It was about halfway through the ferry ride that I realized I was in trouble. Even though this was my fourth trip to New Zealand, it'd been a few years — and I had forgotten how unrelenting the sun was, with barely any ozone layer to soften its rays.
I was going to get a sunburn.
But, somehow, I didn't care. The turquoise waters, fluffy white clouds, and sails unfurling in the wind kept me on the outside deck of the Fuller's ferry from Auckland. I was headed to Waiheke Island, and the idea of sunburn was less and less concerning to me the closer we got to our destination.
I'm ashamed to say that, even though I'd heard people rave about Waiheke Island plenty before, it took me four trips to New Zealand to finally make it out there. Shame, shame on me. Because this place is incredible.
Located just over 10 miles from downtown Auckland, Waiheke Island is a popular day or weekend trip from the city — and I can definitely attest to this, judging by how full the ferries were on a sunny Saturday afternoon.
After a smooth 40-minute ride, I caught a bus from the ferry landing into the little town of Oneroa. A quick trip to the beach had me nearly convinced to just spend the day in one spot with a cold drink and my Kindle, but the adventurer in me wanted to see more of this island I'd heard so much about.
Fifteen minutes of searching and forty dollars later, I had my plan: an electric bike that would be perfect for tackling Waiheke Island's hills.
The island is small, but not so small that you can walk all of it. You really need a vehicle of some sort, and I was very happy with my semi-motorized choice.
I headed first out to Blackpool, a small village on Huruhi Bay. I rode along the Esplanade (partially an unpaved track), stopping every 2 minutes or so to snap photos of the turquoise water. New Zealand definitely has a distinctive color to its water.
From there, I rode through Surfdale, crossing the island and heading in the direction of Palm Beach. I hit some killer hills, though, and my bike struggled. Poor bike. To prevent myself from sweating into a puddle trying to ride up those hills, I soon turned around and headed back toward Oneroa.
But I wasn't quite ready to be done with my exploring. So I followed the road (and then the signs) for Cable Bay, a popular winery with killer views back out toward the mainland. I don't drink wine (or much other alcohol, for that matter), but I happily enjoyed a Coke and an order of shoestring fries while enjoying the views.
All told, my adventure lasted about 6 hours from ferry dock to ferry dock. And, I must say: everyone was right. Waiheke Island IS definitely a must-do in New Zealand!
IF YOU GO…
Getting there: There are a few ferry companies that operate now between Auckland and Waiheke Island. I took Fuller's ($36 NZD return), but you can also go with SeaLink or Explore.
Once there: You can book bus tours of the island if you want a guided go-round (these usually come with free bus passes good for the whole day), or you can do what I did and explore on your own. You can rent cars, bikes (electric and regular), and even scooters. I paid $40 to rent an electric bike for half a day, which I picked up in Oneroa.
Where to stay: I only went to Waiheke Island for half a day, but you can stay overnight if you want to make a weekend of it. For a luxury experience, go for the Delamore Lodge. For a more budget-friendly options, check out the Kiwi House Waiheke.
Does Waiheke sound like a place that would make your NZ itinerary?