Waiheke Island: The Start of the Adventure

Waiheke Island is an amazing little paradise just north of Auckland. I had no idea that it even existed when I first got to New Zealand. But I’m sure glad I found it. I stumbled upon the subtropical vacation hub when I was looking for something special to do for my 24th birthday.

I booked a few nights at a cool place called Hekerua Lodge. The lodge was located just after Oneroa, the first little town you come across. The walk was between ten to fifteen minutes to get to the “downtown strip”. Or, you know – the tiny island equivalent. It was a perfect base of operations for me on the island.

I started off exploring Waiheke Island solo.

The closest beach seemed like a good place to check out first. It’s divided into two parts: Oneroa Beach and Little Oneroa Beach. The walk between them is easy at lower tides. At high tide, a steep and rocky cliff separates them. I made the mistake of trying to cross back over at a higher tide and ended up climbing the cliff. It was a bad time. I do not recommend.

Conquer Fear Waiheke Island
A hidden cache of seashells at Oneroa.

My back is up against the cliff in this shot of the space between as the tide creeps closer. The beach is absolutely beautiful. I was there in the offseason, very early spring, so it wasn’t very packed. In the summer, boatloads of Aucklanders swarm the beaches and take over the island.

The serenity of the empty beach was preferable at the time.

There are so many little shells that litter the beach. It reminded me of some beaches I’d been to in the Caribbean. I just walked all the way down the beach and back on the first day I was there. It was relaxing to finally be out of the city and I just wanted to soak it all in.

The next day, I met a couple of cool Argentinian sommeliers at the hostel. The ladies invited me hiking with them to Palm Beach. The journey to this small beach on the northern side of the island was rather easy. The walk was not too long, and the elevation was not difficult to climb. It just felt good to be out in the sun.

Conquer Fear Waiheke Island
A view of Palm Beach from our hike.

The funny part of our Palm Beach adventure was that we were fortunate to be exploring in the offseason. We ended up getting a nice view of the beach from the western end, shown above. A track leading down took us to a section called Little Palm Beach.

Turns out, it was a nude beach!

We walked right through it without realizing! Though I’m sure we would have figured it out if there had been some (pants-less!) occupants. Unfortunately, the weather was not on our side for the visit. Though I had brought my swim trunks with me, the weather was quite chilly.

We had to cross the island on the walk back to the lodge. The views were so great that we didn’t even realize how far we had to walk. From certain points in the middle of the island you can see the water on most sides. We were still near Oneroa, where Waiheke Island is very narrow. I remember coming around a turn and seeing the white tips of the sailboats down in Huruhi Bay far below.

Waiheke Island
A Huruhi Bay view across a random person’s yard and shrubbery.

I remember enjoying the colors here: the red hedge, blue sky, green grass, and white flowers and clouds. These views are commonplace as you walk about the island. I think we became accustomed to this high quality of scenery, because the girls wanted to see more. We decided to hike even farther – to another beach – the next day.

This beach was an hour and 40 minutes away from Hekerua Lodge.

It was also by far the sunniest day when we went. If you know anything about New Zealand, you know that the sun is not your friend. 50 SPF sunscreen is a must.

Waiheke Island
Onetangi Beach from the hike. I climbed around the corner of the rocks at the end of the beach but unfortunately couldn’t get all the way around.

This was September 23rd, the day before my birthday. After we had finally made it down to the beach, we were starving. So I decided to treat myself to a steak (with eggs). It remains the only steak I’ve had in New Zealand. We were going to catch a bus back to our side of Waiheke Island, but we still had time to kill. We hung out on beautiful Onetangi Beach for a short time, drinking mate (mah-tay) and eating Alfajor.

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Mate and Alfajor on Onetangi Beach.

It was during this time waiting for our bus that the two girls convinced me to do a wine tasting with them on the other side of the island, near the ferry.

I like wine. I was easily persuaded.

This particular vineyard, Mudbrick, had a gorgeous view of the harbor. The girls had never been to a wine-tasting with an ocean view – it was all mountains where they were in Argentina. I hadn’t either, and it definitely lived up to expectations.

Waiheke Island
Noe (left), Anto (middle), and myself (right) enjoying a wine tasting with the dormant volcano Rangitoto in the background.

We got to taste 4 wines, and the options were $10 or $15. It was $10 for 3 whites and a red, and the $15 option was for 3 reds and a white. I’m a big fan of red wine, so I chose that option. The girls split, so they could try more wines – now that’s smart thinking.

On the walk back to the hostel – now just 45 minutes or so through town – they made me practice spanish! The whole way! I did alright. I’ll do better once I go and visit Argentina. I promised that I would. It would be cool to stay in Latin America until I become fluent in Spanish. It’s dreadfully embarrassing only being able to speak English.

Anto and Noe left on my birthday, the next day. But that’s another story. When I woke up the morning after my 24th birthday with a nice big throbbing headache, there was only one thing to do.

It was time for some early-morning paddle-boarding.

Here I am, stand-up paddle-boarding for my first time ever around the wild, eastern side of Waiheke Island.

I had never paddle-boarded before, but I had a good time learning. I picked it up rather quick, and it was not a great day to learn. As we came around the bend heading into the last leg of the trip, the wind picked up and there were some choppy waves that knocked me to my butt once. But I didn’t fall off, so I count that as a win. All things considered, I think Waiheke Island was a wonderful place to learn to paddle-board. For those interested, this is the company I went with on the island, and they were fantastic. They change up the location of their tours, so you have the opportunity to see a few different sides of the island!

The next few days were my last on the island, and they were extremely rainy. Waiheke Island is a sub-tropical climate, so I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised. That being said, I still took the first opportunity to get out there and hike the stunning coastal tracks on the western end of the island.

The entire day was a heavyweight fight.

Me vs. Mud. And I’m pretty sure I lost. Actually, I’m 100% certain of it. There were heavy casualties, including my pants, socks, and shoes. At times it felt like I was squelching my way through mud so thick I might never see my shoes again. At one point, I pinballed my way down a hill using trees and fenceposts because the track was so slippery that it was more like a muddy waterslide.

Waiheke Island
The westward view just north of Oneroa Beach, with Rangitoto in the background.

But the views were worth it.

I hiked 4 hours all the way around the north-western corner of the island. I’m 1000% sure that that’s not how long it usually takes. But that mud really does a number on you. Oh, and I should mention that part of a connecting track was actually washed away by a storm. It was technically closed, but I was told that it wasn’t too difficult. And I’m sure without heaps of mud it probably wasn’t. Sheesh. What a nightmare.

Despite all the joking around, the hike was definitely worth it. There are many more tracks just like it, as well as bush walks on the interior of the island. If you’re a hiker, Waiheke Island is your match made in heaven. Walk all day and wine all night.

I had an absolute blast on this hidden gem of an island. It’s why I more than doubled my planned stay from 4 to 9 nights, and it’s why I’m planning on going back before I leave New Zealand.

When you come to New Zealand, skip Auckland and go straight to Waiheke Island.

You’ll be doing yourself a favor.

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One thought on “Waiheke Island: The Start of the Adventure

  1. I really enjoyed reading your experience on the island. Thanks for sharing your adventures. I can see it in my mind’s eye, which is a welcome change from the snowy outdoors that I see with my actual eyes. You have inspired me to be more comfortable in my own skin, to experience different things by myself without feeling weird about it. Not comparable things as you do, but still. 🙂 There were quite a few …… in this before I proofread, but Carissa schooled me that their usage can indicate feelings which I am not trying to convey. You kids and your different views of punctuation! Love you Paul! xoxoxo

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