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Waiheke Island
-> Map of Waiheke Island

Waiheke Island tips - Shopping Waiheke Island style

Our Waiheke Island travel tips:

  • Waiheke Island things to do - great sightseeing!

    Walk to cute Oneroa village and explore its lovely long beach
  • Lots of things to do: browse the art galleries and visit Waiheke’s famous sculpture gardens
  • Enjoy luxury lunch in one of the amazing vineyard restaurants
  • Go for a swim from one of the about 40 attractive beaches and bays
  • Walk part of the round-the-island Te Ara Hura Walkway and find the many magic corners of this little Pacific island!

Waiheke Island tips - Palm Beach panorama

Island paradise for Maori, hippies and the super rich!

You wouldn’t guess that Waiheke is only 18 km from Auckland, in a away it is a sort of special suburb of the metropolitan area. It’s also only one of many islands in the Hauraki Gulf, but thanks to a short ferry ride to downtown Auckland this one is close enough for about 1,000 enviable commuters (9,000 inhabitants in total) to participate in big city life while still enjoying island life.

There are around 40 bays and beaches to choose from, with lots of connecting walkways. It kind of resembles a real Polynesian island with its subtropical gardens, holiday homes, Maori names, beautiful swimming beaches within reach everywhere and short travelling distances, only 19 km from west to east - the maximum speed limit is 60 km/h!

Waiheke Island things to do - walking and sightseeing!

Island life has attracted very different folks over the centuries. It started about a millenium ago with the first Maori settlers, among them many different tribes who came and went. Today’s predominant tribe is Ngati Paoa who are present since the 1700s, its meeting house Piritahi Marae has recently undergone thorough renovations, you can see its beautifully carved welcome gate on the western end of Blackpool beach. Waiheke had many Maori names over the years, the current one means ‘cascading waters'.

Waiheke Island tips - luxury houses

Later the first settlers were sheep farmers, followed by hippies who enjoyed the peace and simplicity of life on the island, but in the meantime both gave way to wine growers and more and more affluent Aucklanders, often choosing Waiheke as a weekend home base (a holiday home is called a 'bach' in the North Island – in case you want to rent one). New Zealand’s super rich often have a holiday home here as well, along the coast you can see modern and grand architecture that is rare elsewhere, some being the most expensive properties in the country.

See here for accommodation on Waiheke Island.

Waiheke Island highlights

  • Waiheke Island tips - Oneroa BayArriving in pretty Matiatia Bay by ferry, visitors usually make their way to Oneroa village, an easy (but not really short) walk away. This is the prettiest little village on the island, geared up to charm tourists and weekenders with its many shops, art galleries, cafes and restaurants. It’s just a short walk away from the beautiful beach that stretches all along the bay, in summer a great spot for a swim. Blackpool Beach with the local Maori meeting house - Piritahi Marae - is just on the southern side of the island, with less than a kilometre between both beaches. Worth the trip to also see the godwits who make their temporary home on this beach in summer, before migrating back to Siberia and China - the longest bird migration in the world.
  • Waiheke Island tips - scenic Little Oneroa BayPicturesque Little Oneroa Bay is just a bit further on over a rocky hill, also great for swimming and with a cute little dairy shop opposite the beach. The next major destination is Palm Beach, make sure to take a map as the hilly maze of streets can easily lead you astray. 
  • Waiheke Island tips - beautiful swimming beach at OnetangiOnetangi Beach is equally beautiful and worth a visit, still built up with holiday homes but long enough to find a lonely stretch of white sand. Once a year the beach is hosting a horse race!
  • The eastern half of the island is very quiet, with only a few goals for further sightseeing apart from the wineries, one being the tiny settlement of Orapiu in the south east and the other being the Stony Batter Reserve with its WW2 fortifications. The road there is unsealed after the Orapiu turnoff and partly very steep, it also involves a further walk from the carpark.
  • Waiheke Island art - sculpture art work in Kuakarau BayAnother nice headland to explore is Rocky Bay, Kuakarau Bay and Omiha Bay, the bush setting is quite a contrast to the developed northwestern areas. Ostend and Surfdale are Waiheke's service centres, with a supermarket and lots of other shops for the locals, but also an attractive Saturday market with local produce, arts and crafts that appeal to visitors. Many of the other headland roads end at private properties with huge mansions, both grand old designs and futuristic modern pads for the super rich, set in enormous grounds with beach access.
  • Around 30 vineyards are dotted all across the island, even in the furthest corners and bays you’ll find them. Wine growing started in the 1950s but really took of in the 1990s, taking advantage of the drier and milder ocean climate and a big variation of soils on hilly landscapes. Being an easy day trip from Auckland especially boosted cellar door sales and enabled a thriving vineyard restaurant scene. Popular grapes are Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Malbec and Pinot Gris.
  • Waiheke Island tips - beautiful Onetangi swimming beachThe best swimming beaches on Waiheke Island are probably the long and central Oneroa Beach (‘one’ = beach, ‘roa’ = long...) and Little Oneroa Beach just a bit further on, easy to reach for ferry passengers. Also Palm Beach is a favourite, with nice rocks at one end and a mature palm tree stand at the other end, less touristy because it is beyond walking distance for most visitors. Onetangi Beach is nearly 2 km long and the last of the densely populated areas. Of course there are lots more smaller beaches and rocky bays around the island, with the south-facing ones only slightly less appealing, due to having stones rather than sand. Many beaches have rocky side bays where naturists are tolerated, so if you plan a swim in the nude in New Zealand this is the spot!
  • Waiheke Island things to do - WalkingWaiheke Island is great for swimming, shopping -  and walking! From Little Oneroa Bay on the Te Ara Hura Walkway is particularly interesting, leading to beautiful Palm Beach via rocky cliffs and other bays like Sandy Bay and Enclosure Bay.

