Taking a day trip to Waiheke Island is one of the best things to do in Auckland, New Zealand. This small island is home to long stretches of beautiful beaches and coastlines, olive oil and gin distilleries, hiking trails, and restaurants. But for many people, the biggest draw are the wineries. Waiheke Island is covered in vineyards, so wine tastings or a wine pairing with lunch or dinner are one of the best things to do on Waiheke Island.
In this guide, we cover the best things to do on Waiheke Island, plus important travel planning information, including how to get to Waiheke Island, how to get around the island, and how to plan your time.
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Interesting Facts about Waiheke Island
Waiheke Island is the second largest island in the Hauraki Gulf of New Zealand. It sits within view of Auckland and getting here is a breeze, with regular car ferries connecting Auckland and Waiheke Island throughout the day.
Long strips of white sandy beaches line some of the shoreline of Waiheke Island. Small coves harbor boats, yachts, and kayakers exploring the island. Vineyards cover a large portion of this island, which makes visiting at least one winery a must-do on a visit to Waiheke Island.
Waiheke Island is referred to as New Zealand’s “island of wine.” The climate is well suited to growing Syrah, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc wines. There is a long list of wineries to visit in Waiheke Island and we’ll get into that in more detail later in this guide.
Every other year, the island hosts “Sculpture on the Gulf,” which is an outdoor sculpture exhibition held from January until mid-March. This event attracts over 30,000 people per year.
In 2015, Lonely Planet listed Waiheke Island as the 5th best region in the world to visit.
Best Things to Do on Waiheke Island
In no particular order, here is a list of the best things to do on Waiheke Island. At the end of this list, you can see all of them on a map.
1. Spend Some Time on the Beach
Oneroa Beach is a long strip of white sand that sits beside the town of Oneroa. To get here from the Fullers ferry station, it is a very short car or bus ride or a 30-minute walk. If you don’t plan on renting a car for the day, this is the easiest beach to get to. There are bathrooms and picnic areas here. From the beach, it also a short walk to the shops and restaurants in Oneroa.
Oneroa Beach | Things to Do on Waiheke Island
Palm Beach is a smaller beach than Oneroa Beach. It is located on the north side of the island, not far from Oneroa Beach.
Palm Beach | Things to Do on Waiheke Island
This beach is split into two sections. The main section, generally referred to as ‘Palm Beach,’ is a popular swimming spot on the island. There are picnic areas under the shade of the trees, as well as toilets and gas BBQs.
The second area, ‘Little Palm Beach,’ is at the western end of the beach. This section sits behind a small group of rocks and is open to nude sunbathing.
This 2-kilometer-long beach is the largest on Waiheke Island. Like Oneroa and Palm Beaches, there are public toilets, picnic areas, and access to a few restaurants.
Onetangi Beach | Things to Do on Waiheke Island
2. Visit Man O’ War Vineyards
Lunch at Man O’ War Vineyards was one of our favorite experiences on Waiheke Island.
This is New Zealand’s only beachfront wine tasting experience. Man O’ War Vineyards is located on the far eastern end of Waiheke Island. The winery and tasting room sit on a shaded grassy area just steps away from the beach.
You can come in for a tasting or lunch with a view. Reservations in advance are highly recommended and for the best experience, request a table outside, where you will have the best view of the beach.
Man O’ War Vineyards | Things to Do on Waiheke Island
If you don’t plan on renting a car for the day, Man O’ War runs a shuttle from the Fullers ferry port to their tasting room.
Learn more about Man O’ War and make your lunch reservation on the official website.
PRO TRAVEL TIP: The drive to Man O’ War Vineyards and the Stony Batter Historic Reserve is one of the most beautiful on Waiheke Island. See photos of the drive next, under our information for Stony Batter.
3. The Stony Batter Historic Reserve
The main reason for visiting the Stony Batter Historic Reserve is to see the rock formations and the gun sites that remain from World War II. But just getting here is a worthwhile experience.
The Stony Batter Historic Reserve is located on the east side of Waiheke Island. To get here, from Waiheke Road, turn left onto Man O’ War Bay Road. This is a gravel road but it is well-graded and suitable for standard cars.
During the 15-minute drive on Man O’ War Bay Road, you get breathtaking views of the east end of Waiheke Island. On this drive, you pass farms, sheep, and vineyards. The green rolling hills and views of the coastlines makes this one of the best scenic drives on Waiheke Island.
