Boarding the ferry from Auckland I saw the sign proclaiming Waiheke to be The Island of Wine. I knew right then that heading to this little island had been a life decision that I will look back on fondly for years to come.
Waiheke is a small island (about 12 miles long) located just off the coast Auckland. The island has beautiful beaches, two tiny, but picturesque downtown areas and 22 vineyards. Yup, 22.
Some of the vineyards are more on the upscale side and others have a more chill vibe. For me, the tastings are always interesting but the most important aspect is that the ambience is just right and, ideally, there are areas to hang out and relax. If I find a wine that I really like I usually want to grab a bottle and sit down immediately to hang out and enjoy it. Luckily, scenery and island ambience is something that Waiheke has an abundance of.
These are my four favorite wineries on Waiheke. Enjoy!
1. Man O War Vineyards
This vineyard is quite a ways off the beaten path, on the opposite end of the island from where the towns and ferry are. This can be a huge benefit because the tour buses don’t make it this far out. They also happen to have some of the best wines on the island (and are of the few to offer free tastings). Outside of the tasting room is an old-timey porch where you can relax in the shade or head into the yard to bask in the sun at one of the picnic tables. There is also a beach directly across the dirt road with clear blue water surrounded by huge green mountains. Don’t skip this one if you have the option.
Man O War Vineyards
2. Mudbrick Vineyards
Just up the road from Cable Bay, Mudbrick is a family owned winery that started 20 years ago as a tiny vineyard with one building. Since then, they’ve built their restaurants and tasting room out quite a bit but managed to maintain that small, intimate winery feel. They’re quite well known for their bubbles, but the Pinot Noir here was what caught my attention. They also have a great variety of snacks and charcuterie boards that can be enjoyed on the patio with some impressive views or you can head into the more formal dining room for a longer meal.
3. Cable Bay Vineyards
You can walk right to this winery as soon as you step of the ferry if you’d like. Just up the hill from the dock, Cable Bay Vineyards offers tastings for 10 $AUD for four wines. They produce more whites than any of the other wineries on the island and their Pinot Gris is a perfect match for sitting on the bean bag chairs on their lawn taking in the view of the bay. On a clear day you can see all the way back to Auckland from this perch.
Cable Bay Vineyards
4. Passage Rock Vineyards
A quaint setting away from the beaches, Passage Rock is fairly well known these days for their Syrah (try 2014 or 2016). The grounds are small but have some outdoor games and they give you a chance to walk through some of the vines. This is also a great lunch stop for some incredible brick-oven fired pizza when you need a break from the cheese plates.
Passage Rock Vineyards
If you enjoy the Island of Wine, be sure to also visit Central Otago on the South Island for their world famous Pinot Noir.
Getting around on Waiheke
This island is tiny but the roads are windy and public transportation (as expected) is limited. You can take taxis around from the dock and you’ll be able to find them in the towns. You can also opt to rent a scooter or car on the island (this may result in some fighting over who’s the designated driver as you tour the vineyards).
Recently, the island just introduced a hop-on-hop-off type of tour bus for the vineyards as well. With this option you can access about 15 wineries and not have to worry about navigating or keeping a sober driver.
Getting to Waiheke
The ferry over to the island from Auckland takes about 40 minutes and costs about 38 $AUD for an adult round-trip. You can buy tickets online from Fullers or just grab tickets at the ferry terminal (Downtown Terminal, Quay St, Auckland, 1010, New Zealand)