Planning a Waiheke Island day trip and not sure where to start? There are loads of things to do on Waiheke Island whether you’re looking to drink, dine, explore or all three.
I have a confession to make… I lived in Auckland for a full five years before I ever made it to Waiheke Island. I know, useless! I was a student when I first moved up there and Waiheke Island conjured up images of fancy dresses and expensive wineries, neither of which I could afford.
While I wasn’t entirely wrong (the wineries can be pricey!), on my 15+ visits since then, I have learnt that there are plenty of things to do on Waiheke Island no matter your budget or your travel preferences.
So from vineyard tours to adrenaline activities to some of New Zealand’s best beaches, here are 15 epic things to do on Waiheke Island, plus some tips on how to get to Waiheke, how to get around the island and where to stay while you’re there.
Waiheke Island travel guide: A summary
How to get to Waiheke Island: Catch the passenger ferry from downtown Auckland or the car ferry from Half Moon Bay, or book a helicopter flight if you’re that way inclined!
How to get around Waiheke Island: You can catch local buses, book a hop-on hop-off pass, hire bikes or ebikes, catch taxis or rent a car
Where to stay in Waiheke Island: Jake’s Place Oneroa for somewhere mid-range or Omana Luxury Villa if you want to splurge
Best wine tour: We absolutely loved our day with Waiheke Wine Tours
Best winery: So hard to pick one but my top three are Tantalus, Mudbrick and Man o’ War
Best meal: Hands down the High Tea at Batch Winery, three tiers of seasonal, local bites topped off with a pavlova that will blow your mind
The best things to do on Waiheke Island
Visit your favourite winery
Let’s kick this list off with one of the most obvious things to do on Waiheke Island, a visit to some of New Zealand’s best wineries.
There are more than 25 vineyards that take advantage of the island’s microclimate to produce award-winning vintages, with a particular focus on reds like Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. But if you’re not a red wine drinker (I’m not!) don’t stress, there’s plenty of other options to suit your palate.
The two most popular wineries on Waiheke Island are Cable Bay and Mudbrick, both in Oneroa within walking distance of one another (900m apart). Waiheke Island is a super popular day trip from Auckland and many local revellers will hop on the ferry, make their way to Cable Bay or Mudbrick, and enjoy the food, wine and views for the day before heading home again.
Other wineries that are worth adding to your list are:
- Tantalus Estate
- Casita Miro
- Batch Winery
- Wild Estate
- Passage Rock
All of these wineries offer cellar door wine tastings (usually at a cost of $5-15 that’s redeemable if you buy any bottles) and some offer full winery tours that show you the behind the scenes process.
Do a wine tour
If you want to make the most of your time (and want to avoid having to draw straws for a sober driver…), booking a wine tour is by far the best way to see Waiheke’s wineries.
My top Waiheke wine tour recommendation is the aptly-named Waiheke Wine Tours, they’re locally owned and operated and offer a bunch of different tour options from budget-friendly shared tours to private tours for your group to food and wine tours and even gin tasting tours!
A group of friends and I recently tried out their boutique wine tour, where our legendary driver Dave took us to Stonyridge, Tantalus, Batch, Mudbrick and Cable Bay, with short and sharp Waiheke history lessons as we drove from A to B. You get to choose your wineries and lunch stop on the private tours but we took their expert recommendations to ensure we experienced a good range of what Waiheke has to offer.
The cheapest option is $110 for a shared tour, you can catch the 10am ferry (ticket purchased separately) and will get picked up at the wharf at 10.40am for a five hour tour around three vineyards for a total of about 15 tastings, plus a lunch stop (lunch at own cost). You’ll get dropped back at the ferry in time for the 4pm sailing, or you can book the tour with a local bus stop pick up and drop off if you’re staying on the island.
A Waiheke wine tour is one of my favourite suggestions for an Auckland day trip or girls’ weekend!
Explore by bike
Waiheke is covered in steep, windy roads, but if you’re up for a physical challenge, another popular way to see the island is by bike or e-bike. I highly recommend an e-bike, unless you’re used to cycling in hilly terrain.
Full day e-bike hire through WaihekE Bikes costs $110 with free delivery to the wharf or your accommodation and 12 hours of ride time. If you’d prefer the added security of following a guide, you can book a guided tour for $150 per group.
There’s an array of bike itineraries to pick and choose from, like a 2 hour coastal ride along the best beaches, or a 3 hour loop on the lesser visited eastern side of the island.
Try the hop-on hop-off bus
If you’re visiting on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday between December and April, the Fullers Hop-On Hop-Off bus is a brilliant way to explore the island.
For just $68 per adult you’ll get a return ferry ticket from downtown Auckland as well as a day pass to hop on and off the bus at 16 different locations around Waiheke.
Enjoy high tea
One of my personal favourite things to do on Waiheke Island, high tea at Batch Winery is one of those meals that will live in my brain rent-free forever.
I discovered this incredible gastronomic experience on one of my earliest Waiheke visits and now I have to go back every single time I’m on the island!
The high tea is $48 per person which is excellent value, and it comes out on a three-tiered platter with NZ cheese and accompaniments on the bottom, tapa-style bits on the middle tier and a life-changing pavlova covered in berries and passionfruit compote on top. Absolutely delicious.