The view from Man O’ War Road
Turn left onto Stonybatter Road, take this to the end, and you will arrive at a small car park. From this point, you will continue on foot. GPS: 36°46’02.9″S 175°09’48.0″E
The start of the walk to Stony Batter Historic Reserve and tunnels
To get to views of the unique rock formations, it is a 1.2 km (0.75 mile) one-way walk from the car park. This walk is along a gravel road and has a few ups and downs but nothing too strenuous.
You can continue past these rocks for views of the gun installations. Guided tours are offered of the Stony Batter tunnels. We can’t comment on how good the tour is because the tunnels were closed during our visit. Learn more on the official website.
Rock formations at Stony Batter Historic Reserve | Things to Do on Waiheke Island
One of many beautiful views along the walk in Stony Batter Historic Reserve
If you only want to walk out to the rock formations, plan on spending about an hour here, which gives you enough time for the out-and-back walk. If you add on a tour of the tunnels, your visit could last up to three hours.
There is no public transportation to Stony Batter so you will need a car to get here.
4. Connells Bay Sculpture Park
The Connells Bay Sculpture Park has on display sculptures and photographic works created by New Zealand artists. It gets great reviews but can be a little challenging to work into your day.
The sculpture park can only be viewed on a guided walk. These walks are at 10:30 am and cost $30 NZD per person. You must prebook your guided walk in advance. Tours are offered from late October through early April. Learn more on the official website.
Connells Bay also has a two-bedroom cottage you can reserve for the night. If you stay at the cottage, you are permitted to visit the sculpture park unguided.
5. Omaru Bay Viewpoint
Not far from the sculpture park is an amazing viewpoint over Omaru Bay. On Cowes Bay Road, there is small turn out here where you can safely pull over and snap a photo. Here are the GPS coordinates: 36°49’44.8″S 175°08’47.6″E
Omaru Bay Viewpoint | Things to Do on Waiheke Island
6. Visit Tantalus Estate Vineyard
Located in the rolling hills of Waiheke Island, Tantalus Estate is one of the most beautiful vineyards to visit.
Tantalus Estate Vineyard | Things to Do on Waiheke Island
Tantalus Estate offers several different tasting experiences, plus a beer and wine tasting, for something a little bit more unique. They also offer lunch, dinner, and have a shop where you can purchase their wine.
This is one of the more popular vineyards to visit on Waiheke Island so make your reservation in advance for a tasting, lunch, or dinner.
Here is a link to the official website.
7. Waiheke Distilling Co.
Wine is not the only thing to taste on Waiheke Island. If you like gin, visiting Waiheke Distilling Co. is one of the best things to do on Waiheke Island.
This small gin distillery is located on the eastern end of the island, just a short drive from Man O’ War Vineyards.
The setting here is fantastic. The “tasting room” is a wide, grassy area, filled with picnic tables and bean bag chairs. From this hilltop setting, you get panoramic views of Cowes Bay and the eastern coastline of Waiheke Island. It’s one of the best viewpoints of the island.
The experience gets even better once you start tasting the gin. Waiheke Distilling Co. produces award winning gins as well as flavored vodkas.
Waiheke Distilling Co. | Things to Do on Waiheke Island
The view from Waiheke Distilling Co.
On a visit here, do a gin tasting, a vodka tasting, or simply have a cocktail and enjoy the view.
Waiheke Distilling Co. is a great place to visit after a nice lunch at Man O’ War Vineyards…the view alone is worth the visit.
When we did this in March 2023, they weren’t very busy and we were able to do a tasting without a reservation.
Learn more about the distillery on the official website.
8. Batch Winery
Batch Winery is another popular winery to visit on Waiheke Island. From its location on a hilltop cliff, again you get more stunning views of the island and on a clear day, can see the skyline of Auckland.
We visited Batch Winery for the Legacy Wine and Food Pairing, which was fantastic. Four bite-sized dishes are perfectly paired with Batch wines. The food was delicious and it was an all-around wonderful experience.
Legacy Wine and Food Pairing at Batch Winery
If you are a foodie or just like the idea of having a small, gourmet meal served with a wine pairing, this is an experience not to be missed on Waiheke Island.
You can also dine in the restaurant or have a wine tasting at Batch Winery. Learn more on the official website.
9. Rangihoua Mill
If you want to take a break from the wine tastings, how about tasting olive oil?
