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The Best Wineries (and More) on Waiheke, New Zealand’s ‘Island of Wine’

The Best Wineries (and More) on Waiheke, New Zealand’s ‘Island of Wine’

A 35-minute ferry ride from New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland, Waiheke Island has been dubbed a place for “activists and lunatics.” Vogue magazine, meanwhile, has called it “the Hamptons of New Zealand.” In reality, Waiheke is neither of these things—or perhaps, it’s both.

Like the Hamptons in the U.S., Waiheke is a weekend playground. The island has attracted a colorful array of full-time residents and eco-warriors like Green Peace co-founder Susi Newborn and Dresden Dolls lead singer Amanda Palmer, as well as A-list celebrity visitors like Madonna, Beyoncé, Justin Timberlake, Bill Gates and Serena Williams. But the island retains a uniquely rugged, melting pot charm rarely found in such an isolated spot.

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Perhaps Waiheke’s most notable claim to fame? Its wine. The island’s 30 wineries, dotted across 36 square miles of hilly, rugged landscape, are known for producing peppery, perfumed Syrah, characterful Chardonnay and herbaceous Bordeaux blends. Most of these wineries operate at a boutique scale and few bottles make it to the U.S.

This rarity and the area’s abundance of world-class wine tourism experiences make visiting the appropriately nicknamed “island of wine” incredibly special. In addition to welcoming tasting rooms, many wineries also offer top-notch restaurants, accommodations, expansive gardens, outdoor sculptures, event spaces and even microbreweries. Here we’ve rounded up the best wineries, restaurants, hotels and things to do on Waiheke Island.

Where to Sip

Image Courtesy of Tantalus Estate

Just a five minutes’ drive from Waiheke’s ferry terminal, Mudbrick offers sumptuous wines, a cozy tasting room, English cottage-style gardens and stunning views of the Hauraki Gulf and Auckland city. New Zealanders also know it as one of the nation’s top wedding destinations. Food lovers flock to its two eateries: the romantic Mudbrick Restaurant and the modern bistro, Archive, both of which feature creative, island-inspired offerings like a seafood-forward gumbo, local Te Matuku Bay oysters and taro leaf rotolo. Adding to the appeal, Mudbrick also offers a range of beautifully designed accommodations across the island and in Auckland.

Wines to try: 2021 Reserve Chardonnay, 2022 Oscar Syrah, 2020 Reserve Bordeaux Blend

Carrie Mendell and Campbell Aitken purchased the Tantalus property in 2013. Over the span of three years, they built an impressive, light-filled tasting room nestled into the hills of the Onetangi Valley and surrounded by sweeping panoramas of vines. Luxurious yet down-to-earth, the winery is also home to an award-winning restaurant, which offers stunning views of the vineyards from its serene dining room. Filled with natural materials and encased in glass, the restaurant offers both a la carte and six-course “trust the chef” tasting menus. Don’t miss the dark and broody subterranean wine library and on-site microbrewery, Alibi Brewing Co.

Wine to try: 2017 Écluse Bordeaux blend, 2017 Voilé Syrah

Batch Winery
Image Courtesy of Batch Winery

The experience at Batch is just what you’d hope for from the highest-elevation winery on the island: knock-your-socks-off views, no matter where you stand. Take in the steep hills lined with rows of Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Syrah and Bordeaux varietals from the terraced patio or cozy restaurant, which boasts floor-to-ceiling windows and local seafood and meat cooked on a Josper charcoal grill. Multiple tasting options are available, including a $75 per person barrel tasting experience. Whatever experience you choose, make sure to try a glass of Prosecco-style Thomas Blanc de Gris bubbles—it’s one of the few wineries in New Zealand to make wines in “Charmat” tanks.

Wines to try: NV Thomas Sparkling Cuveé Rosé, 2021 Thomas Legacy Cabernet Franc

In a remote location on the far eastern end of the island, many locals frequent Man O’ War’s beachfront tasting room and restaurant by boat. But one doesn’t need to board a watercraft to access this winery. The estate runs its own coach bus, which passes by some of the winery’s hillside vineyards, with daily departures from the ferry terminal. The winery is the largest on Waiheke with 75 individual vineyard blocks that account for a whopping two-thirds of the island’s vineyards. It is also one of the few labels exported internationally. The operation’s range of elegant wines includes a textural, barrel-fermented Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon and a savory, floral Syrah.

