48 hours in Waiheke Island (NZ)
Incredibly beautiful, insanely accessible and with a microclimate to rule them all, it’s no wonder Waiheke Island is one of New Zealand’s most favouritest wine regions. We jump the ditch to spend 48 hours driving a ute and drinking vino (not at the same time and always with a designated driver, obvs) around the best of the idyll’s best.
Waiheke Island, it’s worth looking up. Or just keep reading, that’s a good option too:
We get on a boat and it goes to a place.
Four Melburnians fly into Auckland. It sounds like a joke, and it kind of is when we’re greeted at the airport by a huge Toyota Hilux hire ute. I thank the heavens that I’m not the one parallel parking that beast. The plan is to catch the 90 minute car ferry over to Waiheke Island, Auckland’s blissed out, bohemian, winery hideaway. It’s a good plan.
On board the boat, the views across the bay are beautiful but the chill factor is real. At one point, Andre buys us all hot chocolates. I feel like I’m ten-years-old and on a family holiday. It’s pretty nice. We dock beside a sign that reads ‘Welcome to Waiheke’, I cross my heart and hope for good wine, good food and good tramping (that’s what Kiwis call bush walking, FYI).
We drink wine and have a good time.
Straight off the boat and we hit the ground running, making quick tracks for the cellar door at Mudbrick Vineyard & Restaurant. After all, it’s 11:30am and we’ve not tasted a drop of vino yet. Unacceptable. Mudbrick sits on a hill just outside the main town of Oneroa, and is home to an incredible pony paddock, 360-degree views of the island and a topiary-filled garden. You know, like when they clip those shrubs into perfect shapes or animals. It’s almost Alice in Wonderland-esque. Anyway, the tasting is good. The chardonnay is good. The cab sauv is good. And the whole thing is sustainable, go you Mudbrick, two for you Mudbrick.
We climb a hill and look at stuff.
The views around Waiheke are not shit. In fact, they’re pretty astounding. One of the Māori names for the island is Motu-Wai-Heke, which translates to “island of trickling water”. Amazing if you’re into coves and bays and beaches, not so fun if you need to pee, hey. There may no be palm trees and hardly any coconuts, but what Waiheke lacks in tropicana it makes up for with its rolling hill and blue sea situation. Oh, and the greenery. By golly, I’ve never seen so much green. At every lookout, we go full tourist and pull over by the side of the road, clamber a few fences, climb a few hills and gasp at the crazy beautiful vistas...then take about 4000 photos. Because if it’s not on Instagram, it never happened folks.
We make ourselves sick on things that come from the sea.
The internet tells us that the best place to eat on the island (outside of a winery restaurant) is The Oyster Inn, a white-washed, beach chic weatherboard that turns sea food into dream food. We eat a lot of Mahurangi Bay oysters. Not as many as Casanova, who was said to knock back 50 odd every evening, but we give it a good crack. Also drank some chardy and chowed down on crispy fried school prawns (they’re sah tiny and sah cute), life is good.
We discover the meaning of life.
And to our surprise, it’s not wine. It’s olive oil. We stop for more vino at acclaimed Stonyridge, a super traditional, French-style Waiheke winegrower known for producing bang on Bordeaux delights. I’m talking cab sauv, cab franc, merlot, malbec and petit verdot, friends. All the good stuff. I don’t notice the olive trees as we walk up to the cellar door, mainly because I’m distracted by the wall of celebrity photos (SNOOP DOGG WAS HERE, FOR REAL).
We sit down to a tasting flight at the Veranda Cafe and the French waitress brings over a complimentary olive oil taster. We absentmindedly wave thanks, all like “yeah, cheers, we’re here for the wine but whatever” and turn back to the notes. JD is the first to dip a little bread into the oil and next thing he’s waxing lyrical about that time he was in Rome. Kit leaves to go take photos of the olive trees. Andre wonders how many bottles he can get back to Melbourne on carry-on. I double dip and think about using the oil as a moisturiser, for the rest of my life. It’s that good.
We fall face first onto soft things.
Pillows, guys. I’m talking about pillows. Because after a day of hard wine yakka, you just want to watch a Waiheke sunset and then rest your precious, slightly tipsy, head somewhere comfortable.
We go and buy that wine that we normally hate.
Andre owns a ‘Death Before Sauvignon Blanc’ t-shirt (which is tantamount to blasphemy here in NZ). The fact that he wears this t-shirt, loudly and proudly, speaks volumes for his wine consumption habits. Given this, you can imagine my shock when Andre announces that he wants to go back to Mudbrick to buy a bottle of their sauvignon blanc. Tell my family I love them, surely the apocalypse is here. We pile into the car.
We eat more things from the ocean, this time near the ocean.
With a bottle of savvy b in the front seat, we make a pit stop for a takeaway stash of shucked oysters and head to the beach for an afternoon sesh. It’s miserable outside, but it’s much oyster, very wow in the car, so we brave the damp and take a seat on the wet sand. The oysters are good, the sauvignon blanc is all kinds of fruity. I try to imagine how many oysters I could fit in my mouth, but thinking about it makes me feel weird.
We get on a boat that goes back to the place we came from.
We had plans to celebrate the end of another successful wine trip with a sunset sparkling off the back of the ferry. There would be smiles and sun flares, so very Corona. Instead, we’re greeted with gale force winds and more than a smattering of rain. The four of us sit in the car, and fall asleep to Paul Simon. All in all, it’s not a terrible way to say goodbye to Waiheke.