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.
Things to do on Waiheke Island day trip
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 a luxury air-conditioned shuttle. Pick up and optional drop off at the Mataiatia ferry terminal. Reserve your full-day tour here.
- 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. Reserve your (discounted) Double Decker bus tour here.
- Waiheke Island Premium Food & Wine Tour: This one is more than just wine tasting, it visits three boutique vineyards, samples fresh Waiheke oysters, and treats you to a vineyard platter lunch. Reserve your premium food and wine tour here.
- 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. See “Getting around” for details.
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
- Rangihoua Estate
- TROG (Totara Road Olive Grove)
Have an adventurous Waiheke Island day trip
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. This link often has discounts for Ecozip.
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 among 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.
Reserve your Segway tour here.
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.
- 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. Reserve the hop-on-hop-off bus only here or check for a discount on the hop-on bus with the return ferry ticket.
- Take a tour: See above.
Save on your NZ trip with these resources
We usually start with aggregator companies as they do the work for us by providing a list of options, prices, and reviews. However, we also added a few personal NZ favourites:
- Flights: we use Expedia for the best and cheapest flight options.
- Hotels: we use Booking.com as they consistently return the best rates and their reviews are from actual guests. However, for self-contained lodging in New Zealand, we use Bookabach.
- Cars and Campervans: we use RentalCars to find the best deals and dealer ratings. Use Jucy for small campervans.
- Activity discounts: we always check Bookme.com for discounts of up to 70% on selected tours, activities, restaurants and more.
- Travel Insurance: we start at InsureMyTrip as they are the best option to compare plans and find the right coverage for you.
Before you book the rest of your trip: Check out our travel resources page for more companies that we use when you travel.
We believe this list to be the best in each category. You can’t go wrong using them on your trip too.
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How will you enjoy your Waiheke Island day trip?
More from Auckland you might also like … starting with these 75 free and nearly free things to do in the city
Thanks for sharing your wonderful experience with us. Loved your blog!
You know, I would love to go ziplining but $119 in a very short time is a waste to me. The beach sound better for me. Have a great day Rhonda.
I’d definitely be trying out the ziplining! Oneroa looks lovely too.
I’m so afraid of heights and would definitley skip zip lining, but clay shooting sounds like fun! I also am a huge of wine tastings, so I wouldn’t mind going to Waiheke Island just for the wine tours.
I’ve always wanted to visit New Zealand but I’d never heard of Waiheke Island! It looks incredible, the beaches, stand up paddle-boarding and the wine tour! Wow!
Looks like a great place to go for a day trip or a weekend getaway. My list of things to see in New Zealand keeps getting longer and longer.
Historical discovery would feature first in my list. It must be thrilling to visit the underground tunnels and concrete chambers and view the 3 gun emplacements. Thanks for the tips on how to get to Waiheke Island and the tips on how to get around Waiheke.
WOW! It all sounds so amazing, I would have trouble deciding what to do haha!
This looks so beautiful! Wine tasting on an island seems like the perfect way to relax. I really want to visit NZ someday!
I simply love versatile places, this would be a spot I’d pick to stay a couple of days and from there do and see all that is on offer. Lovely!
We missed this trip when we were in Auckland, but looking back, it seems so perfect for a day. So close and so different from the big city. Wine country and beaches always delight.
So many fascinating possibilities for the traveler to NZ! Lovely!
Ah, wineries, culinary delights and unspoiled beaches! What can be better? I’ve never heard of Waiheke Island, so thanks for letting me know about it. Like always, your post provides a lot of detailed information on things to do on the island, as well as practical information for accommodations and transportation. I’d love to paddle board there, the water seems very calm. Another beautiful spot to add to my long bucket list!
Linda (LD Holland)
It looks like we will definitely have to plan a visit to Waiheke Island when we finally get planning for New Zealand. A place with award-winning wine and food would certainly be a great reason to visit. I like the idea of a bus tour or premium tour with food. But with fun adventures and beaches too, we might want to plan for a longer stay. Good to know there are some AirBNB options.
L. Diane Wolfe
That’s a lot for one small island.
This post makes me miss New Zealand so much! Sadly, I wasn’t able to visit any wineries when I was there. I can’t wait to go back and explore more.
Alex J. Cavanaugh
Ziplining over a winery would be really cool.
I would love to go paddle boarding and then wine tasting. Sounds lovely! And I would make someone else drive!
I always love an island. I’ll have to check it out when I go back to NZ. Wine tasting and beaches I’d try out.
Such a cool island with so much to do – art, history, beaches, wine, food…would love to visit!
I’d never heard of Waiheke Island before but have now added it to my bucketlist. This post is so helpful- I’d especially love to check out the beach
Woww, such an awe post. You have covered everything that I don’t have to look further. New Zealand is in my bucket list and I have saved this post for my future travel to NZ. Thanks for sharing this.
I think this island has everything! But you had me at the beaches and vineyard! I’d love to travel to New Zealand soon
I love both beaches and vineyards so you’e got me hooked! Waiheke Island is a new destination to add to my travel list becuase it looks amazing. I would love to walk Stony Batter, the views are stunning!
Never heard of this place but looks amazing! Will Pin for my next NZ trip.
I love the idea of dual zip lines over the vineyard! Adding this to my NZ bucket list!
I remember going to Waiheke Island on my trip to New Zealand and it was one of the highlights of my Auckland stay. I didn’t do half the fun activities you mentioned since I was a young traveler on a budget but spent the day on the beaches and walking around the island. I’d love to go back now and try some of these things including getting some nice food and wine
Wow what a great place to go for a day trip! I’ve never heard of it but it looks amazing!