New Zealand’s gourmet get­away

Ven­ture off the coast of Auck­land for a stylish so­journ

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Front Page - FRANCES HIB­BARD

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

GETTY IMAGES

The beach at Lit­tle Oneroa Bay on Wai­heke Is­land, above; The Ter­race at Te Motu, left

FRANCES HIB­BARD

FRANCES HIB­BARD

BEST BEDS

Con­nells Bay Guest Cottage, above; and Is­land Gelato Com­pany, be­low

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