Wine to try: 2019 Dreadnought Syrah

Te Motu's The Shed Dish
Image Courtesy of Te Motu’s The Shed

Where to Eat

Waiheke has no shortage of world-class winery restaurants. In addition to those mentioned above, Poderi Crisci is the spot to tuck into a lingering Italian lunch of pasta, Neapolitan-style meatballs and pan-seared Yellow Fin Tuna alongside a glass of estate-made Arneis or Montepulciano. Te Motu’s The Shed restaurant, meanwhile, is the place hyper-local, seasonal fare like garden veggies and house-cured meats. At Casita Miro, a Mediterranean tapas menu pairs perfectly with own-label wines and an extensive list of Sherries.

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Beyond winery dining options, rub shoulders with locals at spots like The Courtyard Restaurant, which offers Italian-ish fare with international flourishes; beachfront Three Seven Two; Italian Café Fenice; and award-winning beachside bistro The Oyster Inn. Grab a pint and pub grub at beach bar Charlie Farleys; coffee and baked goods at Rendezvous Café; brunch at Nomads and gelato at La Dolce Vita.

If your accommodation comes with a kitchen, stock up on meat at the Humble Pie Village Butchery and organic ingredients at The Island Grocer. Or, if you’d prefer to dine with the sand between your toes, grab a sandwich at the grocery deli to eat right on Oneroa Beach, a stone’s throw away.

Mud Brick
Image Courtesy of Mud Brick

Where to Stay

As a popular weekender destination, Waiheke has no shortage of accommodation styles, from extravagant villas to backpacker hostels. There are over 300 rental listings on AirBnb, but locals recommend using the booking site Waiheke Unlimited.

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If you’re looking for opulent digs, consider booking a stay at Delamore Lodge, a resort and spa that occupies a large slice of the island’s northwest corner. Other high-end options include Boatshed, a small luxury hotel that overlooks the bay and beach, and Omana Luxury Villa, a collection of four secluded modern hilltop villas that feel like a private oasis. Midrange lodgings can be found at beachy The Oyster Inn and contemporary Waiheke Island Resort.

Several wineries also offer accommodation—most notably, Mudbrick. Scattered across the island, options include beautifully designed rooms, cottages and guest homes in a variety of styles. There’s even a cozy cottage for rent in Auckland.

Man O' War
Image Courtesy of Mili Villamil

Things To Do

“There is a whole network of trails across the island,” says American expat and winemaker Diana Hawkins, who co-founded the label Responsible Hedonist with her partner Frank Leperi. “The Matiatia coastal walkway is an easy access trail with great views.” Every other year it hosts Sculpture on the Gulf, a large outdoor gallery.

“I also recommend hiking the small trail near Little Oneroa beach,” says Hawkins. “Grab a pizza from Dragonfired and walk up with the bottle of wine you bought at the winery that day and enjoy the sunset.”

Hawkins also recommends snorkeling at the nude beach or Enclosure Bay to “see octopus, rays, and seahorses,” she says.

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Alcides Pont Neto, a Brazilian expat and Head of Wine Sales at Batch Winery, recommends renting a bike to explore the wineries, visiting the local farmer’s market on Saturdays or hiring a helicopter for a bird’s eye view. “A flight with Waiheke Wings is a must-do attraction,” he says. “To see the island from above is great, and you really feel you are in a special little place in the world When I did it, it just made me appreciate much more the place I had chosen to live.”

Another stunning outdoor experience is the waterfall at Whakanewha Regional Park. “If you are feeling more adventurous and have a car, a visit to Man O’War bay is a great day trip, with the famous Stony Batter gun emplacement tunnels offering a look at Waiheke’s wartime history,” says Fiona Walkley, Cellar Door Manager at Mudbrick winery.

For rainy days, Walkley recommends a visit to Waiheke Community Art Gallery or Waiheke Musical Museum, or catching a flick at Waiheke Community Cinema. The volunteer-run facility shows the latest movies as well as arthouse and locally produced productions in a unique setting. “All the seats are old couches,” says Walkley. “It’s fantastic!”

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