader’s choice list of the world’s top 30 islands (Conde Nast Traveller).
Photographers are drawn by the expansive views featuring vineyards on lush green hills gently rolling down to pristine beaches.
Table of Contents[Hide][Show]
- Things to do on Waiheke Island
- Waiheke beaches make for a perfect family Waiheke Island day trip
- Discover some of the history at Stony Batter Historic Reserve
- Save time for a walk around Oneroa Village on your Waiheke Island day trip
- Getting to Waiheke Island
- Getting around Waiheke Island
- How will you enjoy a day trip to Waiheke Island?
Note: Always check the official rules regarding New Zealand’s traffic light’ levels. Many options are at reduced capacity, therefore, booking ahead is more important than ever, as is reading cancellation policies.
Things to do on Waiheke Island
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While we often combine a bit of everything when we head out on a Waiheke Island day trip, for easy reference we have divided our list of things to do in Waiheke into five categories as follows:
- Wine and dine
- Sporting adventure
- Relaxing beach time
- Historical discovery
- Hanging around town
Wine and dine on your Waiheke Island day trip
Wine tastings and tours are one of the top reasons people take a Waiheke Island day trip.
After all, the region is well known for producing some of the country’s best wines. With about 30 wineries and vineyards to choose from, you are sure to find a new favourite wine. We recommend choosing a mix of both well-known and lesser-known labels.
You can just rock up to most of the vineyards, locate their tasting room, and be impressed by both the knowledge and passion of the sommelier as well as the rich round flavours of the varieties on offer.
However, if you want the advantage of a designated driver and someone to guide you at the wineries, check out one of these top-rated tours (note that ferry transport is not included on any of these tours):
- Premium Full-Day Waiheke Wine Tour: Spend the day with top rated Enjoi Waiheke and visit 3-4 wineries, each offering 3-5 complimentary tastings. You will travel via luxury airconditioned shuttle. Pick up and optional drop off at the Mataiatia ferry terminal. Check for discounts on this full day tour.
- Waiheke Double Decker Bus Wine Tour: Visits 2 wineries each offering four tastings. Travel is on Daisy, Robbie’s fun bus, an authentic double-decker bus brought over from London. There will be time for a self-hosted lunch in Oneroa Beach. Pick up and optional drop off at the ferry terminal in Mataiatia. Click to check for discounts on the Double Decker bus tour
- Waiheke Island Premium Food & Wine Tour: This one is more than just wine tasting , it visits 3 boutique vineyards, samples fresh Waiheke oysters, and treats you to a vineyard platter lunch. Click for price and reviews
- Self-guided hop-on-hop-off bus tour: With many of the 19 key island stops being Waiheke Island vineyards, the hop-on-hop-off bus is another great way to get around without having to drive. Click for price and reviews on Viator or check for a discount on the hop-on bus with the return ferry ticket.
Enjoy a meal
There are plenty of impressive restaurants on Waiheke, and we certainly have not come close to trying them all. But amongst what we have tried, Casita Miro is our favourite and the one we tend to return to rather than trying somewhere new.
Located on the Miro Estate, Casita Miro features some of the best Spanish food we have had since our living in Costa Brava, Spain on a long term home exchange.
Sample some olive oil
It’s not just grapes that grow well here. In fact, Waiheke Island also grows and produces world-renowned olive oil. You can visit and sample at several olive oil mills such as:
- Matiatia Grove
- Azzuro Epicurean
- Rangioua Estate
- TROG (Totara Road Olive Grove)
Have an adventurous day trip to Waiheke Island
Zipline over the vineyards
EcoZip Waiheke will pump your adrenaline as you fly over vineyards on a zipline, enjoying both the thrill of speed and the impressive 360° views. You will travel across three ziplines, each over 200m in length. Best of all, the dual ziplines allow sharing the fun alongside a friend.
All safety gear and a briefing are provided. The 1.5km return to base just adds to the fun, with a guided hike through the regenerating native rainforest. Click here to check for Ecozip discount price
Test your skills in clay shooting or archery
If you are looking for something a bit different, check out Wild on Waiheke. Here, you can shoot archery amongst the vines, or try your hand at laser clay-bird shooting. Plus, there are several free-to-use games like giant chess, noughts & crosses, petanque, and a trampoline. It’s also home to Waiheke Island Brewery, the Wild Estate Vineyard, and a restaurant.
Get on the water
With crystal clear waters, Waiheke Island is the perfect place to try out stand-up paddleboarding or to give kayaking a go. There are equipment rental spots on various beaches.