How to get to Waiheke Island

Depending on whether you come by foot or with your own transport there are two ferry ports to choose from. Most foot passengers will take a ferry from Wynyard quarter in downtown Auckland to Matiatia Bay on the western tip of Waiheke Island.

Waiheke Island - get there by ferryFrom Matiatia Bay you can either walk to Oneroa village or take a bus/taxi. If you don’t want to walk along the street there’s a bush track parallel to the road in Atawhai Whenua Reserve, the beach side entrance is past the bridge. Matiatia Bay is also on the round-the-island Te Ara Hura Walkway, but it will take you either 2,5 hours to walk to Oneroa or over 5 hours to walk to Blackpool from here. In the ferry terminal or in Oneroa village you can also rent cars, bikes, scooters, book island explorer buses – plenty of transport options for the many visitors!

If you’d like to take your car or motorbike you’ll probably take a ferry from Half Moon Bay to Kennedy Wharf on the southern tip of Waiheke Island, maybe there are also options on the Wynyard ferry. The infrastructure and location for this option is better suited for self-driving visitors.

The best Waiheke Island walks

    • Waiheke Island things to do - walks like the Te Ara Hura round the island walkwayTe Ara Hura Walkway -  4 day walking loop all around the island to all the best spots
    • Oneroa Bay to Palm Beach - probably the best stretch of the Te Ara Hura Walkway, take a bus back to Oneroa or to the ferry terminal at Matiatia (2,5 hours one way)
    • Matiatia to Oneroa via Atawhai Whenua Reserve - 40 minute slightly uphill bush walk from the ferry terminal to the main village
    • Matiatia headland walk which features the famous ‘Sculpture on the Gulf’ art trail in February, start at the end of Matiatia beach, back via Nick Johnstone Drive and Oneroa (2,5 hrs)
    • Stony Batter Historic Reserve - WW2 tunnels (may be closed off) and gun emplacements (25 mins one way), access from the carpark off Man O' War Bay Road
    • Whakanewha Regional Park - bush tracks like the Pa Loop Track (30 mins) to an ancient Maori fortress and lookout point, access from 75 Gordons Road

    The best Waiheke Island lookouts

    • Waiheke Island things to do - lookout in OneroaOneroa Bay lookouts - from Beach Parade, a rocky viewpoint near the church and up the stairs into Newton Road Reserve
    • Palm Beach lookout from Great Barrier Road
    • Onetangi Beach lookout - from the stairs up to Belle Terrace Reserve at the eastern end of the beach
    • Trig lookout - Delamore Drive

    The best Waiheke Island museums

    • Waiheke Museum and Historic Village, Onetangi Straight
    • Whittaker's Musical Museum, Korora Road

    Map of Waiheke Island

    View large New Zealand map

    Other islands in the Hauraki Gulf you can visit from Auckland:

    • Rangitoto Island
    • Motutapu Island
    • Rotoroa Island
    • Rakino Island
    • Tiritiri Matangi
    • Kawau Island
    • Great Barrier Island

    Back to New Zealand regions

    Waiheke Island tips - Shopping Waiheke Island style

    Waiheke Island highlights - Maori meeting house

    Waiheke Island highlights - Otakawhe Bay

    Waiheke Island things to do - Stony Batter Historic Reserve

    Waiheke Island tips - remote Waiheke beach

    Waiheke Island sightseeing - beautiful houses

    Waiheke Island sightseeing - Oneroa Bay

    Waiheke Island highlights - sheep farming

    Waiheke Island sightseeing - beach at Kennedy Wharf

    Waiheke Island things to do - swimming and fishing

    Waiheke Island sightseeing - Palm Beach

    Waiheke Island sightseeing - Enclosure Bay

    Waiheke Island sightseeing - Sandy Bay

    Waiheke Island art - sculpture trail

    Waiheke Island tips - Matiatia Bay

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