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21 Things to Do in Waiheke Island For the Perfect Day Trip
If you love wine, go to Waiheke. At least, that’s what everyone told me when I moved to Auckland.
Waiheke is a small island off the coast of Auckland. It’s easily accessible by a 30 minute ferry that runs regularly throughout the week.
The island is known for its wineries and restaurants.
Since I’m not a big drinker, I was more excited about the food. But I have to say, the wine was pretty excellent on a boiling day.
But it’s not just all about food and drink. Waiheke has something for everyone! The island boasts hiking trails, sand and rock beaches, eclectic shopping, stunning views, water sports, bicycling, olive oil and activities like ziplining.
I don’t think it’s possible to be bored when you visit Waiheke!
Waiheke is the perfect day trip from Auckland. Make the most of your experience by finding the best things to do in Waiheke island with this guide.
👉 This is my favourite tour of Waiheke
How to Get to Waiheke Island
Waiheke Island is easily accessible on a day trip from Auckland.
Fullers Ferry runs a regular service to Waiheke every 30 minutes until 11:45pm Mon-Sat and 10:15pm on Sunday and holidays.
The ride takes about 40 minutes and costs $40NZD return.
You can find accurate timetables for the Fuller’s Ferry here.
Although you can also catch Fullers Ferry rides from Devonport or other local islands, it is most common for visitors to embark from Auckland to enjoy Waiheke’s activities.
If you’re planning to visit Waiheke, be warned that a lot of hen dos visit on weekends in the summer in New Zealand. If you head out after 9:30 am, you’re likely to find the two storey boat will be absolutely packed, often meaning you’ll have to wait for the next one.
Don’t delay your trip by getting caught behind the partiers: go early to avoid the lineups.
Getting Around Waiheke Island
Although Waiheke seems small, there’s actually a lot to do around the island.
The Fuller’s Ferry terminal is located on one side of the island, closest to the main town and a plethora of vineyards. To see more of the island, consider these methods of getting around Waiheke:
Hiring a car is one of the easiest ways to get around Waiheke.
Most people don’t opt for this method, as their primary activity will include a lot of drinking at the different vineyards, so it’s not very difficult to rent a car when you arrive on the island.
The easiest way to rent a car is through Fuller’s – the ferry company. You can get a package for $99 NZD that includes your round trip ferry ticket, a one-day car hire, pick up and drop off at the terminal, options for baby seats, and car insurance.
Looking to get around via car? Find the cheapest car rentals here!
The public bus is an excellent option for people who aren’t on a strict schedule, want to make their own route, and are looking to save some money.
I bought the $12 NZD day pass when I bought my ferry ticket, which includes unlimited bus rides so you can see as much of the island as you please.
The public buses go to all of the main areas on Waiheke Island; however, they do have some gaps in their stops. For example, they don’t include the various wineries that can be up to 30 minutes walks away from the towns. You’ll also have to be prepared to wait for the buses, as they sometimes only come once every hour.
I used the buses to get around and, for the most part, found it really easy. It became more challenging when I went off the beaten path to do some beach hikes and hit a patch of construction where the bus route had been moved. Or when I had to wait for an hour in the sun beside an olive oil factory when the schedule said one arrives every 10 minutes.
Renting a Scooter or Bicycle
If you’re looking for an authentic Waiheke experience that will allow you to have the ultimate day trip, rent an electric scooter or bicycle.
You can find electric scooters, electric bikes, and manual bicycles on the island at the ferry terminal. You may need to book in advance, as many of the scooters sell out in the summer.
I love the freedom of driving an electric scooter (the Vespa kind, not the Lime Scooter kind) along the winding roads of Waiheke. It gives you the freedom to explore the ruins on the eastern side of Waiheke Island and to tackle the long stretches of hilly roads without your legs burning.
Electric scooters can be rented for $85 NZD from Bikes and Barbers.
Fullers Ferry offers deals for bicycle rentals. For $99 NZD you can rent an e-bike and get a return ferry ticket. For $70 NZD you can get a mountain bike and a ferry ticket for the day.
Other options include an off road segway tour.
Hop-on Hop-off Bus
Explore Waiheke at your own pace from the comfort of a modern coach bus with Fullers Ferry’s Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour.
For $68 for one day or $99 for two days, you can explore the island from the comfort of their Explorer Bus. As a bonus, your round-trip ferry ticket is included in the price!
The bus is better than public transport because it offers 16 stops that include the most popular vineyards, restaurants, nature walks, and shops along the island. Or you can stay on the bus for a 1.5 hour scenic bus tour with an audio commentary by a local.
