When she lived there, for about six years with broadcaster husband Brian Edwards, writer and media trainer Judy Callingham says Waiheke was "a refuge for the bad, the sad and the mad". Escapees from the rat race and longer-term alternative life-stylers lived side by side. That was only 15 or so years ago. Now, that diadem in the Hauraki Gulf's crown is as polarised as the rest of the country, and the super-rich rub shoulders with, well, riff raff, if we're being honest.
Some call it Auckland's answer to the Hamptons, New York's jetset beachfront playground. But resident and former ad-man Tony Ward, who moved here in 2000, knows at least one superannuitant who takes his Gold Card free-ferry ride to town every day because he doesn't have a toilet at home, carrying his household rubbish in a backpack to deposit on the mainland. Body waste on board; household waste on shore.
It's no news that Waiheke has been transformed in the past two decades. To talk about the island and its people these days, says 30-something entrepreneur Mike Hall, you first have to make the distinction between Waihekians and Waihitians. The former are those who have been resident 20 years or more; the latter, for less.
Priorities are different. "Things like the ocean and the bush used to be the reason for living here," says Hall. "And now it's more of a backdrop while you're having a glass of wine." Nature's majesty has become the thing you observe through the giant window you built for observing nature's majesty through.
How did Waiheke, once home to people subsisting on the DPB and the dole, attract so many people whose idea of a benefit is a $1000 a head charity ball?
Many of the reasons for settling here pertain no matter how much you earn - it's pretty, it's clean, the air is fresh. You're never far from the water. There's very little crime, thanks to the large moat by which it is surrounded.
And, as for the weather - with temperatures regularly a couple of degrees higher than Auckland's, it claims to have a micro-climate. Which may have been what made the wealthy take notice - after all, it doesn't get much posher than having your own weather.
But many people, such as Hall's friend and fellow entrepreneur, app developer Eric Hillman, point to the 2000 and 2003 America's Cup races, and the rich and famous who washed ashore in their pricey wake. They came to watch the race, and stayed to buy the venue.
Word spread, albeit slowly. In 2012 Waiheke made the New York Times' "46 Places to Go" list. In 2013 it reached the top 10 of TripAdvisor's "Islands to Visit in the South Pacific". The year after that, Lonely Planet decreed it the world's "fifth best region." This year Travel + Leisure named Waiheke the fourth best island in the world.
Andrew Glenn, co-founder and co-owner of Oyster Inn, Waiheke's answer to SPQR, says: "We are now a real destination for anyone visiting Auckland." He believes that "year on year, we are a few per cent busier and maybe busier longer - through to April and busier starting in November. Summer is extending."
You see? Waiheke doesn't just have its own weather - it can make a whole season last longer.
And the facilities to bring and keep people here have grown apace. Tantalus Estate is this year's hot new addition to the combination winery/brewery/restaurant scene, with a redesign overseen by architectural demigod Nat Cheshire, making it set to give the island's reigning establishments a run for the wining and dining dollar.
Wineries and Waiheke are closely linked and tourism is the reason. They bring people and their wallets ashore. Waiheke vineyards are more essential to the Waiheke tourism industry than they are to the national wine industry. Food and wine in general, whether at the likes of the well-established Mudbrick or laidback new kid Oyster Inn, are crucial to the summer experience.
Retired broadcaster John Hawkesby has been on the island since 2001 and says all the above is true but adds that "another thing that relates to the summer influx of people wanting to stay for a longer period of time is fact that Auckland and its highways in and out are so congested. People have to think twice before going up north or down south. The other plus is that a family can come here for a good part of the summer holidays and if Dad or Mum needs to go to work for part of the time, it's an easy commute."
There are indeed enclaves where professionals and their families set up house for several summer weeks. The lawyer or accountant concerned will set sail for their offices daily during the week and enjoy a longish weekend on the island, effectively having their Brie and eating it too.