At Rangihoua Mill, you can tour the mill and taste a variety of olive oils from olives grown on Waiheke Island. This is a very busy place to visit so we recommend booking a tasting in advance.
10. Kennedy Point Vineyard
Sit in the shade of the oldest Pohutukawa trees on Waiheke Island, overlook Kennedy Bay, and taste Kennedy Point’s wine. Two Scottish cows roam the property but unfortunately, they did not make an appearance during our visit.
Kennedy Point Vineyard | Things to Do on Waiheke Island
11. Stonyridge Vineyard
With its hip vibe, lovely outdoor seating area, and vine-covered buildings, Stonyridge Vineyard is another top winery to visit on Waiheke Island.
For the best experience, book a table at the Veranda Café, dine on a meat and cheese platter, and have a glass of wine. They also offer wine tastings and serve lunch in their restaurant.
Stonyridge Vineyard | Things to Do on Waiheke Island
12. Sacred Blessing Sanctuary Garden
A visit to this tranquil oasis is a must-do for nature lovers and gardeners. Located on a hillside overlooking Enclosure Bay and Sandy Bay, this garden is filled with orchids, roses, magnolias, and hibiscus. Monarch butterflies and native birds find refuge here. Throughout the garden, sculptures enhance the atmosphere with their beauty.
The highlight for us was seeing the newly hatched monarch butterflies right after they emerged from their chrysalis.
Sacred Blessing Sanctuary Garden | Things to Do on Waiheke Island
A visit to the garden lasts at least 30 minutes. With picnic areas and lots of nooks and crannies to explore, you could spend a lot longer here.
Visit the official website for hours of operation and pricing.
13. Go Ziplining
For families and thrill seekers, put ziplining on your Waiheke Island to do list.
The EcoZip Adventure is a 3-hour experience that includes three ziplines and a forest walk. On this tour, you will zipline over both the forest and a vineyard. If you don’t have transportation, they can pick you up from several locations on the island.
Get pricing, learn more about the experience, and make your reservation on the official website.
14. Mudbrick Vineyard and Restaurant
Mubrick Vineyard and Restaurant has a little bit of everything…beautifully manicured gardens, stunning views of Hauraki Gulf, wine tastings, hotel rooms, and one of the top restaurants on Waiheke Island. This is a popular venue for weddings and special events.
We ended our visit to Waiheke Island with dinner at Mudbrick and it was a fantastic finale to the day.
Mudbrick Vineyard | Things to Do on Waiheke Island
They have both a restaurant and a bistro. For the better views and more upscale experience, have lunch or dinner in the Mudbrick Restaurant. The Archive Bar & Bistro is a more casual experience, with seating in the garden and outdoor terrace. We had dinner on the outdoor terrace at the bistro and it was a wonderful experience.
Learn more about Mudbrick and make your reservation in advance for lunch or dinner on their website.
PRO TRAVEL TIP: We could only visit so many wineries in one day. There are a two more wineries that kept coming up in our research as great places to visit, so these would also be worth looking into: Obsidian Vineyard and Peacock Sky Vineyard.
Our 7 Favorite Things to Do on Waiheke Island
Narrowing down the list above, here are our seven favorite experiences on Waiheke Island.
- Lunch at Man O’ War Vineyard
- Gin tasting at Waiheke Distilling Co.
- Seeing the monarch butterflies at Sacred Blessing Sanctuary Garden
- Dinner at Mudbrick
- The scenic drive to Stony Batter and Man O’ War Vineyard
- The Legacy food and wine pairing at Batch Winery
- Tantalus Estate Vineyard & Winery
Best Things to Do on Waiheke Island: On a Map
How to Use This Map: Click the icons on the map to get more information about each point of interest. Click the star next to the title of the map to add this map to your Google Maps account. To view it on your phone or computer, open Google Maps, click the menu button, go to “Your Places,” click Maps, and you will see this map on your list.
How to Get to Waiheke Island
You can get to Waiheke Island by ferry and helicopter.
There are two ferry companies that connect Auckland and Waiheke Island. Which one you choose mainly depends on whether or not you have a car.
Fullers operates a passenger ferry. It takes approximately 40 minutes to travel from Auckland to Waiheke Island. Ferries run very frequently, leaving at least once an hour from both Auckland and Waiheke Island, from 6 am to almost midnight. We used the Fullers ferry to get to and from Waiheke Island.