Ride a Segway
Here’s your chance to ride off into the sunset on a Segway. A two-hour adventure through lush native bush and coastal views ends with a sunset over Cable Bay and Mudbrick vineyards.
Click here for Segway tour price and reviews
Horse riding Waiheke
If you want to enjoy vast island views from the vantage point of horseback, check out this option.
Waiheke beaches make for a perfect family Waiheke Island day trip
Pristine and unspoilt, there are many beaches surrounding this subtropical paradise. Best of all, the many inlets usually make finding a protected beach a possibility, even on a windy day.
Depending on our goal (relaxing, romantic, kids, water sports, or fishing), we have a few favourite beaches, although we have never made a bad choice.
If you only have time for one beach, and you want a mix of it all, head to the calm blue waters and white sand of Oneroa Beach. A well-protected anchorage from the prevailing winds, it’s popular with visitors arriving via private boat, those arriving via ferry, and locals.
Discover some of the history at Stony Batter Historic Reserve
History buffs are fascinated by the remains of a World War II Counter Bombardment Heavy Coast Defence Battery at Man O’War Bay.
We visited Stony Batter years ago when the public was still permitted to enter the series of underground tunnels and concrete chambers and view the three gun emplacements. Read more on the history here.
Save time for a walk around Oneroa Village on your Waiheke Island day trip
Before heading back to the ferry, we stop in Oneroa Village. An artesian village, we like to pop into a few of the specialty stores, and usually end up bringing home something new that has been created by one of the talented locals.
When we have a car, and when we are staying multiple days on the island, we also make our way to Ostend or Surfdale for more local shopping. And, if it’s Saturday morning, we head to the Ostend Market.
Oneroa village is filled with interesting artwork and sculpture, and we seem to find new pieces on each visit. Our final stop, if we haven’t already been, is Island Gelato, located in a converted container.
Getting to Waiheke Island
Located in the Hauraki Gulf, Waiheke Island is an approximately 40-minute ferry ride from Auckland CBD.
Unless you have a helicopter, you will need to take some type of boat to get to Waiheke Island. The three main options are:
Passenger ferry to Waiheke: Easy walk on and walk off, the 40-minute Auckland to Waiheke ferry is the most popular way to get to the island, and with this link, you can often get discount ferry tickets. Passengers can also board the ferry in Devonport.
Car ferry to Waiheke Island: If you want to self-drive on the island, you can either hire a car or bring your own on the car ferry. We have done both. Catch the vehicle ferry from either Wynyard Quarter or Half Moon Bay. There are often discounts available depending on the day and time of your sailing. Check for discount options for the car ferry from Half Moon Bay or the car ferry from Wynard Quarter.
Private boat to Waiheke: With protected inlets all around the island, it’s very popular with recreational yachts. When it’s windy, we simply sail around to a different anchorage.
Getting around Waiheke Island
Narrow and windy roads often find tourists driving slower than the locals. This is often an inconvenience for everyone, as the slower traffic annoys locals while the fast traffic is nerve-wracking to visitors.
That said, it wasn’t bad enough to scare us away and we have both hired a car and brought our own on different visits. We have also taken anchorage, thus being on foot in different parts of the island.
Remember: Always give way to sheep crossing the road.
Regardless of how you get to the island, here are the key options for getting around Waiheke:
- Self-drive – Either arrive via the vehicle ferry with your own car, or hire one once you arrive.
- Scooter – If this is your thing, check for discount scooter rentals on certain days.
- Electric or mountain bike – So you know what you are getting into here, think windy and narrow roads often shared with vehicles. Cycling options include hiring and e-bike (check for discounts), or heading off-road with a mountain bike (check for discounts).
- Taxi – There are usually several taxis waiting at Matiatia Bay where the passenger ferry arrives.
- Public bus – The public bus will take you around the island, and there is a daily fare cap of $20 if you have an AT Hop Card.
- Hop-on Hop-off bus – If you’re visiting on the weekend (Friday to Sunday) you can customize your day with any of the 16 stops on this hop-on-hop-off bus. It includes key vineyards and beaches.
Click for hop-on bus tickets or check out the combined ticket that includes both the passenger ferry and the bus.
- Take a tour: See above.
If wine tasting is your primary goal, we recommend either a designated driver for the day, the public bus, the hop-on-hop-off bus, taxis, or taking one of the many wine tasting tours available on the island.
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Or, until Sept 30, 2022, don’t miss Booking.com’s Getaway 2022 Deals that save 15% or more on selected accommodations. (T&Cs apply)
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Find more money-saving resources and T&Cs on some of the above, check our Travel Resources page.
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How will you enjoy a day trip to Waiheke Island?
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