If you’ve got a little extra time during your trip to Auckland there’s no better way to spend it than with a Waiheke Island day trip. Located 35 minutes over the Hauraki Gulf from downtown Auckland by ferry, Waiheke Island isn’t just one of the best day trips from Auckland, but an alluring destination that belongs on any complete New Zealand itinerary.
Ready for the perfect escape to Waiheke Island? Plan your day trip to Waiheke Island with this complete guide including ideas for what to see & do, where to eat & drink, and how to get there.
Things to see & do on Waiheke Island
From lazing on its white-sand beaches to indugling in some of the finest food & drink near Auckland, endless experiences await on your Waiheke Island trip. While you might not be able fit in everything in one day, here are a few ideas of the best things to do on Waiheke Island to start your journey…
Perched upon a sheltered bay on the northern coast of Waiheke Island, Oneroa Beach is a great place to start your exploration of the island. Numbered among the most beautiful beaches in Auckland, Oneroa Beach is popular for its pristine golden sands, gentle surf, and assortment of activities.
Best of all is the beach’s prime location. Oneroa is the first bus stop after the ferry terminal and is on the edge of Oneroa, the island’s main town.
After taking in some of Waiheke’s seaside pleasures, be sure to venture into town to explore its eclectic collection of shops, restaurants, cafés, and art galleries including the Waiheke Community Art Gallery and the Space Art Gallery. Many of the town’s top activities and must-see attractions are within close walking distance of the beach.
For a quieter Waiheke Island beach experience, head a few kilometres east to Palm Beach. Located on the sheltered waters of Mawhitpana Bay, the beach has a super laid-back vibe to it thanks to its calm waters and palm-shaded white sands.
Besides the beach itself, there’s a handful of easy walking trails nearby where you can soak up lovely sea views. The island-wide Te Ara Hura Track also passes through should you want to turn your Waiheke day trip into a walking adventure.
Wild on Waiheke
Need a breather and to add little more action to your day on Waiheke Island? Strike both off your list with a visit to Wild on Waiheke.
If you’ve ever thought vineyard tours are necessarily stuffy & snooty, let Wild on Waiheke change your tune. This eclectic Waiheke Island attraction is all the best of New Zealand—fun, wine & food—all rolled into one.
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On this magical vineyard estate, you can do everything from enjoying a relaxing wine-tasting at the Wild Estate Vineyard or sipping craft beers with a meal at the Waiheke Island Brewery to more adventurous outdoor pursuits like skeet-shooting claybirds with lasers or hitting bullseyes on the archery course.
Wild on Waiheke is less than 5 kilometres southeast or Palm Beach and about 2 kilometres south of Onetangi. The area is also home to some of the best Waiheke Island wineries, including the Tantalus Estate and Stonyridge Vineyard, as well as the Museum of Waiheke.
Stretching across almost two kilometres of coastline and the longest beach on the island, Onetangi Beach is among the best places to visit in Waiheke Island for a seaside stroll. It’s located one bay over from Palm Beach, connected both by road and via the scenic Te Ara Hura Track.
Set upon the island’s largest bay with views towards Great Barrier Island and Little Barrier Island, Onetangi Beach is blessed with lovely golden sands and crystal-clear waters. If you’re looking for a little fun on the water, it’s also a splendid place to rent a kayak and partake in a relaxing paddle on the Hauraki Gulf.
Whakanewha Regional Park
A short 15-minute drive from Oneroa will land you at Whakanewha Regional Park. Aside from frolicking on beaches or sipping wine in lush vineyards, one of the best things to do on Waiheke Island is to hike. And, for hikers visiting Waiheke on a day trip, there’s hardly a better place to start than this easily accessible park.
Nestled upon Rocky Bay on the island’s southern shore, Whakanewha Regional Park shelters a lush native forest booming with mature taraire, kohekohe, and kanuka trees.
An easy introduction to the park for visitors with just one day in Waiheke Island is the short trail to Cascades Waterfall. While the falls themselves aren’t overly spectacular, you’ll love traipsing through the lush greenery along way.
Stony Batter Historic Reserve
While perhaps a little far removed to toss in at the end of Waiheke day trip, Stony Batter Historic Reserve is a must for hikers, walkers, and history buffs alike.
Located on the eastern edge of the island, Stony Batter is a unique heritage site with several artefacts dating back to the WWII-era. As you explore the reserve along its main trail, one of the best walks on Waiheke Island and among the best walks near Auckland, you’ll stumble upon several gun emplacements that were used to defend Auckland Harbour from attacks during World War II.
Elsewhere at Stony Batter, keep on the lookout for the series of WWII underground tunnels. (At time to writing, the tunnels were currently closed to visitors for safety until further notice.)
Where to eat & drink on Waiheke Island
Among the true pleasures of spending a day on Waiheke Island is to experience its eclectic restaurants & vineyards. While you won’t likely get to hit more than one or two of these on a day trip, set aside time in your itinerary for some these best places to eat & drink on Waiheke Island…
Cable Bay Vineyards
Among the Auckland region’s most famous wineries, Cable Bay Vineyards have excited the palates of oenophiles around the world since 1998. Its wine have garnered international acclaim including a top 5 award for its 2017 Sauvignon Blanc at the International Wine & Spirits Competition.