The Fullers ferry port on Waiheke Island is in Matiatia Bay, on the west end of the island.
For timetables, pricing, and to book your tickets in advance, visit the official website.
Tickets are also available on GetYourGuide. The last we checked, GetYourGuide allows you to cancel up to 24 hours in advance and get a full refund, should your plans change at the last minute.
ABOUT OUR EXPERIENCE: In advance, Tim purchased round trip tickets, for an 8 am departure from Auckland and an 8 pm departure from Waiheke Island. We finished dinner a little earlier than expected at Mudbrick and were able to get on the 7:30 pm ferry with our 8 pm ticket.
Sea Link operates a car ferry to and from Waiheke Island, so if you plan to travel to Waiheke with a rental car, this is the ferry you want.
The ferry runs from Half Moon Bay in Auckland to Kennedy Point on Waiheke Island. Travel time ranges from 45 to 60 minutes. You will need to check in at least 30 minutes before departure.
See the timetables and make your booking in advance on the official website.
For the ultimate luxury experience, INFLITE Experiences offers helicopter flights to and from Waiheke Island and also offer package tours. From Auckland, you can fly to Waiheke Island, land in the Mudbrick vineyard or the Man O’ War vineyard, have a three course lunch or dinner, and return to Auckland. There are even more options on their website.
The view of the Auckland skyline from Fullers Ferry
How to Get Around Waiheke Island
There are multiple ways to get around Waiheke Island: by car, by bike, by bus, and by tour.
For the most freedom and to travel on your own schedule, the best way to get around is by car.
You can either bring a car to Waiheke Island on the Sea Link ferry or rent one once you get here.
We took the Fullers ferry to and from Auckland and rented a car on Waiheke Island from GO Rentals. This small rental car facility has an office at the Matiatia Bay ferry port, where you disembark the Fullers ferry. Tim made the reservation in advance and I recommend doing the same thing, to make sure you get a car when you are here.
You can also rent a car from Waiheke Car Rental.
As you can see, we ate (and I drank) quite a bit this day, since we were trying to visit as many wineries, distilleries, and restaurants as possible to write this article. Tim, who had the job of safely driving us around the island, skipped out on most of the drinks. If you don’t want to miss out on wine and gin tastings, consider using the bus to get around the island, but you will be limited in where you can go.
Waiheke Bus Company runs a hop-on hop-off bus service that gives you access to most of the island. There are also bike racks on front of the bus, if you plan to get around on a combination of cycling and riding the bus.
Get timetables and pricing on the official website. You can also purchase your ticket on GetYourGuide, which has the advantage of free cancellation up to 24 hours with a full refund, should your plans change at the last minute.
You can also get around by bike, but Waiheke Island is relatively large and hilly, so unless you are very fit, consider renting an e-bike. You can also use the bus to cover some of the longer distances on the island.
Waiheke Bike Hire has an office next to the Fullers ferry port in Matiatia Bay. They rent mountain bikes and e-bikes.
There are also a number of tours of Waiheke Island. This option is perfect for those who don’t want the hassle of driving or renting a car or using the bus.
This tour includes a visit to three of the best vineyards on Waiheke Island, Mudbrick, Stonyridge, and lunch at Batch Winery, plus your transportation on Waiheke Island (wine tastings are included in the price but lunch at Batch is at your own cost; check the details before making your booking).
This small group tour includes your transportation on the Fullers ferry to and from Waiheke Island and a visit to four wineries.
This tour includes a visit to Mudbrick Vineyard, Kennedy Point Vineyard, and Obsidian Vineyard, lunch, and transportation on Waiheke Island.
Where to Eat on Waiheke Island
We had three meals on Waiheke Island and each of them was fantastic.
Tim and I agree that our best meal was lunch at Man O’ War Vineyard. The setting (sitting outdoors with a view of the beach) and the food were unbeatable.
If you like the idea of a food and wine pairing, book the Legacy Food and Wine Pairing at Batch Winery. The amount of food you get is similar to a small meal or a very big snack. They also have a restaurant where you can order full meals.
Dinner at Mudbrick was also a very nice experience. It’s a great place to end the day, since it is not too far from Matiatia Bay and the Fullers ferry (if you will take the Fullers ferry back to Auckland).
The Oyster Inn also gets rave reviews as does a small Mexican restaurant called Waixican – Mexican Food. Satisfy your sweet tooth at Island Gelato.