The tour operates every day from 9 am to 5pm, with the last departure from the ferry terminal arriving in time to meet the 7pm ferry back to Auckland. The tour does not run on some national holidays.
👉 I recommend this bus tour of Waiheke
Waiheke Island Tours
Sometimes the easiest way to enjoy local activities is with a guided tour. I’ve compiled the best Waiheke Island tours to ensure you hit all of the best things to do in Waiheke.
Whether you’re going for an adventure day trip, a wine tour, or are looking to explore some art, these tours will ensure you have an epic day trip.
- 30-Minute Scenic Flight Over Waiheke
- Guided Art Exploration Walk
- 4 Vineyard Winery Tour
- Private Personalized Walking Tour
- Archery and Clay Pigeon Shooting Tour
- Full-Day Waiheke Food and Wine Tour
- Private Maori Walking Tour
Free Things to Do on Waiheke Island
1. Best Waiheke Beaches
One of New Zealand’s best features is its beaches. You can find epic white sand beaches to enjoy from Hot Water Beach in the North to Queenstown in the South.
Waiheke is no exception.
Waiheke Island is home to both white sand and rocky beaches. You’ll find the sandy beaches on the Western side of the island, nearest to the Ferry Terminal. The rocky beaches are along the East Coast, where you’ll also find some interesting Maori ruins.
Don’t forget to pack your must-have beach essentials!
If you’re looking for the best beach on Waiheke, I recommend going to Oneroa Beach. This sheltered bay is perfect for relaxing on the sand, going for a paddleboard ride, or barbecuing some supper. Locals and visitors alike adore this stunning beach.
Other beaches you may want to check out:
- Little Oneroa Beach – separated by a small headland, this beach is often more deserted and offers a silent refuge from the popular Oneroa Beach.
- Palm Beach – A sheltered beach similar to Oneroa with safe swimming and a children’s playground.
- Matiatia – North of the ferry terminal, Matiatia is a rockier beach where boats often moor. You may be able to spot sting rays and dolphins playing in this bay.
- Blackpool Beach – Best for kayaking, windsurfing, and paddleboarding.
- Surfdale Beach – Named for its popularity with kite surfers, this beach is ecellent for dog walking. You can reach Blackpool Beach by walking The Esplanada route.
- Ontetangi Beach – The longest beach on Waiheke that also claims to having the largest Pohutukawa trees (the New Zealand Christmas tree). A perfect spot for swimming, fishing, and Auckland’s famous Onetangi Beach Races.
- Cactus Bay and Picnic Bay – Little rocky bays with perfect orientation to watch the sunset and have a picnic.
- Man O’ War Bay – the Eastern beach is less popular than others due to its rockier beaches. It’s a great access point to the Stony Batter historic site.
🌊 Need help getting to the beaches? I recommend this tour!
The rolling hills of Waiheke make for excellent hiking. There are a number of walks around the island that vary from 30 mins to 5 hours long.
Plan ahead for your hikes, as Waiheke can be very hot and has few grocery stores. Pack lots of water and snacks to keep you going during your adventure. Be sure to know what to wear hiking.
There are many trails on the island. I’ve gathered some of the best to help you plan your day trip to Waiheke:
- Church Bay Circuit – 3 hour loop from Matiatia Bay to Oneroa Bay and back.
- Whakanewha Regional Park – A number of epic tracks. The Nikau Track (2.5 hours) or the Pa Loop Track (30 minutes) are my favourites. The forest, beaches and streams are stunning to explore.
- Matiatia – Owhanake Loop – 3 hour loop from Matiatia to the Owhanake Bay with coastal views.
- Little Oneroa Beach Walk – 2 hour loop that joins the Oneroa Beach to the Newton Reserve. An easy walk but has long staircase options.
- Hekerua Bay to Palm Beach – 2 hours in one direction on a concrete zig zag track past a number of beaches.
- Te Whau Loop – 3.5 hour walk from Onetangi Sports Park to Kaukaru Bay Forest Reserve.
- Ontetangi Reserve – Hikes ranging from 10 minutes to 2 hours. A great spot for bird watching and kauri tree spotting.
🥾 Stay safe by joining my favourite Waiheke hiking tour!
3. Bird Watching
New Zealand is famous for its wildlife. You can spot little blue penguins in Dunedin, swim with wild dolphins in Kaikoura, and spot rare bird species on Waiheke.
The Tui and the Kaka are the two most common birds you can spot on the island. At certain spots you may be able to see the Korora – the smallest species of penguins in the world.
