Waiheke Island is the kind of place that gets overrun by tourists during the day, but at night it’s probably empty, quiet, and peaceful. Just off the coast near New Zealand’s capital and only accessible by boat, the island is a weekender’s paradise of beaches and vineyards. Hilly but not overly so, its roads can be traveled on foot by the hardy, or on the free shuttles by everyone else (or the wine drunk). We intended to be the latter, but found ourselves the former more often than we’d have liked.
Like everyone else visiting Waiheke Island, we started our day on a ferry. Each ferry landing is akin to throwing open the gates to a theme park – hordes of tourists stream in, racing to be first to their intended destination. Fortunately for us, our intended destination was simply “a beach” and Waiheke is an island, so we were able to go with the flow.
Waiheke is one of New Zealand’s distinct wine regions, and after the beach, we decided to visit a few of its vineyards. We found our way to Mudbrick Vineyard, where we were treated to a private tasting experience before heading to the terrace with a full glass of our top pick. The tasting was a great chance to test our palates, and we passed with honors by correctly identifying one of the wines as having a savory spice to it. Ok, maybe we wouldn’t have passed any wine test at all, but that wine did turn out to have notes of bell pepper, so we counted ourselves correct.
The next stop was Cable Bay Vineyards, one of Waiheke’s upscale destinations. We met a pair of German travelers during a tasting, and snagged a table for four to eat something from the restaurant. It’s always a fun time sharing travel stories while traveling, and this couple was a sign of things to come – there were so many Germans in New Zealand, we began calling the German language “the soundtrack” – es war wirklich immer da!
These images are from a drone flight over Huruhi Bay near Waiheke Island’s eastern end. We found Huruhi Bay on our walk back to catch the bus to our return ferry. The words Blackpool Beach on our map stood out in a way nothing else nearby did, so we just decided to look for it. It took a little bit of walking through the bush to find it, and then some tricky stairs to get down to the beach itself, but in doing so we lost the tourist crowds entirely.
That abandoned boat is no longer in use, but the small Maori Village next to the beach is still active. I’m guessing it’s presence contributed to the quiet around Blackpool Beach, as New Zealanders are quite respectful of Maori culture.