New Zealand’s gourmet getaway
Venture off the coast of Auckland for a stylish sojourn
1 WATER WORKS
Waiheke, 17km off the coast from Auckland, lures day-trippers by the ferry-load for long lunches and wedding parties at its feted wineries. But there’s plenty to justify a protracted stay on this second largest island in the Harauki Gulf with its curious mix of bohemian ease and serious wealth. Waiheke’s action centres on the hub of Oneroa, which is blessed with eateries, galleries, a pleasant retail strip and a pretty arc of beach. The passenger ferry operates until late and drops visitors at nearby Matiatia Wharf, where a shuttle bus meets each sailing. But the island’s dramatic eastern half, a 45-minute drive from Oneroa, is home to glorious vistas, artistic ventures, and some of the more impressive cellar doors, so I’d suggest hiring a car at Auckland airport and booking yourself on the vehicular ferry departing Wynyard Quarter in the CBD. It’s far easier to find than the alternative at far-flung Half Moon Bay and if you time it right, you can sup at esteemed chef Al Brown’s Depot eatery or NYC Jewish deli-inspired The Fed before a late-afternoon sail across to Wai’s Kennedy Point. More: sealink.co.nz; fullers.co.nz.
2 THE LONG LUNCH
Waiheke’s vineyards range from the bigoccasion feel of those with Auckland city views to hidden treasures at the end of dirt tracks. Isolated Man O’ War thrums over summer as boat-goers drop anchor out the front of its beachfront tasting room and spend the afternoon lolling on the veranda’s rattan chairs for a tasting or picnicking on the lawn. Poderi Crisci, meanwhile, upholds the Italian tradition of a long Sunday lunch at its cellar door and restaurant in nearby Awaawaroa Bay. Be sure to book, skip breakfast, allow at least four hours and consider a taxi. More: manowarvineyards.co.nz; podericrisci.co.nz.
3 MARKET FINDS
The Ostend Farmers Market is held each Saturday from 7.30am in the grounds of the War Memorial Hall and affords a fantastic glimpse into the island’s multicultural nature. Stalls selling Hungarian fried bread, crepes, Austrian apple doughnuts and US-style pulled-pork rolls all feature, along with local olive oil, and beautiful lavash and pide from the island’s excellent Ringawera Bakery. Books, crafts and a chakra balance are also on offer. More: ostendmarketwaiheke.co.nz; ringawera.com.
4 CUPS OF PLENTY
Good coffee is blessedly easy to find on Waiheke. Auckland’s own Allpress is the blend of choice at Island Gelato Company, located in a shipping container on the main strip in Oneroa. While there, go for Al Brown’s Best Ugly Bagels or a fennel seed and mandarin gelato. Little Wai, downstairs from its big sister Wai Kitchen on Oceanview Road in Oneroa, also does excellent coffee as well as NZ-style scones and stellar toasties. And Island Coffee produces some of the best at its cafe and roasters tucked behind a nondescript retail strip in Ostend. Its small but lovely product range, including hand-painted Waiheke postcards and milk jugs and tumblers from nearby Factory Ceramics, is also worth a trawl. More: islandgelato.co.nz; waikitchen.co.nz; islandcoffeenz.com.
5 PARK AND RECREATION
Connells Bay Sculpture Park showcases largescale contemporary New Zealand sculpture amid a 24ha slice of reclaimed sheep-grazing land on a sheltered eastern cove. Founders John and Jo Gow’s original intention was to revegetate the farmland with native trees, but in so doing created outdoor “rooms” they decided to fill with purpose-commissioned art. The result is an ambitious private natural gallery, accessible only via appointment and a two-hour guided tour. Visitors staying at Connells Bay Guest Cottage have prime viewing rights as the historic beachfront house is set within the sculpture park and you can wander the works at leisure. More: connellsbay.co.nz.
