Calling all wine lovers! One of the best things to add to your Auckland itinerary is a visit to the wineries on Waiheke Island. It was day 62 on our epic round the world trip and we were ready to sample some of New Zealand’s finest wines.
The friends we were staying with were regulars to the island, and they wanted to show us what a beautiful place it was to visit. We didn’t have to be asked twice, and before we knew it, we were sailing across the calm waters to Waiheke taking in views of historical Devonport and Rangitoto Island on the way.
During our trip, we discovered there are over 30 boutique wineries on Waiheke Island ranging from Goldie Estate, the oldest vineyard on Waiheke established in 1978 to younger and smaller vineyards using new technology to produce super modern wines. The wineries have tasting rooms, restaurants, and if you can’t bear to leave, some sensational places to stay on Waiheke Island.
With each cellar door wine tasting costing approximately NZD 4 – NZD 8, a visit to the Waiheke wineries and vineyards is an affordable experience that most budgets can afford!
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How to Get around the Waiheke Wineries
One of the best things about visiting the Waiheke vineyards is that some of the best ones are close to one another. This allowed us to visit four of the most popular vineyards on the island with time to relax, wander around each estate, enjoy lunch and of course, sample the fine wine varieties.
Hire a car for the day – If you have a member of your party who is happy to drive (and not drink), this is a fabulous option as you have the freedom to explore wherever you want to go on Waiheke. We had Steve as our designated driver (our friend who lives in Auckland), and he was happy to take us around. He had pre-booked a rental car and, once we arrived at the ferry terminal on Waiheke, picked up the car and we were good to go.
Suppose you are travelling around New Zealand on a road trip and have your own car then why not bring it with you on the Sealink car ferry. Remember though that you must never drink and drive and so will miss out on the wine tastings. This is probably only a cost-effective option if you are going to stay on the island for a few nights and you can grab buses and local taxis to Waiheke’s vineyards.
Book a combined ferry and hop-on-hop-off bus ticket which will allow you to visit 15 stops on Waiheke Island during your visit. Easy to use and of course, no worries about drinking and driving!
Book onto a New Zealand Winery Tour and let someone else do all the driving!
What is a Cellar Door?
If you are unfamiliar with wine terminology and haven’t visited wineries in the past, then you might wonder what a cellar door is. It sounds like an entrance to a dank and dismal underground labyrinth full of cobwebs, but you couldn’t be further from the truth. The term “cellar door” comes from the history of wineries in the past, when wine samples were first offered for tasting from winery premises.
Nowadays, a cellar door refers to the experience of tasting varieties of wines in a vineyard setting; usually with stunning views. So if you see a winery offering cellar door tastings, you know what a delightful experience awaits you.
What is a Wine Flight?
A flight is a term used by winemakers to describe a selection of wines, usually between three and eight glasses, presented for sampling and comparison. Craft brewers can also use the term in the same way, so it becomes a beer flight.
However, it does not refer to a plane flight where you are served wine for the entire journey – sorry!
Now you know how to get to the Waiheke vineyards it is time to share with you the four best Waiheke wineries that we visited on our day trip from Auckland.
Mudbrick Winery Estate
Location: 126 Church Bay Road, Waiheke Island, Oneroa 1971, New Zealand
A beautiful venue that has amazing views down to the ocean. This iconic New Zealand winery has no shortage of delectable wines to taste, from merlot, chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon and Syrah; plenty of choice for all wine connoisseurs.
Its renowned restaurant is set in beautiful terraced gardens (with views towards the harbour and Auckland city), and you are free to explore the grounds and vineyards whether or not you are a diner. Unfortunately for us, we could not dine but still enjoyed wandering around the grounds and enjoying the scenery.
Mudbrick also boasts numerous accommodation options. Should you so choose, you can stay in one of their luxury cottages and enjoy some of the best sunsets on Waiheke from your own porch.
Cable Bay Winery Estate
Location: 12 Nick Johnstone Drive, Oneroa, Auckland 1840, New Zealand
A few minutes down the road from Mudbrick, we visited another upscale Waiheke winery – Cable Bay. If you thought the views were stunning at Mudbrick, you’re in for yet another treat! The tastings were very affordable which meant we could indulge in our favourite New Zealand sauvignon blanc outside on the beautiful patio that overlooks the bay; such a magical setting and the reason most visitors to the island end up here.
Cable Bay Vineyards has had much success with their wines producing mostly white wines (our favourite Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Viognier). Some reds are also produced here (Pinot Noir, Merlot, Malbec, and Syrah). They have two award-winning restaurants; one formal and one casual. Bookings should be made in advance as they can get busy in high seasons.