The best trails for bird watching are:
- Waiheke Island Short Loop
- Rocky Bay and Whakanewha Loop
- Onetangi Track
- Ontangi Forest Reserve – any hike
- Matiatia Southern Walk Track
- Kennedy Point (blue penguins)
🦜 This tour includes great views of wild birds!
4. Watch the Sunset
Sunsets on Waiheke Island are said to be some of the most beautiful in New Zealand.
Basically every guide you’ll ever read about Waiheke tells you that you cannot miss the sunset.
Luckily, the ferries back to Auckland run until late in the evening, offering you plenty of time to camp out on the beach or enjoy dinner at a hilltop winery so you can watch the pink hues bathe the island in their glow.
If you’re worried about staying up late enough to see the sunset, book accommodation on the island and turn your one-day trip into an overnight adventure.
Explore the island on my favourite sunset tour!
5. Stay the Night to Star Gaze
Although Waiheke isn’t a dark night sky reserve like Taupo, you can spot some truly amazing stars on the island. Away from the light pollution of the city, the campsites of Waiheke are well known for their stunning midnight views.
Technically this activity isn’t free, as you do have to pay to camp on the island. However, since you’ll already have paid to stay overnight, getting the experience of star gazing is free bonus!
6. Olive Oil Tasting
I’m not a big drinker, so I was thrilled when I discovered that the wine island of Waiheke has activities that aren’t wine-focused.
Although nowhere near as good as the olive oil I had when living in a small, hillside town in Italy, Waiheke has some damn good olive oil!
Visit Rangihoua Estate to sample some free olive oil.
You can take a tour for $7 NZD to see their whole estate. Or pop in for a visit and try three different types of olive oil with a guided taste test.
My guide explained the differences between three types of olive oils that I got to taste, allowing me to examine their flavour profiles in a way I didn’t think was possible with olive oil. I honestly think the differences between the olive oils were starker than the differences between the wines!
The tasting included a sample of the herb sauce that all of my coworkers demanded I try. It’s like a less finely ground pesto, with larger chunks of herbs. I nearly bought four jars.
But the real showstopper of the day was the tamarind chutney. I’m still not really sure what tamarind is, but I ate about half that sample bowl by myself. It was like a sweet jam with a slightly curried aftertaste. You can’t get it in Auckland, so stock up while you’re in Waiheke.
If you have the time, consider taking the short tour through the orchard to see the rows of trees and learn more about olive oil production.
There are a few places to taste olive oil on the island, beyond with your dinner at a nice restaurant:
I recommend this Waiheke winery and olive oil tour!
7. Walk the Oneroa Art Trail
Discover the local art in Waiheke by taking a 3km walk that starts at the Matiatia ferry terminal and ends at Oneroa Beach.
This self guided tour will take you past stunning natural beauties like the bush reserve and local parks. Along the way, you’ll pass Alison Park, where you’ll find several sculptures. Stop in at the Artworks Centre, Whittaker’s Musical Museum, Waiheke’s Cinema, the new library, Toi Gallery, Space Gallery, and many art shops along the way.
This free walk is one of the best things to do in Waiheke if you’re interested in art and going for a lovely stroll.
👉 I recommend this tour to discover Waiheke art!
8. Stony Batter Historic Reserve
Waiheke is home to a large WWII ruin.
It seems odd that this unassuming island would hold the large gun emplacements and tunnels on a remote side of the island, but it’s there for you to explore.
Near Onetangi on the Eastern side of Waiheke, you can visit the Stony Batter Historic Reserve.
It’s an open air museum that’s free to visit, surrounded by nature.
Most people don’t even realize it’s there, so it’s definitely a unique thing to do in Waiheke.
9. Search for Wild Penguins
Did you know there are New Zealand penguins on Waiheke Island? Neither did I!
You can spot my favourite species of little blue penguins by Kennedy Point Marina when you visit. They’re most active at dusk when the raft comes back in from fishing and basically screams at the top of their lungs to find their way home.
It’s very hard to miss their chatter!
This is a great opportunity to spot these tiny penguins on the North Island, as they’re more common in the South in the Otago Peninsula.
Amazing Waiheke Island Activities to Do on a Day Trip
1. Wine Tasting
Wine tastings are the most popular things to do in Waiheke. Whether you’re visiting solo, out on a girls trip, or celebrating a life event, most people visit the vineyards while they’re in Waiheke.
I’m not a fan of wine and even I got on board!
When every winery offers a $10 NZD tasting menu, it’s easy to see why so many people end up absolutely shattered before they make their way home.
If you want to visit more than one vineyard, I recommend booking a wine tasting tour with a company who can help arrange your tastings and drive you between them.
