After a couple of days exploring Auckland we decided to get out of the city and explore one of the islands in the bay. Waiheke Island is only a 40 minute ferry ride from Auckland city centre, so ideal for a day trip.
We walked from our hostel in Ponsonby down to the harbour, which only took around 30 minutes or so, as everything seems to be an easy (although hilly) walk away in this city. We hadn’t been wandering around for long before Blakey spied one of Auckland’s many street food vans and decided to make a pitstop for coffee, which apparently was delicious but expensive. Everything is expensive here.
There are probably a couple of different options to get to the island but we decided to go with the most simple – we went to the Fuller’s ticket office right next to the ferry terminal and booked a return trip and, without much resistance, were upsold their hop-on hop-off explorer bus to cart us around when we got there. The ferry & bus set us back $60 each, around £30. Not exactly a bargain but we had a packed lunch with us so didn’t expect to be shelling out much more monies when we got there.
The ferry ride itself is actually really nice – it’s 40 minutes of sailing through the beautiful bay, watching the boats, kayaks and jet skis on the water and the other islands getting closer. Apparently about 1.5k residents of Waiheke Island commute to Auckland and back every day on those ferries. I can think of a worse commute.
We hopped on the explorer bus which was waiting for us at the ferry terminal and went over to Onetangi Beach on the north of the island while the driver kept up a commentary on the history of the island and information on the different vineyard stops along the way. We hopped out at the beach and had an hour chilling out and working on our tans (ok, burns, we already have sunburn!).
We brought a packed lunch with us in an effort to keep costs down and not blow our budget by day 3, so we sat on the beach and ate our cheese sandwiches before trying some of the local Waiheke wine at the beach cafe. While we couldn’t afford a full vineyard tour, we managed to push the boat out to at least have a little try. It’d be rude not to!
Waiheke might be known for it’s amazing vineyards and beautiful beaches but our favourite bit was definitely the hikes. Our next stop on the explorer bus was the Bach vineyards, the highest on the island, with beautiful views. It was also the start of the cascade waterfall walk, which is a steep little track down through the forest to a couple of bubbling waterfalls. I’d definitely recommend this one, it’s worth the effort and it will probably do you good to take a break from all the wine tasting!
As we were too tight to spend any money on vineyard tours, we decided to keep walking and followed the track down through Whakanewha Regional Park to Rocky Bay, before looping back to join the road a couple of hours later. This walk was so beautiful and practically deserted – in the 2 or 3 hours we were there, we only saw a couple of other hikers, which seemed crazy to us as it’s peak season. This made it even more special; when we stopped walking we could just hear the birds and the crickets, it felt like we were the only people for miles. If there was a place like this in the UK it would be packed.
By the time we found our way back to the road, sweaty and gross, I was definitely ready to head back to the mainland. By some stroke of luck we managed to pop out of the hiking path just as one of the the explorer buses was picking up passengers so on we hopped and made our way back to the ferry.
Once again we were treated to amazing views of the island and Auckland itself as we sailed back, and it made me like Auckland just a little bit more. To have all that beauty and nature right on the doorstep of the most populated city in New Zealand is pretty special. While neither myself or Blakey feel particularly keen on Auckland itself, we both absolutely loved Waiheke and would recommend it to anyone as an absolute must see if you go to New Zealand.