Taste some gin
A relative newcomer to the Waiheke Island scene, Waiheke Distilling Co. is a great option if you or one of your travel buddies aren’t so sold on the whole wine thing.
Located on the less commercial side of the island, you’ll head down some winding, rural roads to reach the distillery but it’s totally worth it. The Gin Garden offers one of the best views of the island, boasting a spray-free, bee-friendly garden that is the starting point for the botanicals you’ll soon be drinking. Ah, the circle of life!
Savour some local seafood
The culinary offerings on Waiheke are diverse, but if you’re a seafood lover, you need to try some of the local kaimoana.
The Oyster Inn is the best spot in town for fish and shellfish, with options like a brioche oyster roll, ceviche, mussel linguine and classic fish and chips. Travelling with a group or reckon you’re up for a challenge? Their $150 seafood tower has three tiers of ocean-sourced dishes.
If you aren’t super keen on all the eating and drinking, or if you want to get your heart racing after a busy weekend of too much eating and drinking, EcoZip Adventures is one of the coolest things to do on Waiheke Island for active adventurers.
The zipline tour includes pick up and drop off from the ferry or from Oneroa, a 20 minute Waiheke Island highlights tour on your way to the zip HQ, then jump in your harness and get ready for a couple of hours of fun! You’ll zip your way across three ziplines that take you over 2000 vines of Syrah and thick native bush, with the option of racing a friend on each section as they’re all dual lines.
After your sky-high adventure you’ll come back to earth and see the forest from the ground, learning about EcoZip’s conservation efforts to protect Waiheke’s wetlands.
Try your hand at archery and clay bird shooting
Wild on Waiheke is one of the most unique wineries on Waiheke Island. Not only is it one of the few wineries that also brews their own craft beer, but they also offer activities like archery, clay bird shooting, petanque, giant chess and volleyball.
It’s also one of the few kid-friendly wineries on the island, with an epic playground and trampoline to keep your young ones entertained while you indulge in the wine or beer.
Find a good view
With hundreds of hills looking out to the ocean, Waiheke is packed with different viewpoints to find and photograph. If you do a wine tour you’ll see some amazing views from the drive, or if you have a rental car I’d recommend just zipping around for an hour or so to find the best spots.
Hit the sculpture trail
Held biennially (I’ll save you the Google, it means every two years), Sculpture on the Gulf is one of the coolest things to do on Waiheke Island if your trip aligns.
During the 3-4 weeks that the Sculpture on the Gulf is on, Matiatia Coastal Walkway hosts around 30 incredible outdoor contemporary sculptures along a 2km walkway that takes 1.5-2.5 hours to complete. Entry is $15 per person and the next SOTG will likely be held in March of 2024.
Venture to the other side of the island
If you are lucky enough to have a weekend on Waiheke or have visited before and already ticked off the main things to do, why not explore beyond the usual spots and head out to the eastern side of the island for some wine, pizza and beach time?
The roads are narrow and windy, with some gravel/dirt roads some of the way, but the final destination is worth it: the magical Man o’ War Bay and Winery.
Man o’ War pinot gris is my favourite New Zealand wine so I knew I had to tick this off before I left New Zealand for round two of my round the world solo adventure, and I managed to make it out there with my mum and two of my girlfriends at the end of summer. I was not disappointed. Man o’ War is the island’s only beachfront winery and it serves up a selection of food from platters to pizza to heartier dishes, and you can have a dip after your afternoon of food and wine.
On the way out to the eastern side you’ll also pass Passage Rock Wines (the winemaker is known as one of the most talented on the island), the Cowes Bay viewpoint and the Waiheke Distilling Co.
Waiheke enjoys a microclimate which is generally a couple of degrees hotter than Auckland City despite only being a 35 minute ferry away. The water is warmer too, so pack your togs if you want a midday dip.
The main beaches are Oneroa Beach, Palm Beach and Onetangi Beach, but my favourite is Little Oneroa which is a bit quieter and has an epic woodfired pizza food truck in the carpark.
See the island from the sky
Waiheke Island is one of the best locations in New Zealand to try a scenic flight, because you’ll get to see the island’s unique, jagged shape, endless lines of grapevines and bright blue water lapping at golden beaches, plus you’ll see Auckland’s CBD and Rangitoto Island too.
A 30 minute scenic flight only costs $139, such a bargain!
Taste test some local honey and olive oil
Fancy yourself as a bit of a foodie? Throw a spanner into the mix and enjoy a wine tasting alongside some honey and olive oil too.
Kennedy Point Vineyard is Waiheke’s first and only certified organic vineyard, and they offer tasting platters with French cheeses, smoked salmon and local oysters (seasonal) along with wine, honey and olive oil tasting from their estate.
Where to stay on Waiheke Island
Budget | Waiheke Backpackers Hostel is rated 8.9/10 on booking.com with both dorm beds and private rooms, Waiheke Island Guesthouse is a basic but budget-friendly option, and Boatsheds on the Bay is probably the cheapest sea view accommodation on the island.
For a group | Kereru Villas is a stunning holiday home with space for six people, Oneroa Views has room for eight and also boasts a spa pool, or Palm Beach Lodge has space for a group of 16 travel buddies in total.
I hope this guide of the best things to do on Waiheke Island has helped you plan out your Waiheke itinerary! If you think I’ve missed anything important then let me know in the comments.