New Zealand Walks: Waiheke Island Walking Festival - something not to be missed
something not to be missed
Waiheke resident and avid walker, Hannah Griffiths, tells us why walking on Waiheke, particularly during the Waiheke Walking Festival which takes place this coming November, is something not to be missed.
There are a multitude of reasons why Waiheke Island is fondly referred to as “the jewel in the gulf”. Its exceptional network of walking tracks and trails for those who like to explore our great outdoors on their own two feet is just one of them.
I can’t count the number of times the island’s clement weather (usually at least a smidgen better than the mainland!) has tempted me to lace up my well-worn hiking boots or flashy sneakers (I’m a girl of extremes) and venture out to seriously work out, or just to wander, amongst its invigorating natural beauty.
It never fails to surprise and delight me how diverse an experience you can enjoy on what is essentially, in the vast scheme of things, rather a small rock.
Spectacular, rugged coastline and heavenly white-sand beaches in picture-perfect bays are most definitely “Instaworthy”. Lush native bush, sprawling hills and rows of glistening vines stretching as far as the eye can see. To experience so much of the wild, untamed and untouched, juxtaposed with the perfectly planned, planted and polished is a sensual journey which nourishes the mind, body and soul in every way the heart can desire.
Whilst our “Waihetian” (some prefer “Waihekean”) villages can be bustling, buzzing little havens full of life and laughter, walking here holds the key to discovering spots which induce a feeling of being stranded on your own desert paradise.
Walking on Waiheke also provides a chance to indulge (or over-indulge), in the delectable, award-winning cuisine and wine available relatively guilt-free - and rather smugly I might add.
There’s simply nothing like rocking up to a beautiful vineyard restaurant, energised from the exertion of a brisk hike and high on fresh-air and settling yourself down at an outside table, soaking up even more of the magical surroundings whilst tucking into a well-earned plate of something delicious and a glass or three of some of the finest wines in the country!
And the plethora of wineries and restaurants to choose from is exciting in itself.
Whether it’s a magnificent Italian banquet in the peaceful, poplar-speckled valley at Poderi Crisci, a gourmet lunch overlooking the exquisite wonderland of Tantalus’ manicured grounds and immaculate, undulating vineyards, or tapas under the shimmering olive trees on Casita Miro’s popular private lawn.
Having earned the right to spoil yourself by walking there just adds to the sense of satisfaction.
And then there are the views. Whilst we don’t lay claim to any mountains on our rock, the vistas to be experienced
Opposite page above: This walk includes a walk beside the sea shore. Above left: Walking along the shoreline and up a hill on last year’s event. Above right: A walk in a shaded area. Below: Walking through an area with large rocks. from our highest points are pretty breath-taking.
It has been said that ‘the only thing flat about Waiheke is the map!’, so never fear, there’s certainly challenge a-plenty for the lion-hearted trampers amongst us. Whether you feel like taking on the heart-pumping ups and downs or prefer a gentle stroll, Waiheke has a walk to suit your goal, mood and schedule.
From a barefoot stretch of the legs along the shore to relax and breathe mindfully or indeed a full day adventurehike which is sure to have one breathing heavily, the options to rejuvenate, revitalise and refresh are endless here.
For a first taste of walking on our Island you can’t go past the Waiheke Walking Festival held each year in November. I adore this Festival for many reasons. Its creative and thoughtful curation provide a rich reminder of the vast array of excellent walking options available on the Island and encourage more walkers to discover what a fantastic, unmissable destination it truly is.
The Festival also inspires people – islanders themselves, mainlanders and tourists alike – to connect more deeply to Waiheke’s beautiful environment, fascinating history and colourful stories through the profound knowledge and passion of the local guides who lead each walk.
Another real bonus is the privilege of being invited, exclusively via the Festival and the generosity of local private landowners, to set foot on and experience corners of Waiheke which are ordinarily inaccessible to the general public. And the cherry on top? Unlike most exclusive things in life, all of these guided walks are free of charge.
Ultimately, being on Waiheke, whether tramping all over the place or relaxing and indulging in the after-glow, is a treat for the senses. To be fully immersed in the glory of our natural landscape, with all of life’s pleasures, comforts and luxuries just around the next bend, is an experience like no other.
I am so very grateful to be able to enjoy it every day. I’m certain that if you come and see for yourself, it will be the first of many visits. You may just find yourself raving about how ‘the jewel in the gulf’ is a stunning diamond, and not so much in the rough. Key information Waiheke Walking Festival 18 – 26 November 2017 For more information, programme details and to book walks visit www. waihekewalkingfestival.org