Got extra time during your trip to Auckland? Spend it on a Waiheke Island day trip. Waiheke Island is 35 minutes over the Hauraki Gulf from downtown Auckland by ferry. It isn’t just one of the best day trips from Auckland. Waiheke is an alluring destination that belongs on any complete New Zealand itinerary.
Ready for the perfect escape from Auckland? 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.
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Things to see & do on Waiheke Island
Endless experiences await on a Waiheke Island trip. You can laze on its white-sand beaches. You’ll indulge in some of the finest food & drink near Auckland. It’s all here. While you won’t fit in everything in one day, start your journey with these best things to do on Waiheke Island.
Oneroa Beach is perched upon a sheltered bay on the northern coast of Waiheke Island. The beach is a great place to start your exploration of the island. Oneroa Beach numbers among the most beautiful beaches in Auckland. It’s popular for its pristine golden sands, gentle surf, and an assortment of activities.
Best of all is the beach’s prime location. Oneroa is the first bus stop after the ferry terminal. The beach sits on the edge of Oneroa, the island’s main town.
After taking in some of Waiheke’s seaside pleasures, venture into town. Explore its eclectic collection of shops, restaurants, and cafés. You’ll also find a few art galleries. Look out for the Waiheke Community Art Gallery and the Space Art Gallery. Many of the town’s top activities & must-see attractions are within 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. Its calm waters and palm-shaded white sands deliver much-needed relaxation.
Besides the beach itself, a handful of easy walking trails await nearby. Go for a hike to soak up lovely sea views. The island-wide Te Ara Hura Track also passes through. To turn your Waiheke day trip into a walking adventure, this trail is a great option.
Wild Estate (Wild on Waiheke)
Need a breather and want to add a little more action to your day on Waiheke Island? Strike both off your list with a visit to the Wild Estate, formerly Wild on Waiheke.
If you’ve ever thought vineyard tours are stuffy & snooty, let the Wild Estate change your tune. This eclectic Waiheke Island attraction rolls all the best of New Zealand—fun, wine, and food—into one.
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This magical vineyard estate offers a little of everything. Enjoy a relaxing wine-tasting at the Wild Estate Vineyard. Sip craft beers with a meal at the Waiheke Island Brewery. More adventurous outdoor pursuits also await. Try your hand skeet-shooting claybirds with lasers. Or hit bullseyes on the archery course.
Wild on Waiheke is less than 5 kilometres southeast of Palm Beach and about 2 kilometres south of Onetangi. The area is also home to some of the most popular Waiheke Island wineries. Wineries in the area include the Tantalus Estate and Stonyridge Vineyard. The Museum of Waiheke is also nearby.
Onetangi Beach stretches across almost two kilometres of coastline. It’s the longest beach on the island and among the best places to visit in Waiheke Island for a seaside stroll. Onetangi Beach is 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, the beach surrenders immaculate views of Great Barrier Island and Little Barrier Island. Onetangi Beach is also blessed with lovely golden sands and crystal-clear waters. For a little fun on the water, it’s 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 and sipping wine in lush vineyards, one of the most popular things to do on Waiheke Island is to hike. And, for hikers visiting Waiheke on a day trip, this accessible park is a great place to start.
Whakanewha Regional Park is nestled upon Rocky Bay on the island’s southern shore. The park shelters a lush native forest. The bush booms with mature taraire, kohekohe, and kanuka trees.
An easy introduction to the park for visitors with one day in Waiheke Island is the short trail to Cascades Waterfall. The falls themselves aren’t overly spectacular. But you’ll love traipsing through the lush greenery along the way.
Stony Batter Historic Reserve
Stony Batter Historic Reserve is perhaps too far removed to toss into the end of your Waiheke day trip. But this popular nature 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. It showcases several artifacts dating back to the WWII-era. The reserve’s main trail is one of the most popular walks on Waiheke Island and among the coolest walks near Auckland. As you explore, you’ll stumble upon several gun emplacements. These military installations helped 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 the time of writing, the tunnels were closed to visitors for safety until further notice.)
Where to eat & drink on Waiheke Island
Among the pleasures of spending a day on Waiheke Island is to experience its eclectic restaurants & vineyards. You won’t likely get to hit more than one or two of these on a day trip. Still, set aside time on your itinerary for some of these excellent places to eat & drink on Waiheke Island.
Cable Bay Vineyards
Cable Bay Vineyards is among the Auckland region’s most famous wineries. The winery has excited the palates of oenophiles around the world since 1998. Its wine has garnered international acclaim. Their accolades include 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. It serves up fresh & delicious organic contemporary New Zealand cuisine.
Mudbrick Vineyard & Restaurant
Mudbrick Vineyard & Restaurant is one of the island’s must-eat & must-drink destinations. The vineyard is famous among celebrities carving out a quick visit to Waiheke. The property features both a winery and a restaurant. It 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. The best time to visit, however, is in the evening. Unwind with a glass of award-winning wine & 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.
Add a little Catalan flair to your Waiheke itinerary with a visit to Casita Miro. This renowned Waiheke Island restaurant is located in the town of Onetangi on the island’s north shore. Casita Miro charms patrons with its Mediterranean dishes and Spanish-inspired flavours. For its tapas-style dining experience, chefs use only the finest local ingredients.
Looking 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. The powerful wine is a great nightcap after indulging in the restaurant’s mouth-watering food.
Man O’ War Vineyard
Exploring the eastern fringes of the island? Don’t miss the opportunity to taste the world-class wines at the Man O’ War Vineyard.
This popular winery is set along 4,500 acres over dozens of hillsides radiating from the stunning Man O’ War Bay. It’s famous both for its cultured wines and beautiful bay & coastline views.
Stonyridge Vineyard is settled within the rolling hills between Onetangi and Ostend. The winery is world-famous for its next-level Cabernet blends. Their varietals include Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec, and Petit Verdot.
The winery adheres to traditional French wine-making methods and organic viticulture, which has resulted in some of the finest red wines 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 you can enjoy wine & nibbles at the Yoga Deck. Up for something 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. Unsurprisingly, the sweet spot is in the luxury end of the market.
The most memorable experience 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 is a great option 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 is located between Oneroa and Palm Beach. This detached modern apartment is a fantastic choice for a little privacy during your stay in Waiheke.
- Wild Thyme is the perfect place to end a long day of Waiheke sightseeing and visiting wineries. Lay your head down at these beautiful & luxurious studio apartments. You won’t regret it. Each unit offers a private balcony where you can relax to stunning forest & sea views.
- Cable Bay Views delivers on the promise its name implies. 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 of the Cable Bay Vineyards. The popular Mudbrick Vineyard & Restaurant is also only a 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, but be warned: They’re relatively expensive even by New Zealand standards.
The Waiheke Bus Company also operates a series of local bus routes. They run between Matiatia Wharf with stops at Oneroa, Blackpool, Surfdale, Palm Beach, Ostend, Rocky Bay, and Onetangi. They’re 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.