Buckle up! This one’s a long one. I’m going to take you to one of my favorite places in the world!
Ahh, it’s Summer time in New Zealand! Warm weather, blue skies, and tourists flocking to the fair shores of Aotearoa in droves from North America, Asia, and Europe to escape the cold. ‘Tis the season for me to get lots of hits on my blog as people are searching for information on the sights they want to see and trails they want to walk.
How convenient, then, that I will be posting about the paradise in the Pacific known as Waiheke Island!
If New Zealand is part of your plans this year, make sure not to miss Waiheke! As a special thanks for getting your travel information from this blog and not the many much more popular and informative ones, I’ll tell you how you can, using only two legs, get away from the crowds and see parts of Waiheke most don’t get to see!
My first visit to Waiheke predates this blog by a good year or so. I did return on a bike in 2015, but although I’ve made a few trips out since, I have never managed to write about it…until now!
You get to Waiheke by taking a ferry from the city terminal. If you have an AT Hop card, you can use that for your fare! If not, you can buy a ticket at the terminal. Do not miss the chance to get a nice photo of Auckland as you’re heading out! (Note the massive cruise ship in the harbor!)
The ferry ride is a bit over half an hour, and while you’re going you’ll have a chance to see a lot of Auckland’s shore. Here’s some boaters enjoying the nice weather and, in the background, St. Heliers Bay and its weird water tower.
Upon your arrival, you will find a well-appointed terminal where you can rent bikes or cars, book tours, or just hop on a bus to go to the nearest town or winery. There’s also maps, including this one on a pillar (which is why it’s so weirdly curved).
You will note that Waiheke nomenclature is, if possible, even more relaxed than that of the main islands. Cable Bay is a re-used place name also present up North in Doubtless Bay, and of course Island Bay is not only in Wellington, but there’s a Bay of Islands also up North for even more confusion. This map even calls out the fact that Island Bay and W Bay aren’t even semi-official names, designated “locally known as”.
Why do I harp on this? Because that’s exactly where we’re going!
If you head out of the terminal and along the road, you will soon come to this junction. Turn off the road and you’ll be on the first bit of trail!
The signage around here is reasonably decent; with a couple of exceptions that I’ll get to in a bit. And please ignore the lens flare, courtesy of my 35mm lens.
(Most of the subsequent pictures were taken with the 55-200, which I put on because I was hoping to get some bird photos.)
I don’t think this path is very well-traveled. Certainly it gets more foot traffic in the Summer, but I spent much time stalking birds and didn’t see a single other person. I did however see this deeply impressive spider web!
The trail itself is a bit muddy in spots but is generally pretty well maintained. You can see some quite excellent stairs!
When you reach Delamore Drive, this is the part where the signage could be a little better.
The good news is, either direction will eventually take you where you want to go! If you turn left to head West, you will come across a trail on your right (as well as this WWII observation bunker). If you turn right to head East, you’ll come across a trail on your left.
I prefer to go West and walk along Owhanake Bay. However, this route is not without its challenges; this particular day, it was very muddy!
Before moving onward, however, I put the observation post to good use by observing the awesome views!
I love this shot, and this was such a gorgeous, clear day that I was able to see all the way to the city!
This is a shot out over the bay; I’ll actually be walking this way over the course of this trip!
I also got a shot of this tui. These birds are native and endemic, and their song is so distinctive that you don’t have to be in New Zealand for long before you can recognize it! I think they sound like a fax machine.
From the road, it’s downhill all the way to the coast. Yes, these stairs are going down (because of how I took the photo and how steep a climb it is, I at least fell victim to the optical illusion that the stairs are going up!).
Before too long, you will reach the rocky shore. The water around Waiheke, especially here on the Northwest part of the island, is really clear.
I think Waiheke Island can compete with anywhere else on earth, beauty-wise!
Once down closer to the shore, the path continues on. So far the trail has been pretty decent quality!
This yacht helps measure my progress, as it seems to be entirely stationary at the moment. It’s the same one from the previous photo.
Unfortunately, I didn’t see any penguins (this sign is a reminder to keep your pets on a leash, as even the most friendly of dogs do have the bad habit of destroying nests, either intentionally or unintentionally).
Also note the red marker on the side of the post; this trail is part of Te Ara Hura, a walking trail which very nearly encircles the island. As we will see, even the main trail of Waiheke is not without its problems.
Waiheke’s beaches are often pebble beaches. This doesn’t detract from their beauty but does make it difficult to navigate with bare feet. There are some lovely sandy beaches to the Southeast at Oneroa Bay and Huruhi Bay, but I didn’t come here to swim :)
This shot could admittedly be more artfully composed, but I still love it.
As we hike past Owhanake Bay and up toward the North shore of the island, we get this lovely rocky coastline and stunningly beautiful water. This to me is what Waiheke Island is all about.
Continuing along the trail (which at this point has gotten a bit muddy), we wind up at one of my favorite spots on Earth: the unofficially-named Island Bay.
The clear blue water, the stark rocky shoreline, and the beautiful views all serve to calm my soul. It seems I wind up here in times of trouble and somehow find healing.
I feel I should let the views talk for themselves.
If this last one seems like it’s been taken at a bit of a weird angle, it’s because I did some climbing.
I spent some time here at Island Bay, but alas we must move on. Not the way I normally would, though, because the trails are in quite a bad way. If you want to see W Bay (and you do), it’s possible to backtrack through the mud, head East on Korora Rd, and then head up the other side of the closed trail past the vineyards.
If you make the hike up the hill, you will arrive at a fantastic lookout. We’re now looking down at Island Bay from up high!
To the East lies W Bay, so named because this rocky outcropping makes the twin bays look like a W when viewed from the sky.
W Bay is a bit less secluded but no less beautiful than Island Bay.
The lookout also gives excellent views out into the Gulf.
You will even be awarded an achievement!
There are a number of interesting birds on Waiheke. This wasn’t a birdwatching trip, so the ones I have here are all endemic. These are some wood pigeons, or kereru.
And a paradise shelduck. These are almost always seen in pairs so I’m sure this one’s mate is somewhere nearby.
And I just loved this bit of wall art.
Thank you for joining me on this trip. This part of Waiheke Island will always be very special to me.