I did mine on my own.
If you’re going solo, be prepared for some disappointments. Sometimes wineries are closed for private events, meaning that you’ll have to go a bit further to find one with availabilities.
However, for the most part, you can walk in without a booking and partake in the classic Waiheke activity.
Tastings include 3-4 samples of wine. The sample pours at Mudbrick were generous, meaning that I probably had the equivalent of two glasses of wine by the time I was done with my tasting.
The tastings often have multiple options, with the ability to upgrade to fancier packages to try their vintages as well.
My package from Mudbrick included a white, rose, red and bubbles!
Stroll around the vineyard with glass in hand, lounge on the sunny patios or cool down in the cellars. Take in the gorgeous views of rolling green hills or the strikingly blue sea.
Sampling New Zealand wine in Waiheke should definitely be on your must-do list.
The most popular vineyards are:
- Cable Bay
- Kennedy Point Vineyard (Organic)
- Wild Estate Vineyard (Also known for their beer)
- Man O’ War Vineyard
I recommend this full day food and wine tour in Waiheke!
2. Wild On Waiheke
If you’re looking for an adventurous day trip, check out the things to do at Wild On Waiheke!
This company is well known on the island for their incredible day adventures. Whether you’d like to go clay pigeon shooting, zipline over the forests, or try your hand at archery, you’ll find ways to have an epic day on the island.
If you’re on a budget, you can visit for free and check out some of their fun games, like human sized chess, trampolines, and volleyball.
Wild On Waiheke is the best thing to do for all ages.
3. Sculpture on the Gulf
Visit Waiheke in March to explore this amazing sculpture exhibit.
Sculpture on the Gulf is an incredible thing to do in Waiheke for anyone – even if you’re not that into art. The sculptures are set against the stunning backdrop of Waiheke’s shore. Walk the sculpture walk to see some of New Zealand’s finest artists’ work.
Tickets are only $10 NZD, but they go fast, so book early.
👉 I recommend this tour to discover Waiheke art!
I don’t often give in to the urge to shop, but Waiheke makes it hard to deny.
Explore the small towns across the island to find local boutiques with amazing one-of-a-kind finds.
The island has a good mix of simple beachwear and nicer clothing. The jewellery is absolutely beautiful. I’m so glad I don’t wear jewellery or I might have bought it all.
Most of the shops are in Oneroa. Check out Veranda, The Oyster Inn Shop, We’ar, Himilayan Trading Post, and Timmy Smith for a variety of goods.
If you head to Ostend, try out True Blue. In Surfdale, head to Eclectic Boutique for some interesting finds.
5. Jet Ski
Jet skis are my favourite water transportation method. I love riding them on lakes in Canada, like Muskoka, and tackling larger swells in the ocean.
Rent a jet ski on Waiheke to explore the bay between the island and Auckland. You can search for sealife, jump waves, and have fun racing past other boats.
Prices vary from $140-$400 NZD depending on the length of your rental.
You must have a valid driver’s license to rent a jet ski.
If you need some guidance on how to use a jet ski and where to go, check out some local jet ski tours.
6. Kayak or Paddleboard
Sometimes the best way to explore the water is to be close to it. Rent a kayak or SUP to have the opportunity to paddle alongside wild dolphins, see amazing coral, and get up close with the local bays.
The best location to rent water toys is Matiatia Bay. You’ll be able to walk to your rental from the ferry and enjoy the calm side of the bay.
Prices start at $15/hour.
🚣♀️ I recommend this inflatable kayak
Rent your own snorkel gear to explore the coasts of Waiheke or go on a guided snorkelling experience that will take you through the reefs.
Waiheke Dive offers rentals from $30 NZD for the day and gioded tours for $70. You can even combine the experience with a wine tasting!
The crystal clear water makes it so easy to see the diverse underwater life in the harbour. You may be able to spot stingrays, dolphins, and more!
If you bring your own gear, this can even be a free thing to do in Waiheke.
Auckland is the city of sails, which means every summer the harbour is absolutely full of beautiful white sails taking advantage of the strong headwinds.
Join in on the local activity by going on a sailboat excursion while you’re on Waiheke. You can take a classic yacht sailboat, rent your own private sailboat, or even go on a lovely sunset sail through the harbour.
The water is pretty calm in the area, so sea-sick individuals like myself are safe from the rocking you find elsewhere in New Zealand.
With the wind in your hair, the sun on your face, and a private cruise through the harbour, you’ll have an incredible day trip to Waiheke.
⛵️ I recommend this sailing adventure around Waiheke!
