Wine tasting with friends is always a good day out. And if the day includes Waiheke wineries, it’s like a fairytale complete with a boat, rolling green pastures, aromatic flavours, companionship, and of course, a bit of wine.
Situated in the Auckland region of New Zealand, on the Hauraki Gulf, Waiheke Island is a subtropical paradise dotted with award-winning vineyards and surrounded by pristine beaches.
I know that most people go wine tasting for the wine. But not everyone. Some of us go more for the ambience, the laughter, and often the food that accompanies the selections. For me, wine is secondary, although still important.
However, with so many award-winning vineyards to choose from, and a pallet that isn’t all that discerning, I am there for the entire experience.
And nowhere does this better than Waiheke. Each winery has its own personality, and each experience is unique. Of course, I learn about grapes, wines, and the process, as that’s part of the fun.
Why are Waikehe wineries a perfect day out with friends?
Waiheke Island is an easy 40-minute ferry ride from Auckland in a microclimate idyllically suited for vineyards. As a result, Waiheke wineries produce award-winning and world-class wines that draw visitors and locals to this tiny paradise.
A Meditteranean-type climate, olive groves complement the grape-growing efforts and a typical day of Waiheke wine tasting often include a stop for some olive oil.
And that’s not all. The green rolling hills, surrounded by sparkling blue seas lined by pristine white sand beaches, create a picture-perfect environment. Waiheke is nicknamed the Island of Wine for good reason.
This small island is home to about 30 Waiheke wineries plus vineyards, fine dining restaurants, and olive growers.
Whether you’re after a romantic getaway, a weekend with friends, or just an easy day trip from Auckland, if it includes wine tasting, read on to discover your ideal winery and tour options if that’s what you choose.
Whatever our motivation, we always have fun and enjoy our exploration of Waiheke Island wine. And we are not alone. In 2016, both Conde Naste Traveler and Lonely Planet included Waiheke Island on their top destination lists.
Our favourite Waiheke wineries
Waiheke Island is one of the three main wine-growing regions in Auckland. It’s best known for award-winning red wines and blends, specifically Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah, alongside producing world-class Chardonnay.
While each of the Waiheke wineries offers something different, we have yet to visit them all, although we already have a few favourites.
- Note that there is generally a fee for wine tastings in New Zealand. In fact, on Waiheke, we have yet to come across a winery that offered them complimentary. We have seen fees ranging from $3 – $50 per person.
- When arriving at a winery, look for the ‘Cellar Door’, as this is usually where the wine tastings take place.
80 Onetangi Road
Famous for using traditional winemaking methods, Stoneyridge produces world-class Bordeaux-style cabernet blends. The Mediterranean influence resonates from the vine-covered buildings and throughout the grounds.
Relaxing at the Veranda Cafe is like a romantic visit to the South of France, without a long flight.
On our first visit here (2016), we got lucky and arrived only hours before Quentin Tarantino. As his visit was not a surprise to the vineyard owner, the place was immaculate. (Tarantino was visiting Waiheke Island and New Zealand.)
We are pleased to say it looked just as fabulous on subsequent visits, even without the famous people around.
Stonyridge offers multiple wine-tasting options depending on your group size. Open from 11.30 am, a variety of wines are available, as well as vineyard tours. No bookings are required.
Wild on Waiheke
82 Onetangi Road
It’s right next door to Stonyridge, yet a completely different ambience. Wild on Waiheke is casual, fun, and an adventure mecca offering unique experiences, which we recommend allocating some time to enjoy. Here, you can try laser clay bird shooting, archery in the vineyards, or even wild tag (a game reminiscent of a LARP battle).
Or, grab a pizza and enjoy some giant chess or other free games while your kids bounce on the trampoline or enjoy the playground. It’s home to Wild Estate Vineyard and Waiheke Island Brewery.
Wild on Waiheke can be the least expensive of the wine tastings we found, as you can sample by the variety rather than a complete flight of their range. Open Wednesday to Sunday with varying hours.
Miro Vineyard and Casita Miro Restaurant on the Bond Estate
3 Brown Road, Onetangi
The Miro vineyard, producing Bond Estate wines, has a beautiful location with vines leading down towards sweeping sea views.
However, in addition to their outstanding wines, it is the Spanish flavours dominating the tapas at their Casita Miro restaurant that have me returning on every trip to Waiheke. Taking me straight back to our long-term home exchange living in Costa Brava Spain, to me, the perfect flavours make the trip to Waiheke worthwhile.
