As I was handed my ferry tickets I was also handed a timetable showing a map of the island’s 26 vineyards – 26?! Just how big is this island? At its widest it is only about 9.5 km!
It is in fact the second largest island in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf, located approx 11 miles from the city and 35 minutes on the ferry. The short hop means that many Aucklanders have holiday homes here and in the summer the population doubles. As far as a daily commute goes, I can think of worse, as can many others judging by the look of my fellow passengers. Having said that, the kiwi dress code errs toward the casual and so perhaps they are all commuters?
Waiheke can be visited on a day trip with many people coming over on a wine package organised by Fullers Ferries. The idea is, sail across, go to a vineyard, drink wine, go to another vineyard, drink more wine, have lunch with wine, perhaps more wine for the road, have someone pick you up and deposit you on the return ferry. How you get home once you get back to Auckland is your own business, perhaps it is a good idea to have your address written on a piece of paper? I suppose some people might also want to write their name!
Until now my favourite place in New Zealand was Queenstown, the man from the Queenstown Regional Tourist board said that everyone tells him that. Now that Waiheke has taken the pole position perhaps I shall call him? I am not alone, they tell me that Lady Gaga loves Waiheke (which is probably all that we have in common).
I went to see the house where she stayed as it is available for private rentals. It is stunning! Huge windows with amazing views, right on the coast and of course a helicopter landing pad (I will show you some photos later). You can see the Sky Tower from the garden and I wonder, do people in Auckland think “how lucky I am to have such a view” or do people in Waiheke look at Auckland and think “how lucky to have that view” (ie I am happy that I am not over there in the big city). Would you want the view? Or would you prefer to live IN that view?
So what makes Waiheke? The views, the vineyards, the olive groves, the cottage industries, the beaches, the rolling hills, you name it, Waiheke has the lot, in spades, and the food is so fresh it is just divine! The whole island exudes a feeling of health, well-being and all round contentment and I love it!
The delightful Delamore Lodge, where I am staying, is about 6 minutes’ drive from Oneroa, I got a lift into the little town and said I would walk back. My host, knowing that the customer is always right, politely asks if I am sure. Of course, I could do with the exercise and some fresh air, clearly not one to argue, he leaves me to it.
Happily I wander along the beach, watch the dolphins playing with the swimmers in the bay, enjoy a tasty lunch in the sun, visit a wine shop or two and purchase a few of the island’s wines as gifts to take home. Then I decide to head back.
Now one thing I did not “quite” appreciate is that there do not seem to be any flat roads on Waiheke, in fact the gradients are such that I feel my body is parallel to the road as I go up and down the many hills back to the lodge. As I approach the top of the third hill I sigh with relief so imagine my *surprise (insert *horror*) when there is yet another even steeper hill ahead. Those bottles of wine are beginning to feel rather heavy and My! Isn’t it hot!
I pause, a truck drives past me, the occupants smile politely in a friendly greeting. I am sure they are secretly thinking “there goes another one”! I suppose an air of lunacy surrounds me, not least because I am red hot and my hair would give Einstein some competition.
I push on. Steep! Next time I will bring crampons! Scrap that, next time I will take the car!
My wild look is met with a nod as I return to the lodge, no words are exchanged, none are needed … I know, he knows… sometimes the customer is not right!