Hawkesby, the old softie, names another, frequently overlooked quality that lies behind much of the activity: Islands are romantic. "People take romance for granted and you ought not to. The beaches are pretty good. The rolling landscape, the walk, the views are pretty fine. Where I live, we can shut the gate and leave the world behind."
And there is a special breed of summer visitors: the super-wealthy who have built palaces that are left unoccupied for much of the year and who fly in - often literally, by plane to Mangere and then by helicopter to Waiheke - for a few weeks at the height of summer. There's an undertone of disapproval - how wasteful! - when this phenomenon is discussed. But really it's not that different from the usage pattern of the traditional Kiwi fibro bach: occupied for a few weeks at Christmas and left empty - and probably, back in the day, unlocked - the rest of the time.
But you can expect more super-wealthy to invade any time now. "For people with really phenomenal wealth, and I'm talking, by and large, not New Zealanders, this is a very attractive place and, post-Trump, becoming even more attractive," says Hawkesby. "There are quite a few non-New Zealanders with substantial properties, but when they come into the village they wear Jandals, shorts and a T-shirt. They're not coming in white linen. They sneak in, sneak out and don't want to make a fuss. It's not the Hamptons in that respect."
Swelling the summer census total are thousands of day-trippers - locals and foreigners - notably those from the cruise ship boom. "When the ships are in you can count on five tour buses per ship driving around the island," says Tony Ward, "paying what you wouldn't believe to come around these roads. They're a bit of a pain but we tolerate them."
The locals don't exactly throw up siege walls, but the influx of visitors definitely affects how they spend their summers. "Over the holidays, if you live here you don't go too much to the cafes and bars because they're full," says Ward, "The likes of Charlie Farleys and Oyster Inn are full of holidaymakers with oodles of money. If you have people come over from Auckland, then you go to show them. But if you live here, you don't."
Money doesn't talk on Waiheke. It tends to murmur discreetly. Famous residents don't
spray their scent. There is no Graham Henry Ballet School, no Graeme Hart Sports Centre, to name just a couple of locals who could probably finance a function centre or two. Many mansions lurk unseen behind discouraging stone gateways, visible only from the water. Others are camouflaged by native bush, if not actual camouflage paint. Some of the palaces can only be seen in their full glory from drones.
There's nowhere to buy foie gras and Krug. The island has only just got its first proper supermarket and some of the locals are even struggling to come to terms with the fact that lemongrass is available. The most expensive wine on the Oyster Inn list is a $350 Dom Perignon. You won't see many Maseratis - for a start, there aren't many places to take them and the roads don't' allow you to get up much speed.
"Consumption is a bit more discreet," says Paul Dykzeul, CEO of Bauer Media and a resident of nine years' standing. "You can buy expensive bottles of wine at Te Whau. We have noticed a lot more BMWs and a Bentley up the road. But there's still a lovely mix of Corollas with dented bumpers."
Some venerable institutions are adapting to cope with the increasing numbers of visitors, not just in summer but year round. Mudbrick Vineyard and Restaurant, which is still a byword for island quality and cost, has recently added more accommodation.
"Locals don't really go there," says Ward, "except to take friends from Auckland."
Mudbrick and others of its ilk are default wedding venues for many mainlanders. The wedding parties are really a variety of welcome day-tripper - they sail in, leave their money all over the island, then go away again, leaving the locals to clean up.
It's not just the volume of people that changes in summer. "The amount of hellos and hellos back you get minimises significantly," says Hillman. "Whether they like to admit it or not, it's a far less hospitable place for the locals. Today's low season is probably the same as the old high season."
Andrew Glenn is all for putting summer in perspective. He's a member of the recently convened Waiheke Island Tourism Forum, which is dedicated not to increasing summer visitor numbers but wants "to promote the island in winter as a place where you can snuggle up by fire with glass of wine. It's great for beach and coastal walks."
