The first time I went to New Zealand, I visited Auckland for a couple of days. Everyone told me to get out as quickly as possible, that there isn’t much in Auckland worth sticking around for. But since we had an overnight there anyway, I went exploring and found Waiheke Island.
On my second round of New Zealand exploring, I knew it was the best place to spend the couple of days we had on either side of our flights. Why do I love Waiheke? A few reasons: The relaxed beachy vibe, the beautiful vistas from the hilltops, the friendliness of the locals. But the biggest reason? WINE. There are vineyards all over Waiheke (pronounced WAI-heck-ay), which appreciates a little warmer and more stable climates than Auckland.
We spent a total of four days on Waiheke Island between the start and end of our trips, and we had a very good sampling of the vineyards on the island. I have outlined our experience below:
This is my hands-down favorite. It’s not necessarily the wine that’s my favorite, but the vineyard is, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful I’ve ever set foot on. It looks a bit like a French country home, with a vegetable and herb garden out front, beautiful flowers blooming out of wine barrels, bougainvillea climbing the walls, and a showstopping view of downtown Auckland over the water. When you think of a vineyard wedding, you think of a vineyard like Mudbrick. The wine is decent, but nothing that’s ever made me swoon. But that view… now that is swoon-worthy.
Tasting Fee: $10 / 5 ‘standard’ wines, $15 / 5 ‘premium’ wines
I’d venture that this is the most famous vineyard on the island, and it’s just a 5 minute walk from Mudbrick. Thus, it boasts a beautiful view as well, but not as good as the view from Mudbrick. It’s a sleeker and more modern building, which to me makes it feel like it lacks a little bit of soul. But to each his own! We tasted a very good sauvignon blanc here, but the reds that were on the tasting menu didn’t leave an impression.
Tasting Fee: $10 / 5 wines
This is one of the oldest vineyards on the island. It’s tucked into a valley, with the tasting house and restaurant surrounded by it’s vines. It was very busy when we got there, but since we were getting lunch we decided to take our tasting in the restaurant. It’s famous for it’s Bordeaux-style reds (the Larose being the most famous), and they are certainly delicious! The food here wasn’t too bad either, fresh oysters and a cheese platter stacked with yummy trimmings.
Tasting Fee: $3 – $18 NZD per tasting, depending on the wine. Often have sets of reds or whites for $15 – $25, depending on the season.
The tasting room of Te Motu is set in a casual garden full of edibles for the restaurant’s kitchen. Cats laze about, glasses clink, and olive trees stretch out in the distance. This is just a short walk from Stony Ridge, so if you visit one, you should visit both. Te Motu is small, and the limited production is reflected in the prices for a glass or bottle, or even a tasting flight. But the wine is good, the food is adventurous, and it’s a great little spot to spend a couple of hours educating your tastebuds.
Tasting Fee: $20 / 5 ‘Heritage’ wines, occasionally flights of their less expensive label, Dunleavy for less.
This pretty spot is an homage to the Spanish artist Miro, with mosaic tiling reminiscent of his style found all over the grounds. On this side of the island, they say there is a ‘wine trail’ that allows you to hike between Miro, Obsidian, Stony Ridge and Te Motu. We tried to take it and ended up getting lost and traipsing through some fields of wildflowers and sharp pricklers. But perhaps you might have better luck! Either way, you can walk between Miro and Obsidian. There is a beautiful little terrace above the restaurant that has a beautiful view out to sea, and the restaurant serves tapas.
Tasting Fee: $15 / 5 wines
Last, but certainly not least, is Obsidian. This tasting room is no-frills: there are no glasses for sale (they don’t the license), there is no restaurant, but this had my favorite wine on the island. They had a 2012 Tempranillo and a 2010 Cab blend that I couldn’t say no to. I bought a bottle of each, and an extra Cab for a wine loving friend. Everything we tried from this small vineyard was delicious, but those two stood head and shoulders above everything I tried in our grand tour of the vineyards of Waiheke.
If you’d like to have your own tour of Waiheke, there are no shortage of tour operators who would be happy to drive you around on a scheduled tour. If you prefer a little more freedom, the transport company Fullers offers hop-on-hop-off Vineyard Hopper bus tickets, and you can get a deal on these if you take the Fullers ferry to the island. Just purchase at the ferry terminal in Auckland.
If one day just isn’t enough (it seriously isn’t!), there are lots of really cute AirBnB listings all over the island. It’s a popular place for weekend & holiday homes, which means plenty of options that aren’t in a hotel! You’ll likely want to stay closer to Oneroa, the main town on the island, but Onetangi beach on the other end is a beautiful day trip, especially if you combine it with a visit to Obsidian!