Exploring Waiheke

By: Heather Whelan, Photography by: Heather Whelan


Exploring Waiheke Exploring Waiheke
Exploring Waiheke On the headland track Exploring Waiheke
Exploring Waiheke Headlands and islands Exploring Waiheke
Exploring Waiheke Beautiful Onetangi Beach Exploring Waiheke
Exploring Waiheke Passage Rock Vineyard Exploring Waiheke
Exploring Waiheke Dotterel breeding area Exploring Waiheke
Exploring Waiheke Wineglass sculpture, Passage Rock Vineyard Exploring Waiheke

Beaches, bush, wildlife and art… Heather Whelan sets out on foot to discover Waiheke’s many gems

What I didn’t realise until my last visit, though, was that Waiheke has a continuous network of walkways that loop the island.

Called Te Ara Hura, the walkway has 100km of track, taking the walker through bush, along headlands and beside beaches. We sampled some of what Te Ara Hura offers recently, incorporating all the things that make Waiheke wonderful, with some short walks.

Exploring Oneroa

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After arriving at Kennedy Point on the vehicle ferry, we headed to Oneroa, Waiheke’s main settlement, and spent a couple of hours browsing the galleries and craft shops. With everything from recycled creations and merino clothing to handmade soaps and locally sourced organic treats on offer, we couldn’t resist indulging in some retail therapy.

Oneroa ticks all the boxes. There are several cafes and restaurants, as well as a small supermarket, a delicatessen and even a funky community cinema. After a relaxing lunch in one of the waterside cafes we picked up the Te Ara Hura brochures from the helpful staff at the Citizens Advice Bureau and set out to walk some of the Headlands Track.

Headland Walking

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The island’s walking network is divided into themed areas: Headlands, Beaches ‘n’ Baches, Forest Heart and Far End.

The Headlands brochure promised "million-dollar views over the Hauraki Gulf" – and we weren’t disappointed. We strolled along beside the coast from Matiatia Bay (where the passenger ferry arrives and departs from) to Owhanake Bay.

The sea glistened and the Gulf islands seemed to float on the horizon. We also got to check out some impressive real estate.

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One or two of the big houses on the headlands had large, interesting sculptures on their grounds, which added an extra dimension to the views.

At Owhanake Bay we explored caves and tunnels on the beach before turning inland. The track took us beside rows of vines in a vineyard, then past a hippy-looking enclave with a yurt and teepee.

This seemed to sum up Waiheke Island – luxury accommodation and sophisticated wineries cheek by jowl with alternative lifestylers.

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Sandy beaches beckoned, and what better way to end the day than with fish and chips on Oneroa Beach. Oneroa means ‘long sandy beach’ in Te Reo Maori and it is just one of the beautiful spots along Waiheke’s northern shore.

Beach life

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We spent the following morning sampling the delights of Little Oneroa, Sandy Bay, Palm Beach and Onetangi. The quirky-looking Red Shed at Palm Beach lured us in to look at more island art, the proprietor having just hopped off the bus to open up. The laidback vibe continued at Onetangi. As we sat on the grass after strolling along the beach, a relaxed-looking guy rolled past on a skateboard holding his takeaway coffee.

Vine dining

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The Beaches ‘n’ Baches brochure informed us that we were never more than a 20-minute walk from a cafe or vineyard on this part of the island. Having previously visited several of Waiheke Island’s vineyards on wine tours, we were tempted by the Miro Vineyard sign – this was one we hadn’t seen before.

The mosaic walls caught our attention as we headed up the drive. Casita Miro owners Cat and Barnett Bond are responsible for these Gaudí-inspired flowing structures, and the quirky sculpture that are a feature of the vineyard.

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We were happy to discover the winery restaurant specialised in sharing platters and tapas. We only wanted a light lunch, with not too much wine because we still had more walking to do!

Nikau country

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We thought it was time for a bush walk, so headed to Whakanewha Regional Park. The Nikau Track led through an area of bush to the Cascades, a series of small waterfalls and pools. The track lived up to its name; the bush was crowded with nikau palms, giving welcome shade on a sunny day.

Back at Whakanewha (Rocky) Bay we admired a grand sculpture that celebrates guardianship of the New Zealand dotterel. Part of the adjacent beach was fenced off to allow these rare birds to breed.

The northern headlands had been alive with tui and native pigeon, but the shelly beach here was home to oystercatchers, pied stilts, white-faced heron, godwits and other wading birds.

Whakanewha Regional Park has a campground at Poukaraka Flats and self-contained vehicles can stay at the Sculpture Carpark. We had come by car, not in our motorhome, on this visit to Waiheke – but this looked a great spot for a peaceful night on a future occasion.

Find out more

  • For those who want to experience more of Waiheke’s walks, there is an annual nine-day Walking Festival, with trails from ‘night sky’ to ‘forest bathing’; the programme also includes the five-day Te Ara Hura circuit. For this year’s dates see waihekewalkingfestival.org.
  • Another yearly event is the Perpetual Guardian Sculpture on the Gulf,
  • 1-24 March, showcasing stunning artworks along the coastline. 
  • Information about self-contained parking and camping at Whakanewha Regional Park can be found at aucklandcouncil.govt.nz.
  • The Sealink vehicle ferry timetable and other information can be found at sealink.co.nz.
  • Several operators offer wine tours on Waiheke Island. Check them out online to find the one that suits you.

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