This will take some planning: "Can infrastructure support the numbers? Are there enough taxi companies? Are the rates fair? Are the ferries on time? Should there be bigger boats? These are issues for the island that will need to be addressed as more people come here.
Customers have to be managed properly so they leave and make a positive report."
How do the locals cope with the mobs in the meantime? A lot, like Dykzeul, quite like it: "The change in nine years has been astronomical. When we first moved here, when summer came it always felt a bit busier. But in the summer we've got a wide range of friends on the island and there are lots of barbecues. It's a fabulously social place. We know a number of people with holiday homes on the island - and in the summer you see more of them."
Mary Curnow, owner of Bayleys Real Estate and one of "probably about 70 - isn't it stupid?" agents on the island, is not a huge fan of summer crowds and their impact on the locals. "It makes them lose the lifestyle," she says. "The traffic. The people. It feels busy and that's not why you're here."
So she gets out of town. "I always go away - get off the island. I have family in the South Island."
Her industry, however, is a focal point for change on Waiheke. Take the tale of two houses at tiny Sandy Bay, for instance. On one side, at ground level, is an old-fashioned ramshackle bach. "This one must be worth squillions," says Ward. "You've got your little dinghy here, go out couple of hundred yards, you'll eat snapper for breakfast. That little bach has probably been in the family for umpteen years." But looking down on it from the other side of the road, on a hillside is an elegant home which, claims Ward, counts an elevator among its features.
Further around at Oneroa is Beach Parade, where every house tells a story but none as loud as the one currently being told about the house on the corner, a relatively modest dwelling that sold for upwards of $4.5 million without going on the market. The owners are believed to have turned down another multimillion-dollar offer made privately not so long ago.
This mix of old and new values is responsible for a certain amount of not-always-creative conflict on the island. This can be seen crystallised in the Battle of the Marina that Wasn't. Almost everyone interviewed for this story spoke with pride about how plans to build a marina were defeated. This was produced as evidence that the community acted together to maintain the old values. Also, from all accounts the proposed site was entirely unsuitable.
Beyond that point, however, there was a gulf in attitudes to the question of what should be done about a marina in the future.
"We've got to have one somewhere," say Waihitians Ward and Glenn. "It's an island. People want to be able to sail in and moor here on a visit."
"Yeah, nah," say Waihekians Eric Hillman and Mike Hall. "Having stopped the marina, we're going to have to stop the next one," says Hall. "The people who put these things forward are good at absorbing blows and springing back. The question is whether we can continue to rally and organise to make sure we can preserve the things the community holds dear. The problem with marinas is they destroy the ecology of wherever they are. Why root for that to happen?"
These two Waihekians have a vision for the future of the island in which the old and new values are wedded together. Hillman was recently at a Silicon Valley jamboree where many industry leaders expressed interest in moving permanently from the US to this Trump-free zone. He likes that idea. "The challenge is to teach the [local] kids the same spirit of community at a time when it is very unlikely they'll be able to afford to live here," says Hillman.
"We've got to see them as tech entrepreneurs or running their own tourism business and using the foundations of being a local growing up here as something that can put them in a leading spot coming into the era of extreme money [moving to the island]. I hope we get the brains of the people coming here as well as their money."
By definition, islands are small, inward-looking places where gossip thrives.
Like the time a father of the bride brought a Ferrari to the island to deliver his daughter to her wedding in style. The exhaust was knocked off on the way over and, replacement Ferrari exhausts being thin on the Waiheke ground, they just had to put up with the noise.
Then there's the substantial house that has recently been bought by someone solely to house the construction team that will be staying on the island to build his real mansion.
Or the property with its own golf course for which sand had to be painfully slowly trucked up from Mercer.
There are the property owners throwing money at builders to abandon projects they've committed to, to come and work for them instead. "Go down to the car ferry at 8am, and see them," says Tony Ward. "There are no cars. It's just tradies coming over in vans."
And the recent purchaser who was about to start renovating when he was offered $2 million more than he'd just paid for his property. He accepted.