Auckland City has a lot of different things to offer. But sometimes it’s also nice to get out of the city hassle in order to enjoy a quieter environment. Easy task, if you ask me! Especially when there’s a big range of day trips you can do from the city, even when you’re traveling on a budget. One of my favourite day trips must definitely be to Waiheke, the second largest island in the Hauraki Gulf. A few days ago, I spent there a Sunday with friends, and once again, it felt like being on a holiday for a week.
Only the name already sounds very exotic in my ears, like some Hawaiian island. Yet, it’s just a 35-minute ferry ride from the downtown ferry terminal in Auckland (or 45-minutes from Half Moon Bay, don’t forget to have a look at the discount rates!). Thus, not far away at all – at least, not for me at the moment. Neither should it be for you, in case you’re planning a visit to Auckland. As the second-largest island in the Hauraki Gulf, and New Zealand’s most densely populated island, it’s clearly a popular place to live or to have a holiday home. Still, Waiheke doesn’t feel crowded at all. As soon as you get off the ferry you’ll feel the relaxed vibe and the seclusion from the city. You can get around by bus (a day card costs $10) or you can rent a bike, which I would highly recommend – depending on your fitness level – because it gives you a better view and impression of the island. And with 40km of beaches, there’s always a scenic spot you can enjoy all by yourself or with a few others. But there’s more!
Island of wine
Waiheke is also known as ‘island of wine’. Yet another reason to pay the island a visit. With its many wineries and vineyards, Waiheke is heaven for wine lovers. No wonder, that they’re offering a huge range of wine tours around the island. But you can also do a wine tasting on your own, like I did. Just pop in at one – or maybe more – of the many wineries and ask for a tasting. Most of the time it will only cost you as little as $10 and you won’t be obligated to buy anything afterwards. Also don’t forget to enjoy the beautiful views of the vineyards. It’s truly a unique scenery, which I found stunning to see.
Walk in the National Reserves
In case you’re not into biking, but you still want to explore Waiheke’s nature, try to do one of the many reserve walks around the island. Again, you probably won’t come across many others during your walk, which makes it very peaceful. It will also bring you to the most beautiful viewpoints on the island. Just bear in mind that Waiheke is a big island when exploring by foot. So, be careful with the distances you walk and always calculate enough time for the way back – trust me, I speak from experience. And in the rare occasion that you get lost or you won’t make it on time for the last ferry home, there’re always very friendly islanders who are willing to help you out and give you a ride. Here again, I speak from experience.
So, what else to say than experience this beautiful island all by yourself. There’s so much more to do that I didn’t mention here. But being active outdoors, exploring the nature and have a little taste here and there, is just the way I loved it.