Viva Editor Amanda Linnell Shares Her Waiheke Secrets

The Annex on Waiheke Island. Picture / Jim McCulloch

While most visitors to Waiheke make a beeline for the likes of The Oyster Inn, Mudbrick, Tanatalus and Poderi Crisci — and all for very good reason: the food is fantastic and the vibe suitably fabulous — there are also plenty of places to explore that are a little more off the beaten track.

In our household, an outing to the Ostend Markets is a must most Saturday mornings. It's the perfect place to bump into friends and stock up the pantry for the weekend — beautiful handmade sausages, bread, hummus, beetroot dip, honey, cheese and more. A loaf of fresh potato sourdough from Franco's La Panetteria Italian bakery is a must, before a quick detour into Jerry's Ostend Dairy to buy Indian flat breads (great as pizza bases or toasted with the hummus and dips), then nipping around the corner to Island Coffee. Here patrons rub shoulders as they gather around the centre table or take turns at changing the record, while owner and coffee maestro Jane Burns keeps the conversation as stimulating and buzzing as her coffee. There's a steady flow of people coming in to buy freshly ground coffee beans and trade products.

When Island Coffee isn't open, you'll find Jane and others from her gorgeous team — all red lipstick and linen aprons — serving their brew at The Annex on nearby Putiki Rd. With an elegant Scandinavian vibe, this small but perfectly formed coffee house also serves the impossible-to-resist patisseries created by the talented Jennifer Perry of Little Tart Bakery. Think choux pastry buns filled with vanilla creme or cardamon almond cakes with cream cheese icing, stewed rhubarb and pistachio and you're on the right track.

Te Motu Vineyard (left) and Dragonfired.  Pictures /  Jim McCulloch
Te Motu Vineyard (left) and Dragonfired. Pictures / Jim McCulloch

Creative spirits breathe energy and individuality into the Waiheke community and taking the time to visit their galleries or join in the numerous dance classes, theatre productions or live gigs should definitely be on your to-do list. A few metres down the road from The Annex is the Putiki Gallery belonging to artist Ingrid Berzins, who produces contemporary paintings with a whimsical edge from her studio made from two shipping containers. It's just one of many wonderful galleries dotted around the island that are worth exploring.

One of our favourite places to take visitors — or when we just feel like treating ourselves — has to be The Shed at Te Motu Vineyard in the Onetangi Valley. This stylish and relaxed wine shed is wonderfully low-key while, at the same time, being home to some of the best food being served in New Zealand. Big call, I know. But, I'm not alone. Island bespoke VIP tours providers, such as Ananda Tours, ensure this restaurant is on their list for international VIP foodie guests and media. Chef Bronwen Laight has quietly carved out a reputation for creating tasty and innovative food. Where to begin? Try the shiitake cabbage and spring onion pancake with black garlic, sesame, miso and fermented daikon, or the ox-tongue pastrami with apple, sauerkraut and mustard dressing ... And you have to try the octopus with smoked chilli, skordalia, tomato and oregano. The staff are gorgeous, friendly and ensure the best of the vineyard's wine keeps flowing with ease.

Island Coffee (left) and Putiki Gallery. Picture / Jim McCulloch
Island Coffee (left) and Putiki Gallery. Picture / Jim McCulloch

For those evenings when you can't be bothered cooking, Dragonfired's artisan wood-fired food truck at Little Oneroa Beach is our go-to. Over the weekends and throughout the summer season, Bevan Kaan and his crew set up their trailer complete with a woodfire oven and churn out an array of amazing pizzas, pita pockets and polenta with salad — all particularly delicious when sitting in the evening sun after a day at the beach.

My all-time favourite place to have a coffee and a cheeky croissant, has to be on the rickety old chairs perched on the hill out the back of Ringawera Bakery situated on the road to Te Whau Vineyard. The view out across the water back to Maraetai and the mainland on a sunny day is one of the most peaceful in the world. Along with their beautiful bread, be sure to stock up on their award-winning lavash.

With all this eating (and with so many options on the island we are totally spoiled), there is also the need for a bit of excercise. There are myriad beautiful walking tracks around the island and we’ll often pack a picnic and head out to find secluded beaches where we will park up for the day. A favourite walk (which conveniently runs between Passage Rock Vineyard and Poderi Crisci Vineyard at Awaaroa) traverses dense bush and beautiful nikau groves and takes you high enough to get an almost 360-degree view of the island and beyond.

And nothing beats a beach walk to watch the sunset. It's the perfect way to round off the day.

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