Even if you don’t care to indulge in its award-winning wines, Cable Bay Vineyards hosts an elegant award-winning restaurant serving up fresh & delicious organic contemporary New Zealand cuisine.
Mudbrick Vineyard & Restaurant
Famous among celebrities carving out a quick visit to Waiheke, Mudbrick Vineyard & Restaurant is one of the island’s must-eat & must-drink destinations. Featuring both a winery and restaurant, the property shells out breathtaking sea, city, and vineyard views from every angle.
Whether you choose to eat at Mudbrick for lunch or dinner, its exquisite fine cuisine is sure to please your palate. Perhaps the best time to visit, however, is in the evening when you can unwind with a glass of award-winning wine and some delicious food while watching a spectacular sunset unfold.
With the restaurant’s immense popularity, it’s a good idea to book your dinner reservation ahead.
Want an inside look at some of the finest wineries in Waiheke? Join in on a Waiheke Wine Tasting Tour! The tour includes transportation and wine tastings at three well-known local boutique vineyards.
Add a little Catalan flair to your Waiheke itinerary with a visit to Casita Miro. Located in the town of Onetangi on island’s north shore, this renowned Waiheke Island restaurant charms patrons with its Mediterranean- and Spanish-inspired flavours and tapas-style dining experience using only the finest local ingredients.
For an experience unlike any other you’ll find on Waiheke, be sure to try a sip or two of the vineyard’s popular fortified sherry wine, Madame Rouge, after indulging in some of the restaurant’s mouth-watering food.
Man O’ War Vineyard
If you’re exploring the eastern fringes of the island, don’t miss the opportunity to taste the world-class wines at the Man O’ War Vineyard.
Set along on 4,500 acres over dozens of hillsides radiating from the stunning Man O’ War Bay, this popular winery is famous not just for its cultured wines but for its beautiful bay & coastline views.
Settled within the rolling hills between Onetangi and Ostend, Stonyridge Vineyard is world-famous for its next-level Cabernet blends including Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec, and Petit Verdot.
The winery holds fast to traditional French wine-making methods and organic viticulture to create some of the finest red wines you’ll find in New Zealand—and even the world!
For a casual outing at Stonyridge Vineyard, stop in for a flight tasting at the Tasting Lounge or wine & nibbles at the Yoga Deck. If you’re up for something a little more intimate, grab a romantic upscale meal at the elegant Verandah Café.
Where to stay in Waiheke Island
If you want to extend your trip with an overnight stay, there are plenty of great places to stay on the island. The Waiheke Island accommodation scene offers something for every travel budget, but the sweet spot (unsurprisingly) is in the luxury end of the market.
Among the most memorable experiences in Waiheke is to spend the night in a lovely high-end lodge or apartment overlooking vineyards or the sea. Here are a few ideas to start your search…
- Kiwi House Waiheke: If you’re on a tighter travel budget, you can’t do much better on Waiheke than this clean and comfortable bed & breakfast in Oneroa.
- Guesthouse on Queens: Located between Oneroa and Palm Beach, this detached modern apartment is a fantastic choice if you’re looking for a little privacy on your stay in Waiheke.
- Wild Thyme: There’s hardly a better way to end a long day of Waiheke sightseeing and visiting wineries than laying your head down at these beautiful & luxurious studio apartments. Each unit offers a private balcony where you can relax to stunning forest & sea views.
- Cable Bay Views: As its name implies, when you book yourself into a luxury studio apartment, the lodge, or the house at this top Waiheke accommodation destination, you’ll be treated to great views onto the Cable Bay Vineyards. The popular Mudbrick Vineyard & Restaurant is also only 5-minute walk away.
From downtown Auckland, it’s approximately a 35-minute ferry ride to Waiheke Island. The two main companies operating the Auckland City to Waiheke route are Fullers and Sealink.
The Fullers ferries are passenger-only boats and run on the hour throughout the day. If you want to drive your own car on Waiheke Island, you’ll need to hop onto the Sealink car ferry instead.
One of the easiest ways to get around Waiheke Island for visitors is with the Explore Hop-On Hop-Off Bus. The bus stops at over 15 destinations including several vineyards, beaches, and restaurants.
You can book your Explorer Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tickets online. The purchase also includes a passenger ferry ticket.
Other transportation options on Waiheke Island include renting a car, e-bike, or bike for the day. Taxis are also an option although they tend to be relatively expensive even by New Zealand standards.
The Waiheke Bus Company also operates a series of local bus routes running between Matiatia Wharf with stops at Oneroa, Blackpool, Surfdale, Palm Beach, Ostend, Rocky Bay and Onetangi. They’re a little less convenient for travellers than the hop-on hop-off bus. In any case, you can check bus schedules on the Auckland Transport official website here.