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What the Waiheke?

First things first, it’s pronounced ‘Why-Hecky’. And it’s a tiny island in New Zealand. Not the North Island, nor the South Island, Waiheke is it’s very own dot on the map.

Okay, so it’s more of a speck. I think everyone knows by now (or has been told ad infinitum) that New Zealand is a bombshell—Milford Sound, the Bay of Islands, Queenstown, these are the names that get pumped in the press and the places that tend to draw the greatest number of tourists. All the while little Waiheke Island, just a 35-minute ferry ride (10 minutes by heli) from Auckland, seems to slip under the radar. And yet, this sleepy beauty is as gorgeous as anywhere in the country. Golden sand beaches, greener-than-green rolling landscapes, and a skirt of deep blue sea. It’s like the orphaned child of Bermuda and Vermont. To say that no one knows about Waiheke is obviously not true. 8,000 people call the island home and many more ‘mainland’ Kiwis come for weekends and vacations. It used to be that land was so cheap an Auckland furniture store offered a free plot with the purchase of a new sofa (a true story, legend has it). Things have changed and now you’re as likely to see a mega-million dollar contemporary retreat as a traditional two-room bach (Kiwi for ‘itty bitty cottage’) from the 50s. Nevertheless, Waiheke has retained a low-key charm and casualness that make it a treat to visit. While I guess you could see it as a day trip from Auckland, you’d do much better to make a two to three night stay of it. It’s a perfect soft-landing at the start of a New Zealand itinerary, or equally good as a chilled finale. However you tackle it, remember these Trufflepig tips:

Stay at The Boatshed in Oneroa. It’s very small, super stylish, and just a five minute walk from Little Oneroa Beach (as quiet as they come). The food is delicious and Jonathan Scott, the manager, will look after you as a friend.

You can get around by taxi or organized tour, but the most fun way to see the island is by bike or on foot. The coastal walking trails are especially splendid as they wend around empty coves and get you within feet of some phenomenal private homes. If you want to wander further than two legs will take you, hire ‘Togs’, the Mini Moke vehicle, from The Boatshed—it’s a trip.

Waiheke has some fun art studios and shops, but the vineyards are the extra special draw. Te WhauStonyridgeMudbrick and Cable Bay all make superb vino and are worth a visit and a sip or seven (Te Whau and Mubrick also have excellent restaurants). Each more perfectly sited than the next, you’ll wonder how they ever get around to crushing grapes with such great views to stare at.

It used to be that land was so cheap an Auckland furniture store offered a free plot with the purchase of a new sofa.

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