Waiheke is 35 minutes from downtown Auckland but it feels like a world away. There are no traffic lights. No multi-storey carparks or high-rise apartments or shopping malls – just a few reasons why the residents of Waiheke wouldn’t live anywhere else, and why those of us who don’t live there envy them.
Long time residents tut and scowl at the expensive houses that have sprung up in recent times in prime positions on ridges and in bays up and down the island. They remember when Waiheke was a place for people to escape to for a quieter, simpler life. As the island has become busier, some have moved away to find the peace they crave on islands even further from Auckland. Even in the relatively short time that I have been visiting Waiheke, there’s been a noticeable change: the coffee is better, there are more vineyards, more olive groves, more real estate agents, more traffic.
But the important things haven’t changed. The beaches are still golden. The views are still spectacular and everything still works on island-time.
Oneroa is the hub of Waiheke, at least for day-trippers and visitors because it is only 1 km from Matiatia Bay and the ferry terminal. Visitors arrive with cameras and high expectations. They might take a wine tour or hire scooters and explore the ‘Far End’, the eastern part of the island that is less populated and, some would say, more beautiful. Some will find the weekly market at Ostend or the beach at Onetangi or visit art studios and galleries. Others will get no further than Oneroa, happy to browse in the shops and enjoy the view over lunch.
My day trip coincided with the Waiheke Walking Festival: 45 guided walks over 9 days and they are all free. It’s possible to walk all the way around the island on tracks, roads and beaches – 90 kms in all. Waiheke has great weather for walking and there are tracks suitable for all abilities. Some are a lot more than just a walk; the guides are archaeologists, historians, wine makers and olive oil producers and they are happy to share their expertise as they walk.
I spent a bit too long lingering in Oneroa to be able to do one of the guided walks but I did manage a quick trek along Oneroa Beach to Little Oneroa (home of Dragonfired woodfired pizzas) and the walkway towards Hekerua and Sandy Bay. Within a few minutes I was completely alone with only the company of a thirsty tui and a glorious view for company. Bliss.
Categories: New Zealand