The incredible views and well-paired wine is part of the attention to every detail seen clearly in the Gaudi and Dali influenced mosaics alongside the steps to the tasting area. While we personally haven’t done the tasting, it’s available Thursday to Monday from 11.30 am to 3:30 pm.
If I only had time to visit one of the Waiheke Island wineries, Miro Vineyards would be it.
22 Te Makiri Road, Onetangi
An outdoor and more casual cellar door than some of the others, but they did have huge pieces of obsidian (an igneous rock) right there on the table.
The opportunity to be right there, surrounded by their vineyards and next to a wetland, made it a great choice to add to our day.
Obsidian has been called “One of the happiest wineries to visit” by Metro Magazine.
The wine tastings are available Thursday to Sunday from 11 am to 5 pm.
Cable Bay Vineyards
12 Nick Johnstone Drive, Oneroa
This is the place to go for that expansive view for which the island is famous.
Relax in a huge bean bag chair on the outdoor lawn, or sit in the dining room while you sip award-winning wine and admire impressive views of the Hauraki Gulf.
Cable Bay is my happy place.
Wine tasting is available Wednesday to Sunday from 11 am to 5 pm.
Jurassic Ridge Vineyard and Winery
144 Church Bay Road, Oneroa
Unfortunately, we arrived here only 30 minutes before the last ferry was leaving and we still had to return the car. A quick look around and we learned that the large rocks throughout were found in the 155 million-year-old Jurassic mountain ridge beneath the vineyard.
They offer ‘natural wine’ and the owner is happy to explain what this means. It’s top of my list for our next visit.
Tastings are generally 11 am to 1 pm and 2 pm to 6 pm, but require you to call at least 30 minutes ahead to schedule.
Waiheke Vineyards scheduled for our next visit
- Kennedy Point Vineyards, Surfdale
This is one that we haven’t visited yet, but feel it is worth mentioning, as Kennedy Point is Waiheke’s only certified organic vineyard.
- Mudbrick Vineyard, Oneroa
Another well-known vineyard close to the ferry terminal and offers spectacular views, but unfortunately, it’s not on the public bus route.
- Man O’War, Eastern End
Located on the other side of the island, it offers a beachfront cellar door in an 18th-century style villa. We have heard it’s worth the drive time.
Waiheke wineries: wine tasting tours
Waiheke wine tasting tours are a great way to enjoy the wineries while someone else does all the work. Having a guide generally adds both knowledge and fun to the day, while having a driver while drinking is just good sense.
Tours are perfect for people who want a bit more. However, tours are the most expensive option and offer a preselected Waiheke wineries destination list. We have included some of the top-rated tours below.
- Premium Full-Day Waiheke Wine Tour: This top-rated tour samples wines at 3-4 wineries. Transportation in an air-conditioned luxury shuttle. Lunch incurs extra cost. Reserve your often discounted full-day tour here
- Waiheke Double Decker Bus Wine Tour: A more casual tour on an authentic double-decker bus from London, this one features tastings at two wineries: Cable Bay and Mudbrick Vineyards. Lunch is an extra cost. Reserve your often discounted double-decker bus wine tour here
- Waiheke Island Premium Food & Wine Tour: If you want more than just wine tasting, this may be the perfect choice for you. It samples wines at three vineyards and olive oil from an award-winning mill. It also includes a vineyard platter lunch. Reserve your premium food and wine tour here
- Self-guided hop-on-hop-off bus tour: With many of the 16 key island stops being Waiheke Island vineyards, the hop-on-hop-off bus is another great way to get around without having to drive. Reserve your hop-on-hop-off bus here
Final thoughts on Waiheke wineries
- Getting to Waiheke and getting around the island is easy with four basic options: private vehicle, bus, bicycle or a guided tour. We have put all the details on our things to do in Waiheke page.
- If you are just looking for ferry tickets, start here.
- The second-largest island in the Hauraki Gulf, Waiheke Island has a permanent population of 8,900.
- Much more than wineries, Waiheke Island has stunning beaches, an adventure zipline, military tunnels to explore, and a charming village town centre. In fact, we find each day trip to Waiheke to be different than prior visits, and we never run out of things to do on the island.
- To learn more about New Zealand wines, check out the current copy of New Zealand Wines 2021: Michael Cooper’s Buyer’s Guide.
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