6 TRIPLE TREATS
With a hip retail offering, outstanding all-day bar and restaurant, and three minimalist-chic guestrooms, the natty Oyster Inn, in the island’s former newspaper offices in Oneroa, has become a Waiheke institution since its opening about two years ago. Owners Andrew Glenn and Jonathan Rutherfurd Best’s attention to detail is unrelenting, for which you can thank their lengthy stints in marketing and events (respectively) in London. A veranda seat with views across the bobbing boats of Oneroa Beach, a plate of local Te Matuku oysters and a glass of Passage Rock Viognier is quintessential Waiheke. More: theoysterinn.co.nz.
7 THE OUTSIDERS
Eating al fresco is the Waiheke way. Best in show is wood-fired pizza from Dragonfired takeaway caravan at Little Oneroa Beach (my vote goes to the calzone with caramelised onions, mozzarella and olives). A few headlands along is Palm Beach, where an eponymous fish and chipper, a skip from the sand, serves up kumara chips and tricked-up burgers as well as the usual suspects. Surfdale’s Frenchot Cafe is worth a stop for traditional crepes (try the orange segment and maple syrup) and galettes in its leafy back garden. The Shed at Te Motu vineyard at Onetangi is arguably the island’s finest restaurant but just as enjoyable are the small plates at the garden tables of its The Terrace tasting room. The likes of smoked potatoes with sauce gribiche and herbs, or beef-tongue pastrami with ruby sauerkraut are cellardoor game-changers. More: dragonfired.co.nz; frenchot.com.nz; temotu.co.nz/the-terrace.
8 LIFE’S A BACH
Bach, a Kiwi colloquialism for beach shack, is something of a misnomer on Waiheke, where real-estate prices rival those of Sydney and wealthy Aucklanders sail their own boats across to sleek, architect-designed weekenders. But authentic baches still exist and Bookbach has an excellent cross-section of options, including the charming Oneroa Beachfront Cottage, one of the few original structures right on Oneroa Beach, with wide kauri floorboards, an outdoor fireplace, and a private keyed walkway up to the shops. More: bookabach.co.nz.
9 EXPLORATION ALL AREAS
Energetic types can learn stand-up paddle boarding off waveless Oneroa Beach, hike myriad walking trails that crisscross the island, zip-line over vineyards at Eco Zip on Trig Hill, or tackle the terrain on an electric bicycle. Likewise, the many wineries can be explored via minibus (try Waiheke Executive Taxis) or larger group coaches such as the hop-on/hop-off Waiheke Vineyard Hopper. The most personal adventures are with Michelle Chambeau Clarke and Christine Yeoman of Waiheke Bespoke Tours, which tailors half or full-day adventures that could include your choice of art galleries, vineyards, private picnics on secret coves and the elaborate disused tunnel network and gun emplacements at Stony Batter historic defence installation. More: waihekebespoketours.co.nz.
10 SMALL AND PERFECTLY FORMED
Its origins as respected Auckland designer David Scott’s family bach inform every aspect of The Boatshed (pictured), a deeply personal eyrie high above Little Oneroa Beach. Scott’s son Jonathan is the manager and visionary who has distilled their passions for architecture, art, sailing and Waiheke into one perfectly expressed bolthole. Its five rooms and two adjacent bungalows are a masterclass in good taste, with Sanderson prints, freestanding double baths, thoughtful beach bags and pebbled terraces. At the Boatshed’s heart is the bar and restaurant, which particularly excels at breakfast, where dishes such as fresh fig and ricotta toast or smoked fish cakes are rivalled only by the views towards the Coromandel. Don’t miss the fabulously eccentric organic veggie and herb garden, which hugs a 0.5ha of sloping hillside behind the hotel and is dotted with reclaimed ship funnels, garden sheds filled with granny lounges, and lighting made from terracotta planter plots. It supplies the kitchen with all its seasonal produce. More: mrandmrssmith.com/luxury-hotels/the-boatshed. • newzealand.com • waiheke.co.nz
The beach at Little Oneroa Bay on Waiheke Island, above; The Terrace at Te Motu, left
Connells Bay Guest Cottage, above; and Island Gelato Company, below