Stonyridge Winery Estate
Location: 80 Onetangi Road, Waiheke Island, Auckland 1971, New Zealand
This was probably my favourite of all the Waiheke wineries, and we ended up staying here for lunch in the beautiful outdoor space. The wine tastings here range from NZD 3 to NZD 8 and can be enjoyed outside on the patio.
We opted for Stonyridge chardonnay and accompanied it with a tasty charcuterie platter. We spent a few hours relaxing with our friends before wandering around the vines and enjoying the sunshine.
While we were there, a helicopter landed on the estate. We later found out that this is a way of arriving on Waiheke Island if you are looking for a luxury experience or celebrating a special occasion. If you don’t want to land you can book scenic helicopter tours around Auckland and over Waiheke Island.
Stonyridge is often referred to as one of the top ten wineries in the world after its 1987 Larose was named one of the best reds ever produced in New Zealand. Even more of a reason to put it on your itinerary for the day!
Wild on Waiheke Winery Estate
Location: 82 Onetangi Road, Waiheke Island, Auckland 1971, New Zealand
Just up the road from Stonyridge Vineyards, you’ll find one of the most fun Waiheke Island wine tasting spots, Wild on Waiheke. It is more casual than the other three wineries we had previously visited and had a vast outdoor space with archery held amidst the vines and cool lawn games like bean bag toss, (we found we all had quite a competitive streak).
Wine tastings are between NZD 3 – NZD 5 however if you fancy a change from wine then the original Waiheke Wild Brewery offers a selection of home-brewed craft beers. The men in our group opted for the Wild on Waiheke craft beers flight and gave them the thumbs up!
Wild On Waiheke has some great lunch and dinner options from plates and platters to grazing boards, perfectly complimenting the wine selections. We sat in the garden to enjoy our drinks, but should you want to dine indoors then there is a lovely bar and restaurant area.
Other Waiheke Wineries on the Island
Jurassic Ridge Winery – What makes this vineyard stand out from the others is that it only produces organic wines, and the owner is a professor who does all the work by hand himself. The secret to his yield is that instead of using oak barrels to age his wine, he uses terracotta pots; a method used over 6000 years ago!
Peacock Sky Winery – another spectacular vineyard known for the fabulous wine and food tasting opportunities available.
Tantalus Winery – in the heart of Waiheke Island’s Onetangi Valley and one of the finest vineyards on the island. Relax in the airy restaurant nestled with the vines and savour a crisp white or visit the underground lounge for a home-brewed craft beer or a cocktail.
Kennedy Point Winery – The only certified organic vineyard on Waiheke and set amongst 300-year-old pohutukawa trees. A cellar door wine tasting experience can be accompanied by delicious local oysters, cheeses and smoked salmon; the perfect combination.
Other things to do besides visiting Waiheke Wineries
Walk around Waiheke
The Art Trail Walk is a leisurely 3k walk from the ferry terminal taking in art installations on the route.
A longer trail is The Northern Walk; a 2-3 hour walk and perfect for those wanting to see and discover as much of Waiheke as possible, without wandering too far from the passenger ferry terminal.
For further information on walking routes, visit the Tourism Waiheke website.
Zipline in Waiheke
If you are looking for an adrenaline rush, then this is the pastime for you! Whizz across the vineyards with the Waiheke Ziplining Company. A fun experience for all the family.
Ride a Segway in Waiheke
See the island on two wheels as you glide through vineyards and along beaches with a sunset Segway Tour.
Relax on a beach in Waiheke
Be ready to discover some of New Zealand’s best beaches on Waiheke Island. My favourite was the Oneroa beach in the main town with miles of golden sand and lined with pohutukawa trees offering shade on hot days. This beach is perfect for unwinding with friends and family. I wonder which beach will be your favourite?
Visit the Waiheke Honey House and Cafe
If you love honey, then a visit here will have your taste buds tingling. Set in pretty gardens with resident native pukeko birds that come over when the owner calls them, this is a relaxing spot that doesn’t involve wine. Free New Zealand honey tastings, delicious cakes and coffee make this a stop that should be on every visitor’s itinerary before heading back to Auckland. For Honey House Cafe reviews check Tripadvisor.
All good things have to come to an end, and after a fantastic day full of wine, food and good company it was time to return our rental car and board the ferry for our return to Auckland city. I hope that one day I will get the chance to return to this beautiful, unspoilt island in the Pacific Ocean but until then Au Revoir Waiheke!