Waiheke Island – Vineyard Hopping

Wine, wine, wine! Need I say more?

Planning this little trip became something of a small obsession…
I was SO excited. To say the least. I went back and forth between a weekend, a day trip, or just overnight. Reading articles, reviews, and mapping out distances between vineyards. The Travel Advisor in me took over. In the end, we settled on a day trip and narrowed it down to 5 vineyards out of a total of 30 on the island.

All said and done, I wish we had at least stayed over night. One day just wasn’t enough! I guess we will have to go back, oh no, what a shame…

Okay pause, let’s just bring it back for a quick second.
Now that Elijah and I actually live in the same country, we are doing normal couple things – I realize this doesn’t sound that exciting, but after 2 years of long distance it’s THE BEST.
Normal couple thing #1: Double dates / Couple friends

If you read my previous post about my big move to Auckland, then you already met Krystal, so let me introduce you to her American partner Rob!
We’re starting to turn into the beginning of a bad joke.

“A Canadian, a Kiwi, an Aussie and an American all walk to into a bar…”

Okay, that was also bad… Moving on!

Planning

If you decide to just do a day trip, like us, I would recommend bringing a day pack with you. What was in our bag:

Nothing too extravagant.

Like I mentioned before, I did quite a bit of reading and research of the wineries I wanted to hit. I also selected which one I wanted to have lunch at, and the general route to make all this happen.
Going for tastings is quite casual, so I only made one reservation at a winery that does ‘dégustation’ pairings with their wines (ouuu so French!). Most places will recommend making a booking, but we didn’t want too many time commitments. We’re just going with the flow.

Oh! I also booked a car online for the day to do the hopping from vineyard to vineyard. Don’t worry, we had a designated driver!

Okay, let’s get going.

The Morning

We planned to meet at the Ferry dock in downtown Auckland to catch the 9:30 ferry to the Island. Elijah and I were first to arrive (let the record, show we weren’t late, thank youuuuu), and purchased our round trip tickets right on the pier. FYI there is no benefit to purchasing online, except maybe if you want to skip a fast moving ticket queue.

RT Ferry to Waiheke: $42 NZD

Insider Tip:

Don’t take your car downtown to catch the ferry, or else you will pay a small fortune for parking (if you can even find a park..). Instead, take the train to Britomart Station. It’s right outside the harbor, and the trains run late so there is no fear of missing the last one! So much less hassle.

We enjoyed a coffee from a cute little coffee cart on the pier while we waited for our friends. Side note: Coffee carts in New Zealand are the real deal. Coffee here is too good…

With an extremely narrow miss of the 9:30 ferry (again let the record show that we were not the late couple!), we easily got onto the next for 10:00 departure from the dock.

40 minutes later and we are on Waiheke Island in search of our rental car booth, which was very easy to find.

Alright so, for you wannabe winos like me, here’s a few things I learned while I was over there! Waiheke Island is mostly known for it’s red wine grapes. Lots of Merlot, Malbec and Pinot Noir. There is of course white wine grapes, which are focused on Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
The best years are the dry seasons. The more difficult it is for the grape to grow, the better the wine will be. COOL I KNOW.

Vineyard #1

Cable Bay

So we hop into our little car, and get going towards the first stop. This is where I originally wanted to have lunch, because the views of the water from The Verandah & Bistro Restaurants are picturesque. I had attempted to book online but I was too late, and they were all booked. So sad.

We arrived around 11:00 and went directly to the tasting room to sample their wines. Delicious might I add.

Afterwards, around 11:30, we figured we might as well wander into The Verandah and see if we could be squeezed in for a quick bite and cold drink at a table in the back. Right off the bat, the staff was fantastic. We were early (and lucky) enough to beat the lunch rush, so they sat us at an amazing table right down by the glass lookout to the ocean! We THOROUGHLY enjoyed some shared snacks and a bottle of wine to start our day. I repeat the food was deliciouuuus.

Personally, I think the service in New Zealand isn’t the best. Servers aren’t working for tips, as it’s not the culture here (they make a livable wage), so the level of service isn’t always up to par with what I am used to. BUT, the service at The Verandah was amazing. I asked our sommelier some questions about Waiheke wines, and he was very knowledgeable and gave me a good low down on what to expect for our days’ adventures. I loved it.

The girls! Clearly already having a great time!
And our men ♡

This is a must do vineyard. And be sure to book your lunch here, you won’t be disappointed!

I mean look at this…

Vineyard #2

The Batch

After Cable Bays more fancy and polished vibes, we headed to The Batch’s more relaxed and casual feel. This winery was way busier. They had some big functions going on, and the atmosphere was very lively.

We ordered our tasting glasses at the bar, and took them outside onto the grass with a complimentary picnic blanket (just ask the bartender). There are tables all around, but it was pretty busy so we just stretched out on the grass, seeing as we weren’t going to be having any food. The view was outstanding, and we enjoyed the sun while sampling our wine. Absolute bliss.

Spot the Tui bird – Native to NZ

The food here also looked and smelled divine!! Generous portions, steaming roasts, and home-style meals were pouring out of their open view kitchen. I will definitely come back to eat here.

