Overseas travel may be off the books right now, but why not plan a few local trips? It’s less admin to plan, and there’s the added bonus of supporting New Zealand businesses – especially those that relied heavily on tourism. My guide to Waiheke Island is an easy 40-minute ferry ride away, and can be done on a relatively small budget! If you had plans to live out a wine-soaked summer in Tuscany or the likes, you can drown your sorrows at the vineyards on Waiheke.
Guide to Waiheke will cover:
- Top tips for your day trip
- How to get around the island
- 6 must visit wineries and estates – includes wine tasting and food costs
Top Tips For Your Day Trip
- Check the opening hours for each place you want to visit – the 6 wineries I’ve recommended in this guide to Waiheke have reduced their hours due to Covid.
- Take the ferry in the morning (around 9 or 10am) to make the most of your day – I’d say you could get to 3 or 4 spots depending on how long you spend at each place!
- Wear comfortable shoes if you plan on saving some $$ by exploring areas of the island by foot – I know you want to look cute for the ‘gram, but maybe put the heeled boots away for this one.
- Dress in layers – it can get windy and chilly when you’re up in the hills, but you’ll also work up a sweat walking there.
- Double check you have brought your ID if you are drinking.
How To Get Around The Island
Ferry: $21 each way with an AT HOP card, or $46 return when you purchase a ticket at the terminal
On the island:
The cheapest way to go between the wineries is to walk and/or bus. Otherwise there are car and bike rentals, taxis and Ryda (the Waiheke version of Uber).
There are a couple of vineyards within walking distance of the ferry terminal at Matiatia Bay. The walking trail through Te Atawhai Whenua Reserve leads you to Cable Bay, Mudbrick and Jurassic Ridge in 15-20 minutes. My friends and I didn’t quite manage to find the trail, and after wandering around looking for the sign posts – reminiscent of the orienteering course on school camps – we just followed the road. It takes around 40 minutes that way, but it’s an easy walk.
From Mudbrick, walk down toward the main road where you can catch a bus (either 50A or 50B) toward Onetangi; there are plenty more wineries along there. You can use your AT HOP card on the bus, which costs $2, or $3.50 with cash (cash not accepted at time of writing due to Covid, but you can tag on multiple people with your card).
6 Must Visit Wineries And Estates
1. Cable Bay
Wine tasting – $10 for four wines; each variety is introduced and served one at a time at your table. It makes for a longer experience, which is quite nice because you can chat in between each tasting.
Food – includes woodfired pizza ($24-$30) and platters ($38-$45); menu is designed to be shared
Situated at the top of a hill, the sweeping views are absolutely gorgeous up here. It’s an easy 5-10 minute walk away from Cable Bay. Sitting in their tent-like bistro, which has a canvas roof, hardwood beams and is surrounded by lavender bushes, you could easily be somewhere in Europe.
Wine tasting – $11 to $15 depending on whether you want to try lighter, fresher wines (like pinot gris and rosé) or richer varieties (like merlot and syrah).
Food – more casual dining at the Archive Bistro, and more expensive à la carte options at the main restaurant. They also have a plant-based menu! We shared the sourdough with Mudbrick’s own olive oil and brown butter ($12). As well as the octopus ($27), mushroom ravioli ($32) and parmesan and truffle fries ($12). It’s safe to say brown butter is the only thing I want to spread on my bread from here on out.
Another wine and beer combo, with Alibi Brewing Co. located on the estate. Tantalus is always highly recommended by those familiar with Waiheke, and rated #1 on Trip Advisor for things to do on Waiheke.
Wine and beer tasting – $10-$15 for five wines, and $10 for four beers.
Food – the adjoining Alibi Brewer’s Lounge does casual food (like sliders, hot dogs, burgers and truffle fries) while the main restaurant does a set three-course menu ($98 per person.
4. Casita Miro
Half way there in my guide to Waiheke wineries. Hopefully energised by the wine and food you have consumed so far, you will need to trek up a steep set of stairs to reach Casita Miro but the view of Onetangi bay is worth it.
Wine tasting – $18 for a flight of five wines; by appointment only.
Food – featuring a tapas style menu, their food is heavily influenced by Spanish cuisine and the wider Mediterranean area. Think paella, tagine, Spanish cured meats, bread and olives.
Wine tasting – $15, or $28 for a premium tasting.
Food – the menu is designed by Nic Watt, executive chef of Masu. Their sharing platter sounds epic for $65; for 2-4 people.
This one is perfect for beer and cider lovers, as they are Waiheke’s original craft brewery.
Wine and beer tasting – flight for $20-25.
Food – they have a more casual menu with items like buffalo chicken, burgers and pizza. Don’t get me wrong, I love platters and grazing boards, but by the end of the day I just wanted something a little less… refined?
So there you have it – six winery recommendations to get you started! My guide to Waiheke is definitely inexpensive compared to usual travel plans, so you can afford to splash out a little if you want. My friends and I found the best way to experience all the great food was to get a few dishes to share at each restaurant… plus we walked 17,000 + steps that day! It’s safe to say we worked up an appetite pretty quickly. And if you want a break from wineries, there are plenty of beautiful beaches, walking trails and cafés to visit as well.
Happy travel planning! If you want me to write a guide to other New Zealand places like Queenstown or Dunedin, comment below or hit me up on Instagram at @balanceyourplate. For more local foodie content, check out our article on Favourite Eateries in Auckland.