Waixican – Mexican Food
How Much Time Do You Need on Waiheke Island?
Plan on spending one full day on Waiheke Island. This gives you enough time to visit a few wineries, have a leisurely lunch and/or dinner, and add in some activities such as olive oil tasting, gin tasting, ziplining, time at the beach, or the walk out to Stony Batter Historic Reserve.
For an even better experience, spend one or two nights on Waiheke Island. This gives you more time to visit the beaches and wineries.
One Day on Waiheke Island Itinerary
This one-day Waiheke Island itinerary takes our favorite experiences and puts them all together into one wonderful day on the island. It is similar to what we did with some modifications. For this itinerary, you will need a car.
Take the 8 am ferry to from Auckland to Waiheke Island (the Sea Link ferry if you will be bringing a car onto the island or the Fullers ferry if you will rent a car on the island).
In the morning, spend your time at one of the beaches, spend 30 minutes to an hour at the Sacred Blessing Sanctuary Garden, or drive out to Stony Batter to see the rock formations and take a tour of the tunnels.
At noon, have lunch at Man O’ War Vineyard.
After Man O’ War, go gin tasting at Waiheke Distilling Company, go olive oil tasting at Rangihoua Mill, and then go wine tasting at Tantalus Estate or Stonyridge Vineyard. You have the option to squeeze in the food and wine pairing at Batch Winery…it is a lot to eat in one day (you still have dinner!) but we both liked this experience.
End the day with dinner at Mudbrick, either at the restaurant or the bistro. Take a late ferry back to Auckland.
Where to Stay on Waiheke Island
If you want a 5-star luxury accommodation with panoramic views over the Hauraki Gulf, take a look at Delamore Lodge. They offer several suites and each suite has floor to ceiling windows with views of the gulf. Onsite is a waterfall with a tropical pool and a sauna. It is located on the northwestern tip of Waiheke Island.
If you like the idea of staying at a vineyard, check out The Lodge at Mudbrick.
For budget travelers, Wai-knot Accommodation gets excellent reviews.
Waiheke Distilling Co. view | Things to Do on Waiheke Island
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Waiheke Island worth it?
With beaches, vineyards, olive groves, historical sites, scenic drives, ziplining, and fabulous restaurants, Waiheke Island is one of the best places to spend the day in New Zealand. It’s easy to get to from Auckland, it’s a gorgeous place to visit, and it is fun for all ages.
How much time do you need on Waiheke Island?
Plan on spending one full day on Waiheke Island. This gives you enough time to visit a few wineries, have a leisurely lunch and/or dinner, and add in some activities such as olive oil tasting, gin tasting, ziplining, time at the beach, or the walk out to Stony Batter Historic Reserve. If you have extra time in your itinerary, one or two nights on Waiheke Island gives you enough time to thoroughly explore the island.
When is the best time to visit Waiheke Island?
The best time to visit Waiheke Island is from October through April. This is when the weather is the warmest and driest. June, July, August, and September tend to be chilly and these are the wettest months of the year on Waiheke Island. The busiest time to visit Waiheke Island is late December into early January (for 3 weeks after Christmas), when a lot of Kiwis visit the island just after Christmas. Our visit was at the end of March.
If you have any questions about the best things to do in Waiheke Island or how to plan your visit to Waiheke Island, let us know in the comment section below.
More Information for Your Trip to New Zealand
NORTH ISLAND: Top experiences on the North Island include spending a day or two in Auckland, hiking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, visiting Cathedral Cove, touring Hobbiton, cruising the Bay of Islands from Paihia, and seeing glowworms and blackwater rafting in the Waitomo Caves. For the full list, read our article about the Best Things to Do on the North Island.
SOUTH ISLAND: On the South Island of New Zealand, visit Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound, hike the Hooker Valley Track, visit Akaroa and Banks Peninsula, go on a helicopter flight to see Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers from the sky, and learn about the best things to do in Queenstown. For the full list, read our article Best Things to Do on the South Island.
NEW ZEALAND ROAD TRIP: With 3 weeks in New Zealand, visit the highlights on a road trip to the North Island and South Island. If you have less time, you can shorten this itinerary by spending 2 weeks on the South Island.
We have TONS more information about New Zealand in our New Zealand Travel Guide, including Auckland, Queenstown, Wanaka, Aoraki/Mount Cook, Franz Josef, Christchurch, Wellington, Taupō, and the Milford Sound.
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