Insider Tip:

They have beautiful event spaces throughout the vineyard, for small or larger groups. It’s perfect for a special birthday or a stag / staggette. It’s definitely on my radar for any special occasions in the future.

Vineyard #3

Peacock Sky

This is the only vineyard on the island that does food pairings with their wines. We made a booking here so that we didn’t risk waiting 30+ minutes. This experience is very personal and comfortable. The building itself is actually a house with an open concept. You are seated at a table, or a long a counter, in a large open kitchen setting. The table is already all set with your food tasters, and the sommelier stationed at the other side of the table pouring the wines as you go along. This was really fun, and the sommelier describes the flavours to you on how each pairing goes together.

We tried our first glass of bubbles here – aka sparkling wine and wannabe champagne. I really didn’t like this one. It was really heavy, and was described as having a creamy buttery flavour. Description spot on… Not my cup of tea. The rest of the wines were fantastic though!

We didn’t hang around here long as there wasn’t much to do / see – It was a smaller property. Plus we were eager to get to our next location! But overall, it was a great and unique experience.

Beach Stop

Palm Beach

The weather was so nice we needed to go for little swim and sunbathe. It was late afternoon by now and hot out. Our sommelier from Peacock Sky gave us this beach recommendation as it is in a little cove and sheltered from ocean winds. This was a great beach.
We put on our togs (ehhh local lingo!), went for a little swim, laid out on the sand, and enjoyed the sun rays with views of sail boats in the bay. So relaxing.

Obviously it included a mini photoshoot…

Quick heads up that there is a nudist section of this beach. It’s just over the rocks on the far end. Feel free to join them if you want! We opted out because we didn’t want to seem rude by not participating…

Vineyard #4

Tantalus Estate

Okay, this was BY FAR my favourite vineyard of them all! This entire property was stunning! The exterior designs, the decor, the landscape views, everything!! It was spot on. I felt like I was in a fairytale. I couldn’t stop snapping photos.

We had an amazing experience tasting the wines (how many more times can I say “amazing” in this post?). We had the best sommelier, Bianca, who was full of personality and energy, despite it being the end of the working day. Not to mention how delicious these wines were. She even slipped us a little taste of a rosé they released that day… So tasty!

A big perk for us was that they had craft beer tasters as well. I’m sadden to say that Elijah does not like wine. While he can appreciate a good one, he doesn’t drink it. Not completely horrible since it made it easy to decide on the days DD!

It was all so good that Rob and Krystal purchased three different bottles by the time we finished!

Me forcing everyone to take a photo #sorrynotsorry

Insider Tip:

Be sure to check the closing time of the wineries. Generally, they close at about 5pm. Because of this we sadly were not able to get to our last vineyard on the list.

They have a restaurant down stairs that you can go to after the tasting rooms close, but by this time we were ready to head back home.

When (not if!) I visit Tantalus again, I will spend more time here. Have lunch on the terrace, and even get a tour of the whole grounds. Truly one of the biggest highlights of the day.

Dinner Stop

The Local – Waiheke’s Fish n Chips

At the end of the long, hot and busy day, we were all getting pretty hangry… All we wanted was some casual fish n chips with a cold drink. We stopped at The Local on our way back to the ferry terminal to have some food with a nice view. This restaurant (if you can even call it that) is veeeeeery casual. You order at the counter and they deliver your food wrapped in paper or cardboard boxes. But, the food is delicious, and we managed to get a table on the small patio to enjoy this ocean view.

I’ll never get tired of this…

They even had a DJ providing some chill beachy vibe music. Overall, it was a good final stop after the busy-ness of vineyard hopping.

Insider Tip:

If you have more time, next door to The Local there is a beautiful restaurant called Vino Vino Restaurant & Bar. Book in advance to get a table on the ocean front glass patio. The prices were reasonable, and the views to die for. I’m going to be booking this for one of my next visits.

What We Missed

Because we tried to fit a whole weekend into one day we obviously missed a few things, or would have wanted more time at some places.

First

We would have liked to have more time at the beach. We only went for a quick dip in the water, and laid out on the sand for about 20 minutes total. It wasn’t enough. The water is too beautiful, and the weather too nice not to fully enjoy it.

Second

We didn’t get to the last winery on our list. Man O’ War is very highly rated, but is on the far East side of the island. Since it closed at 6:00pm on a Saturday we just couldn’t squeeze it in. Next time…

Like I said before there are 30 vineyards on this island. That’s a lot for a small space. So, there are obviously places we didn’t get to, and many little gems yet to be discovered…

Lastly

There is a highly recommended locally sourced restaurant called Three Seven Two (the area code for Waiheke – cute right). I would have loved to go here and enjoy the sunset, but I was not mentally equipped at that point in the day to handle a nice restaurant.. It’s a little on the pricier side , so maybe another spot for a future special occasion.

So, there you have it! My low down on Waiheke island. This was such a good day that I’ll remember forever! I hope you get a chance to see it yourself!

Seriously though, come visit me.

OKAY BYE FOR NOW

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