New Zealand as a destination is right up there amongst the best holiday experiences you could have, particularly if you can take time out from the British winter to go there. Whether you are someone looking for outdoor adventures, or just like to relax on a beach, or enjoy world-class wine and food, there is so much to see and do in a relatively small space. Having just returned from Auckland, and re-living memories of a wonderful sunny break, some of the most perfect days I had were spent on Waiheke Island, where we are now also offering a collection of luxury villas to rent!
Just visualize an island covered with beautiful vineyards, olive groves and native trees and, moreover surrounded by exquisite white sand beaches – and all just a regular 35 minute ferry ride from downtown Auckland – it would be no exaggeration to describe Waiheke Island as absolute paradise. Because of its easy accessibility from the city, it has understandably become an idyllic home for several thousand permanent residents, many of whom commute to the city every day for work.
It is true that the feeling of total relaxation, even as a visitor, is contagious – the general local vibe is very friendly, easy going and laid back, but at the same time, offering as high a standard as you can find anywhere when it comes to accommodation, great food and wine, art, nature and outdoor activities. Here are just a few of the wonderful wine, food and art experiences we enjoyed in just a few days there recently.
WINE AND FOOD
Starting with food and wine, there are over 25 vineyards on the island, many of them also offering really excellent cuisine. Of the several wineries we visited this time, the two which we particularly enjoyed were Podere Crisci and Casita Miro, both within easy reach of the main beach, Onetangi.
This Italian family-run vineyard and restaurant has been operating since 2008 (for the vineyard) and 2010 (for the restaurant). Accessed down a country lane, it sits in an idyllic setting reminiscent of Tuscany. With impressive vegetable and herb gardens as well, you can enjoy al fresco dining, while enjoying the views over the gardens, and the fields of vineyards and olive groves. We loved the à la carte menu, and on a Sunday, they also offer both a ‘long lunch’ menu and a degustation menu. It is also a wonderful venue for a wedding or other special event.
Also in a beautiful setting, surrounded by vineyards and olive trees, Casita Miro definitely has a Spanish flavour, both with its cuisine and its décor, with colourful Gaudi-style mosaics. Wine tasting is offered, before lunch or dinner, which is taken in a glass-walled dining room. There is both a tapas sharing menu and an a la carte menu, with drinks including wines from the vineyard, and Spanish sherry.
Another excellent foodie discovery, on a much smaller scale:
Set amongst 13 acres of olive groves and wetlands, near Onetangi, we also found this very charming and quirky cafe situated at the end of a quiet road. As well as serving tempting home-made food for brunch and light snacks between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., it also produces Church Bay Road craft infused honey and Totara Road Olive Oil. Highly recommended!
With many artists resident on the island, there is a huge emphasis on art – including the Sculpture Walk (Sculpture on the Gulf) which takes place every two years in March, and which we were lucky enough to experience this time. The 28 chosen artists have created pieces which fitted in perfectly with the landscape on this stunning 2 kms coastal walk, in beautiful sunny weather.
We particularly loved the works by:
James Wright – Seven Sisters.
The Seven Sisters are the seven points of a fallen star representing the Pleiades, a cluster of stars situated in the constellation of Taurus. The sculptured forms represent the Sisters shining brightly in the night sky, sailing across the seas keeping an ever-watchful eye over us.
Phil Price – Liberace.
The Liberace is a rare, very large tree, cultivated primarily for its spectacular bright foliage and candelabra-like structure.
Sally Smith – Seed
Today many of the native kauri trees are infected with a water mould which eventually kills them. This sculpture is to remind the viewer of the role they can play in ensuring this magnificent tree survives.
The three sculptures (two shown) by Virginia King, are named Hinaki, and have been made in fish trap forms. They represent both the gathering of food and survival as well as entrapment and loss.We also visited the small sculpture exhibition at the Waiheke Community Art Gallery, as well as some other excellent art galleries and artisan shops in the main town of Oneroa. These included Toi Gallery featuring further sculptures by Sally Smith, including her wall installations of birds and fish in in bronze and aluminium. We also loved Space Gallery with its works by Waiheke artists, and Timmy Smith, with its exquisite bespoke jewellery, and tea tasting. The Waiheke Community art centre here includes an art-house cinema. The calendar of events on the island includes a jazz, art and music festival in April, as well as a wine and food festival, and a garden festival in November.
OUR RECOMMENDED VILLAS
This stunning, architect designed holiday rental on Waiheke is absolutely ideal for those looking for very special accommodation in a unique location. A stay here includes private access, shared with just two other villas, to the beautiful sandy beach at Boatshed Bay, perfect for swimming, snorkelling and kayaking. Access to this property is either via 132 steps down through the terraced gardens, or by a small cable car.
This luxury villa to rent on Waiheke sits in an idyllic location, just above the white sands of Palm Beach. From the villa and its terraces there are stunning uninterrupted views that stretch out across Mawhitipana Bay. The villa rental offers luxury living, inside and out, and is perfectly positioned for watching the beautiful sunsets over Palm Beach. A private path leads from just next to the property down to the beach below.
This luxury villa to rent sits in a prime Waiheke location, with breathtaking views over beautiful Onetangi Beach. Offering the perfect base for a relaxing beach-side holiday. the sea can be accessed via a short 200m walk down a track from the property to the beach below. From this central Onetangi location, the popular Boat Shed Café/restaurant is within a short walk, and there are more restaurants, local cafés and wineries within an easy drive.