This ‘Island Suburb’ in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf is the perfect place for a combined seaside holiday and wine trail exploration.
Once early morning commuters have dashed off to the city on the fast ferries, ‘Island Time’ rules and the place has a holiday atmosphere. The main settlement of Oneroa is at the western end, and picturesque coves and inlets extend along the north coast to Palm Beach and Onetangi. Inland areas offer a rural retreat with around 30 wineries nestling in lush valleys.
Waiheke Island enjoys an exclusive microclimate due to its relatively sheltered position in the Gulf. It is sunnier and warmer than Auckland City and is drier during the critical grape ripening period. In the last 20 years it has become fashionable to focus on the production of high quality red wines in the Bordeaux style. This has been a huge success and Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc varieties are rivalling the quality of top Hawke’s Bay products.
A number of Waiheke wineries are open to visitors by private arrangement, or through conducted mini-bus tours, which can be arranged at the excellent visitor centre in the Artworks complex in Oneroa. The island also attracts artistic folk and their work is exhibited in many galleries and craft shops.
Another Hauraki Gulf island also supports viticulture. Great Barrier Island has one established winery specialising in Cabernet/Merlot, which can be purchased at the cellar door. The challenge is to physically reach the door, as the only access is by boat from Tryphena harbour or by tramping overland from the nearest road.
These island treasures of the Gulf are well worth a visit. So leave the city bustle behind and relax in a quiet rural setting, sample top quality red wine, and dine al fresco on a restaurant terrace with stunning sea views.