Waiheke: Ladies at leisure on an isle idyll

By Rebecca Kamm

Peacock Sky vineyard on Waiheke. Photo / Supplied
Peacock Sky vineyard on Waiheke. Photo / Supplied

The fact you can easily take your car to a nearby island that feels miles away is just one of the many privileges afforded to Aucklanders.

It's even more ridiculous that this island, like some kind of mythical utopia, is filled with wine, laid-back locals and a microclimate that often laughs in the face of Auckland weather.

Add a broad range of activities that suit all ages and it's difficult to think of any holiday spot that could tick so many boxes.

Setting off on the SeaLink from Half Moon Bay on a rainy Friday, we sat in our stationary cars as though in some kind of sea parade (grandmother very excited) and arrived on the island in just under an hour.

There are many beautiful beaches to base yourself on Waiheke. We chose Onetangi - at 2.5 kilometres of firm white sand, the longest beach on the island.

Our accommodation was Onetangi Beach Apartments, situated across right across the road. Lonely Planet puts it best: "Three different blocks of townhouses are clumped together, all offering smart, modern, perfectly located, well-managed accommodation."

A larger, two-bedroom apartment was ideal for our configuration. Self-catering is also essential if you're looking to avoid paying for breakfast, lunch and dinner for each day of your trip (make no mistake: eating out on Waiheke is no cheaper than in the city). And although the apartments lack the charm of individual holiday homes, they are extremely comfortable. Ours had two outdoor areas, one looking out to the ocean, complete with table and chairs.

On Saturday morning it was an early rising for a look at Ostend Market. A colourful, sociable buzz of locals and visitors of all ages, the market hosts a surprisingly large collection of vendors - indicative of the number of artisans and craftspeople who have made the island home.

So close to Christmas, arts and crafts, home-made foods, cheeses, olives, breads and oysters, jewelry and secondhand goods and books were flying off the stalls. Grandmother bought gift cards, mother bought a necklace and I hovered around the vintage jewellery.

Despite the inviting food on offer, we saved ourselves for wine tasting and platters at Peacock Sky, an Onetangi-based vineyard fast gaining a name for itself. Owners Connie and Rob, respectively Canadian and British, share their verdant home with a flock of wild peacocks, from which the vineyard takes its name.

Sadly we didn't catch sight of the show-off birds, but we did partake in a half-hour round of "food pairing" in their Tasting Room, including a sip of their 2010 Rosé Methode Traditionelle - believed to be the only 100 per cent Waiheke-grown, bottle fermented sparkling wine. Much was learned: we had no idea for instance that the smaller the bubbles, the better the sparkling wine.

Matching the carefully selected morsels of food with wines was then followed by generous platters, enjoyed in the casual surrounds. Their dog, Sky, kept us company; this is no formal, stuffy wine-tasting experience - it's unpretentious and accessible and no wine knowledge is necessary. (Although it goes without saying a passing interest in the craft definitely helps.)

Another Waiheke activity perfect for all ages is the Waiheke Museum and Historic Village. A good few hours can be spent perusing the reconstructed woolshed's exhibits, which include a 1930s-style island cottage, three small bach-style houses with period rooms and photo exhibits and the original Waiheke jail.

It's also worth checking out the Artworks complex, which houses a community theatre, art-house cinema and art gallery and the Whittaker's Musical Museum, home to a collection of antique concert instruments.

Failing that, pull up a pew on your balcony, stare out to sea, and pretend it's your permanent home: that's a game the whole family can play.

Waiheke picks

Onetangi Beach Apartments: 5-7 Fourth Ave, Onetangi, ph (09) 372 0003.

SeaLink car ferry: ph (09) 300 5900 or 0800 732 546.

Peacock Sky: 152 Trig Hill Rd, Onetangi, ph (09) 950 4386.

Ostend Market: Ostend Rd, Ostend, ph (09) 372 4475.

Waiheke Museum and Historic Village: 165 Onetangi Straight, Onetangi, ph (09) 372 2970.

The Artworks Complex: 2 Korora Rd, Oneroa, ph (09) 379 2020.

Rebecca Kamm was a guest of SeaLink, Peacock Sky and Onetangi Beach Apartments.

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