Arriving in Auckland from London, Kasha and I didn’t really experience the distinct change of pace we’d been expecting. Both cities are the most populous in the country (though Auckland is 1.37 million to London’s 8.67) and both are buzzing metropolises with cool nightlife spots, thriving arts scenes and more hipster foodie joints that you can shake the proverbial stick at. However, the ‘no worries’ Kiwi way of life we’d been expecting first shone through on our day trip to Waiheke Island. Just 40-minutes away by ferry, this incredible island is the perfect respite from city life.
An Eco Adventure
Long before we’d first locked eyes with this lush island we decided to explore it a little differently. Considering Kash and I were planning to hire a campervan for a whole month in New Zealand, a car hire seemed a little indulgent, and hotfooting it a little naïve. After some research we stumbled across eCyclesNZ. This awesome local company hooks up visitors with electric bikes that are more than capable of tackling Waiheke’s notoriously hilly landscape – leaving you with a small workout but the ability to cover a lot of ground too. One of the biggest pluses (other than the freedom) is its minimal impact on carbon footprint, meaning guilt-free travel fun all round.
We jumped on-board a Fullers ferry from Auckland at 8.15 AM ($36 each, return) we were soon speeding past the many green islands just outside the city. When we docked at Half Moon Bay, Waiheke, it was a swift five-minute bus ride ($3 each way) into Oneroa, or an easy 20-minute stroll.
The island’s largest settlement is located in Oneroa, here you’ll find many of the more cosmopolitan delights like fine art galleries, coffee shops organic grocery stores, restaurants and a whole heap of estate agents.
There’s plenty of beaches walking distance away and many of the foodie joints offer some awesome views out onto the sea. The locals refer to this place as ‘centre of civilisation as we know it’ so it’s the last bastion of activity you’ll find on the island.
Where to rent bikes on Waiheke
After a much needed coffee at Double Shot, we picked up our e-bikes from eCyclesNZ. The eCyclesNZ shop is located at the end of the high street and there is a number you can call if no one is about to receive you. Neither of us have ever ridden one of these bad boys, so it was interesting to try them out on a practice run around the block to get our bearings.
I can only really liken the experience of an electric bike with that of going into hyperdrive, a mere push of the pedal sees you zoom down the road as if suddenly equipped with the powerful thigh muscles of Chris Hoy. Our practise run steadied out any nerves, and a laminated map of the island ensured we wouldn’t get lost.
Hiking on Waiheke
First stop on the agenda was a local tip off about a beautiful walking trail in the Whakanewha Regional Park. There are a number of different routes you can take depending on how much time or energy you have, but we opted for the 2.5 hour, 4km Nikau Track that led to the Cascades, a nature walk through a coastal forest.
To get there from Oneroa we cycled for a leisurely 40 minutes, stopping along the way to take pictures of the various secluded beaches and picturesque towns. Once we arrived at the Sculpture Park just off Gordon’s Road (which has toilets) we found the start of the nature walk and made our way through the bush, leaving the bikes unlocked as per instructions (apparently everyone knows Darleen and her electric bikes).
The trail is a medium level hike with no challenging terrain but as our first experience of New Zealand’s flora and fauna it was perfect. It was especially interesting to note that many locals believe it’s these cascades that give Waiheke (meaning falling water) its name. We accidently came back via the Tarata track which has some amazing viewpoints but took a while longer to get back to our bikes – so remember to keep your eyes open for the signs!
Wine Tasting on Waiheke
The delights of a good vino arrived on Waiheke in the ’70s, and since then the whole island has become a mecca for grape enthusiasts. After our hike we headed straight for the Goldie Estate, a 30-minute cycle ride away.
The oldest (established in 1978) and most chilled out vineyard we got to see, this homely cellar door was managed by one lady, who took us knowledgably through five excellent wines, and served us a ploughman’s platter to feast on while we enjoyed the scenic views over Putiki Bay.
If you’re after recommendations, my favourite was the dangerously drinkable and spicy Syrah while Kasha (predictably) fell for the rose, a slightly dry but strawberry rich blend.
Of course this isn’t the only artisan winemaker within pedalling distance, we also made it to Cable Bay Vineyards in under 20 minutes, a slick hilltop location with awesome views of Auckland in the distance, also offering five samples of their wines for $10.
A stone’s throw from here is the Mud Brick Vineyards. This winery was unfortunately closed for a wedding when we arrived so we didn’t even get to see the interior, but if it was anything like the exterior, the bride will no doubt be as pleased as punch with her wedding photos.
As you might expect with a Kiwi cycle company, they are pretty chilled about when you return your bike. If you come back later than the shop is open you can just leave your bike outside the shop – no worries.
We took some time to chill out here and stopped by Café Fenice for some great value pizza and local wine – the portions were generous, but you’ll no doubt be hungry after a full day on a saddle.
Keen to make the most of the last few moments on this island, we decided to enjoy the downhill walk to the ferry terminal, and soon the ship was ferrying us away, with the lights of Waiheke twinkling in the distance behind us.
I absolutely fell in love with Waiheke, and using our electric bikes allowed us to stop where we pleased when we pleases, and really drink in the incredible wild side of the island. What impressed me so much was that even after a full day, there was still so much more we could have done. Bush walks, blissful beaches and wineries stretched out across the island – what more could you want just 40 minutes from the city?
*Pin Me For Laterz*
Our experience with eCyclesNZ was complimentary, but as always all opinions expressed are entirely my own.
Want to learn more about our upcoming travels? Check out this rundown.