A Family Day Tripper’s Guide to Waiheke Island
My family and I have made annual trips to Waiheke Island for the past three years. We’ve fallen in love with the beautiful beaches, the rolling hills, great food and wine, and the laid back lifestyle. We stay for a week or so just to soak up island life, but you can experience a lot in just one day on Waiheke. Expedia’s Aussie travellers tend to spend 3 days in Auckland and that’s just enough time to pack in a few hours on Waiheke.
If you’re staying in Auckland, Waiheke (Maori for “cascading waters”) is only a 35 minute ride on the passenger ferry from the Auckland Ferry Terminal. The ferry ride is beautiful, passing by Motohui and Motutapu Islands and offering great views of the volcanoes of Browns Island and Rangitoto (where my husband proposed to me).
There’s a great local bus service from the ferry once you’re on Waiheke but an easier option might be to hop on a Waiheke Island Explorer Tour, which includes return boat rides, a 1.5hr tour and an unlimited bus pass once the tour is done if you want to stay for longer.
Local taxis have reasonable fares and family-friendly mini vans, while there’s also car hire right next to the ferry wharf.
Have breakfast in Oneroa Village
If you have young children in tow, Delight or Solar Eatery at the top of the hill both get the thumbs up from my kids. My girls and I will never forget having coffee together at Delight one morning when two Orcas were spotted swimming in the bay below. Everyone rushed to the windows before scurrying down the hill to watch the whales play from the beach. If you don’t need a highchair, Wai Kitchen has stunning panoramic views of the beautiful Hauraki Gulf.
Visit a Family Friendly vineyard (or three)
Waiheke Island boasts more than 30 vineyards and wineries. Several offer family friendly experiences.
Wild on Waiheke has a café, vineyard, brewery, kids playground, giant chess board and petanque. What more do you need? Well, you can test your skills at archery or claybird shooting (children 8 and over can participate). We could spend hours here tasting the wine, beer and local produce with the kids happily playing a few metres away. The café has a nice kids menu and the vineyard is one of the few on the bus route if you don’t have a car. 82 Onetangi Rd
The Man O’ War Tasting Room is located at the Eastern end of the island and is a beautiful place to relax with a glass of wine and a platter of local produce. Kids will love being able to play on the beach while you sit back in the shade of the verandah or bask in the sun at one of the bench tables on the lawn. Surrounded by lovely Pohutukawa trees, it’s perfect for a lazy afternoon.725 Man O’War Bay Rd
Passage Rock, also at the Eastern end of the island, offers award winning wines in a picturesque estuary vineyard setting. There’s a trampoline for kids and wine tastings for adults. The café’s kid-sized pizzas are great for hungry little ones. Passage Rock pride themselves on being family friendly. 438 Orapiu Rd
Looking for an adrenalin rush?
EcoZip Adventures has 3 x 200m flying fox ziplines. It’s high flying fun with awesome views. You return to base via a gentle 1.5km guided walk through the forest. There’s complimentary pick up from the island’s passenger ferry terminal or Oneroa Village. Children must be 8 years old and weigh at least 30kg to join this fantastic family adventure.
Head to the beach
Waiheke has some beautiful beaches and they’re safe for children to swim and play at. Most popular are Oneroa, Little Oneroa, Palm Beach and Onetangi and most have access to walking tracks nearby if you feel like exploring. Our family favourite is Little Oneroa – it has a great shaded playground and an old style General Store which makes good coffee and sells ice-cream cones for only $1.50. There’s also the Dragonfired pizza van serving delicious organic woodfired pizzas, Calzone and pocketbreads from 10.30am – 8.30pm. At low tide you can walk around the rocks to Oneroa Beach, which is a lovely way to return to the main village.
There’s so much to see and do on Waiheke Island that if you have more than a day free, stay a night or two. Summer and school holidays are always busy but there’s plenty of family friendly properties. Check out Waiheke Island Resort in Palm Beach – the one and two bedroom villas have kitchenettes and sofabeds. You can ask for extra beds or cots too. Keep an eye out for extra deals on the studio rooms if you’re just a small family.
Waiheke Island is a magnificent place – we’ll be back next year and hopefully you’ll be there too.
Images by Linda Anderson, Wild on Waiheke and EcoZip Adventures