9. Spa Day
With so many hen dos visiting Waiheke, it makes sense that the island has almost as many spas as they have vineyards.
Whether you’re looking for a day of pampering or a longer weekend spa getaway, the island has you covered.
Book ahead to ensure you get a spot. I recommend doing the spa experience before any wine tastings, or you’ll be likely to sleep through most of your treatments.
The best spas on Waiheke are:
10. Saddle Up
Did you know that riding horses is one of the most unique things to do in Waiheke? Or anywhere in New Zealand really.
Horses aren’t indigenous to New Zealand (no mammals are – except for a species of bat!), so you don’t find a ton of horse back riding experiences like you would in Canada.
Waiheke Horse Tours offer a boutique experience where you ride along beaches, explore the ancient native flora, and even take a dip in the water!
This unique Waiheke activity is sure to be the envy of all your friends, especially after you post a pic on Instagram with an epic solo travel caption.
11. Take to the Sky
One of the best ways to experience New Zealand is from above. You may not want to skydive in New Zealand, but staying inside a plane can offer equally stunning views.
There are a number of companies that offer amazing flights in seaplanes to view Waiheke from above.
You won’t have to worry about catching a bus to make it across the island to see the ancient settlement ruins, because you can do it all from above!
You’ll even have a chance to spot whales and dolphins while you’re in the air.
12. Ostend Market
I’m a huge foodie fan. In fact, I fell in love with traditional New Zealand food and unique produce when I lived in NZ.
Visit Waiheke on Saturday from 7:30am – 1pm to shop local food and crafts. You’ll find clothes, toys, herbal remedies, and more!
Unlike Auckland farmers markets, there are more local vendors and less shops with stalls selling you the same wares they have indoors.
Although it’s free to attend, you’re sure to spend a few dollars buying some of the local food. I recommend trying a fejoia in the autumn!
Best Restaurants in Waiheke Island
What goes better with good wine than good food?
I assume that was the thought behind all the amazing restaurants on Waiheke.
From fish and chips to fine dining, you can find something to fill your belly. Vineyards and olive oil estates boast some of the best dining on the island. Put on a nice outfit to enjoy a fresh meal, usually with a view of the water.
If you’re not looking for a fancy meal, pick up some ice cream or a burger and eat on the beach. Food just tastes better around the ocean air (or maybe it’s just saltier).
Want to try it all? Book a food tour that will take you around the island for the day. You can even pair a food and wine tour to have an epically decadent experience.
There are so many places to eat around Waiheke. Some of the best restaurants (for all budgets) are:
- Te Motu’s “The Shed” (Known for their sunset view and fresh produce)
- Casita Miro (Spanish tapas)
- The Oyster Inn (Enjoy their fresh fish on their upper patio)
- Island gelato (Try their bagels!)
- Two Fat Buns (Delicious burgers)
- The Local (Fish and chips)
- Charlie Farley’s (Diverse menu options)
Waiheke Island Accommodations
Waiheke retains its island charm with no big businesses like fast food chains or global hotels. For visitors, that leaves a few options for accommodation: a lodge, renting a house or camping.
The best hotels on the island are:
If you want to camp on the island, look up one of the island’s many campgrounds.
The most popular is at the Poukaraka Flats in Whakanewha Regional Park. Camping is a great budget option with rates running at $15/night per person.
What to Wear to Visit Waiheke
As I stood in line to board the ferry, I realized I was VERY underdressed. Everyone around me had on pretty sundresses, designer T-shirts or fancy hiking gear. I seemed to drift somewhere in the middle with my worn-in running shorts, blue tank top and dusty New Zealand hat.
Since I was planning to try out a bit of everything the island had to offer, I didn’t really fit into the categories around me: hen do, vineyard attendants, beach goers and hikers.
If you care more than I do about showing up to a fancy vineyard in sweaty running gear, bring a change of clothes.
I recommend the following outfit options for a day trip to Waiheke:
Wrap Up Of Things to Do in Waiheke, New Zealand
That’s a lot of information for a little island, but I had to include it all to capture the magic that is Waiheke. It truly fits the cliché that “it has something for everyone.”
Waiheke easily calls you back with the promise of another unique and delightful visit.
You could return every weekend for a year and find new Waiheke island activities and tours to enjoy.
I found so much to love on the island: from delicious olive oil to gorgeous views to kind strangers who wanted to chat.
My only issue was getting tired and lost – two things that often happen to me on day trips.
If you’re looking for an amazing day trip in New Zealand or want to find things to do off the beaten path, visit Waiheke. You won’t regret it!
👉 This is my favourite tour of Waiheke
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