Relaxation is what a Waiheke Island escape is for, writes Elisabeth Easther.

Where is it?

On Waiheke Island, in the Hauraki Gulf, about 11km from Matiatia Wharf.

Origin of name: Onetangi is Maori for "weeping sands" and was named for a fearsome battle in the 1820s in which many people were killed.

Population: Waiheke has about 8000 permanent residents but there's no reliable estimate for Onetangi.


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Main industry: Chilling out.

Source of wonder: Despite being so close to Auckland, some days you can have the entire beach to yourself.

Local fiestas: Onetangi Beach Races (March 2) attracts crowds of up to 8000 cheering the horses, tractors and Sealegs. The Wharf2Wharf race runs through Onetangi with options for stopping or starting there. The Waiheke Jazz Festival, each Easter, has gigs in Onetangi.

Best place to take the kids: Onetangi Sports Park has cycle tracks, tennis courts and fields for rugby, football and all sorts of sports - perfect for a good old run around. Or, for older kids (and adults), try Ecozip Adventures and ride the flying foxes down through tracts of pristine native bush. Or take them to the Waiheke Dirt Track for car racing. The Demolition Derby is wild.

Best place for a drink: Charlie Farley's on the beachfront is fabulous and open all year round. They also do excellent food.

Best food: If you want high-end dining in stunning surrounds, Casita Miro is outstanding.

Best drink ever: When you're at Casita Miro, order a Madam Rouge, an aperitif that comes in a tall glass, is made from red grapes and is delicious.

Tasting heaven: Peacock Sky, up Trig Hill Rd, does wonderful wine and has welcoming hosts. Champagne breakfast anyone?

Also yum: 4th Avenue serves super seafood platters and is very family friendly.

Best flat white: Hard to say, either of the two cafes. You choose.

Best shop: Onetangi Service Station, whatever you need, convenience-wise it's very handy. And they sell petrol.

Best museum:

consists of several little historic buildings, including the old jail, and everything you could want to know about Waiheke's colourful past is there.

Best walk: Onetangi Loop Walk (one hour) provides views of both Barriers as it passes through various domains and along the beach. Or trot to the Forest and Bird Reserve, which is brimming with fabulous walks.

Best workout: Run up and down the Jacob's Ladder Walkway, a series of steps leading up from the beach. Your thighs will thank you, or scream at you.

Best view: Trig Hill Rd reserve offers commanding views with a couple of picnic tables and a grassy area for lolling about on - 360 degrees of paradise.

Best swim: Anywhere along the 2.5km long beach, so much blue, blue ocean.

Best mountain biking: Onetangi Sports Ground has amazing trails for all levels of ability and the island's mountain bike club holds regular races. These days loads of people come to the island with bikes.

Best adventure: Go to Wild on Waiheke where visitors can try archery, clay bird shooting or have a go on an assault course. And get a drink and a meal.

Or: Flying foxes at Ecozip Adventures.

Or: Hire a kayak to explore the bays and coves.

Or: Hire a stand-up paddleboard and work on your core fitness to make up for all the eating and drinking.

Best place to pull over: When you're coming into Onetangi there's a spot on Seaview Rd where you get the most breathtaking views of the beach before the windy road takes you down.

Best playground: Tin Boat Reserve is perfect for smaller kids and just a short walk from the beach.

Hug a tree: There's an impressive stand of kauri trees in the Forest and Bird Reserve - perfect for shade on a hot summer's day.

Wonderful wildlife: Onetangi has glow-worms, if you know where to look. The Forest and Bird Reserve is bursting with kereru, grey warblers, fantails, kingfisher, tui, as well as North Island crayfish, freshwater shrimp and long-finned eels. Orcas and dolphins are regular visitors, too.

Get a load of this: Waiheke is spoiled for picnic tables and there's a particularly splendid spot on Pohutukawa Reserve behind Onetangi Hall up a short walking track from First Ave. There are giant pohutukawa in the reserve and children can run and roll down the hill until they're tuckered out.

Safety warning: The view from Seaview Rd is amazing (hence the name), but don't just stop the car to take a picture. Make sure you check first if there are vehicles behind you.

Visitors say: I love it so much I never want to leave.

Locals say: I loved it so much I never left.