Waiheke Island: The Second-Largest Island in the Hauraki Gulf of New Zealand

The white sandy beaches at Oneroa, Palm Beach and Onetangi slope gently down into the Hauraki Gulf and are perfect for swimming, kayaking, or having a picnic.

Waiheke Island is the most populated and second-largest island in the Hauraki Gulf of New Zealand. Its ferry terminal in Matiatia Bay at the western end is 21.5 km (13.4 mi) from the central-city terminal in Auckland. In landscape, lifestyle and experience, Waiheke is a world away. The island is very hilly with few flat areas, the highest point being Maunganui at 231 m (758 ft). The climate is slightly warmer than Auckland, with less humidity and rain, and more sunshine hours.

If you’re a walker, explore the island’s trails which meander along cliff tops, down to the beaches and into cool enclaves of native forest. At the eastern end of the island the Stony Batter walkway leads you to a system of World War II gun emplacements and underground tunnels.

To stay overnight, rent a beach house and wake up to the sound of the waves, if you’re on a budget, go to a friendly backpacker hostel.

Getting around is easy too. Catch one of the regular ferries that run to Waiheke from downtown Auckland. Once on the island, there are public buses and taxis, or you can hire a mountain bike, motor scooter or car. And if you’ve already got a car or bike, you can bring it over with you on the car ferry.

Waiheke Island is only a 40-minute ferry ride from the Downtown Auckland ferry terminal. You’ll cruise past Auckland’s stunning coastlines and beautiful islands as you journey towards your destination. You can also catch the ferry from Devonport Wharf.

What can I do?

  • Vineyards – Home to more than 30 boutique vineyards, Waiheke has become known as New Zealand’s “island of wine”. This group of winegrowers have successfully matched the maritime climate and ancient soil structures to produce some of the country’s best wines. Visit cellar doors, or enjoy wine and food pairings at vineyard cafes and restaurants.
  • Food – The many island wineries are perfect for culinary indulgence. You’ll find a range of onsite options – from food pairings, to platters and casual lunch options, to gourmet meals at award-winning restaurants. Oneroa Village has beautiful cafes, gelato shops and takeaway options. For a relaxing lunch, take in sea views from The Oyster Inn’s restaurant verandah, or venture to Onetangi for casual beachside dining at Charlie Farley’s. Visit Rangihoua Estate to sample internationally awarded Extra Virgin Olive Oil, or stop by Te Matuku Oysters to purchase locally farmed seafood.
  • Shopping – Oneroa, Ostend and Surfdale have great shopping opportunities. Unique stores are bursting with local art, gifts, jewellery, clothing and more. The Ostend Market operates every Saturday from 8.30am – 12.30pm.
  • Beaches – Waiheke is best known for its pristine beaches, and its warm microclimate makes it the perfect swimming spot. Oneroa Bay and Little Oneroa sit side-by-side, and are within walking distance of the main village. Little Oneroa is a perfect place to spend the day, with BBQs, a children’s playground and a sprawling grassy area. Onetangi Beach features 2.5 km of beautiful white sand, plus convenient bars and restaurants at the water’s edge.
  • Walking Tracks – Waiheke offers a number of native bush tracks, and scenic coastal walks with sensational views of surrounding islands and the Coromandel. Starting from Matiatia Wharf, the Northern Walk features the most diverse track – without venturing too far from the ferry. Follow the headland track to Cable Bay, Owhanake Bay, and Oneroa Village before completing the loop back to Matiatia. See more detailed directions for a recommended track here.

Please be advised: Onetangi Reserve and Goodwin-Te Haahi Reserve have been closed to help reduce the spread of Kauri Dieback and protect the remaining native Kauri forests. For more information about this closure please visit Forest and Bird here.

What do I need?

  • Good walking shoes, sun block and a sun hat
  • Swimming gear and a towel, in the warmer months
  • A light rain jacket, and warm layers. Temperatures can change quickly, regardless of the season

How long should I stay?

Waiheke Island makes for a perfect half or full day trip from Auckland. But with so much to see, it’s also a superb weekend getaway or extended holiday destination.