This post will help you plan a day trip to focus on the best wineries on Waiheke Island. Why should you go? Waiheke Island is internationally recognised for it’s ability to produce great wine, and best known for it’s reds. Just a 40 minute ferry ride from downtown Auckland, it’s quite easy (and enjoyable) to spend the day amongst the beautiful vineyards of Waiheke, sampling world class wine and food.
How to get to Waiheke Island?
The easiest way to get to Waiheke Island is to take the ferry. The ferries depart from Auckland City harbour typically about every half hour and the journey takes about 40 minutes.
How to get around Waiheke Island?
The easiest way to get around Waiheke Island wineries for the day is to take the hop-on hop-off bus. Purchase your combined ferry and bus ticket through the website. The bus departs the Waiheke Island Ferry Terminal every half hour in summer and every hour in winter. It operates on a circuit and stops at the townships, wineries and other cultural and local sights.
My tip would be to plan your day accordingly – particularly in winter when the bus comes every hour. Also be prepared for changes in timetable, it isn’t uncommon during summer for the winter timetable to be used instead.
How we planned a day on Waiheke Island?
There are 17 stops on the hop-on hop-off bus route. As the island is 20 km in length, it would be impossible to visit each stop off point, even in the summer months. It would also be an injustice to each stop to rush through and not enjoy all it has to offer.
Our focus for a day on Waiheke Island was to sample the best local food and wine. A number of New Zealand’s top 30 wineries are located on Waiheke Island which helped to focus our stops for the day.
Using the winter timetable we had a minimum of an hour at each location. Deciding we wanted to finish the day closer to the ferry terminal to reduce stress of getting back to make the ferry, we decided to start across the island to stops 6 and 7, Wild Estate and Tantalus Estate. We’d then make our way back for lunch at the renowned Cable Bay Vineyard and stopping to visit Mudbrick before heading back to Auckland.
Here you’ll find how to plan a day and all the things to do in Waiheke Island.
Winery 1: Wild on Waiheke
Starting from the Matiatia Bay, the hop-on hop-off bus meets at the ferry terminal. Travel through the township of Oneroa, winding passed the local arts and craft stores and taking in glimpses of the emerald water below in Oneroa Bay.
What makes it special?
Wild on Waiheke is a family owned vineyard creating a unique and quality experience for all ages and occasions.
Not your typical winery, Wild offers a modern winery experience of activities for the whole family from giant chess, archery, claybird shooting and volleyball to name a few.
Its’ relaxed style tastings allow you to sample a number of the wines in a laid back setting on the lawn amongst the grapes or inside in the winery restaurant. Wild on Waiheke is the perfect winery to sit outdoors for activities and enjoying a wine amongst the grapes or cooler days by the fire place don’t sound too bad either.
Wine and drinks
The wine list draws from the Wild Estates in Marlborough and on-site at Waiheke Island. Between the two wine estates, Wild provides a variety of whites and reds to everyone’s liking.
For the beer lovers, the Waiheke Island Brewery provides freshly brewed beer onsite. They include a variety of beers from wheat beer, pilsners, pale ales, APA and even a cider.
There are plenty of non-alcoholic options for the young and young at heart.
Simple yet delicious cheese boards and antipasti platters can be enjoyed on the lawn. While inside in the restaurant, choose from the el a carte menu or from one of the gourmet pizzas.
If you had longer
Wild on Waiheke offers the ultimate relaxed setting for multi activity venue, perfect for events like hens/bucks or bachelor/bachelorette parties or family gatherings.
Winery 2: Tantalus Estate
Next door to Wild on Waiheke is Tantalus Estate. It is a one of Waiheke Island’s most renowned vineyards. Set on over eight hectares, Tantalus is a destination offering visitors exceptional fine wine, food and beer all produced on site in a grand yet welcoming setting.
Located along Vineyard Alley on Onetangi Road, makes Tantalus a popular place to stop. There are more wineries concentrated in this area than anywhere else on the island. We planned our visit to include Wild on Waiheke and Tantalus Estate given their top 30 status in wineries across New Zealand.
What makes it special?
The most special thing about Tantalus is that it caters well for diverse groups – wine, beer, cider or food lovers. And it does each of these things really well.
Formal wine tastings can be taken at the bar (see above). Beer tastings from Alibi Brewers Lounge are also available which you can do while watching the beer being brewed (see below). The restaurant and outdoor area are all class, making for a special wining and dining experience.
In addition to their world class food, wine and beer tasting experiences, you could easily settle in for the day. The grounds also feature olive groves, macadamia trees, apiary, kitchen gardens, native trees and boardwalks.
For something a little more special and extra, Tantalus has a helipad available for those extra special events and entrances.
Winery 3: Mudbrick vineyard
Crossing over the road at Tantalus Estate we caught the bus back towards the ferry terminal exiting at Mudbrick vineyard. Mudbrick is the cherry on top of the cake to what is a really memorable day.
We were very strategic in leaving Mudbrick and Cable Bay (winery 4) until last. Mostly to allow plenty of time to enjoy our lunch. We had lunch at Cable Bay (winery 4), but Mudbrick had a great relaxed atmosphere with friendly and helpful staff. The menu looks to cater for a variety of options so choice is yours!
What makes it special?
Mudbrick caters to all wine tastes with a number of red and white grape varieties grown on site. They also serve wine from their other Mudbrick locations across New Zealand.
Traditional wine tastings are offered in the bar inside (see photo below). However if you sit outside on the terrace and order by the glass, you can take in the views over the island (as shown above).
Reflecting back over the day on Waiheke, one thing that stands out in my memory is the level of service, kindness and unpretentious knowledge shown from staff at Mudbrick. It’s worth spending a bit of time here if you can.
Mudbrick provides options for both casual and fine dining. While their seven course degustation menu looks heavenly, from the bistro menu there are plenty of options including four sampler boards – cheese, meat or plant based. Obviously, perfectly paired with Mudbrick’s finest wines.
Leaving Mudbrick, you can follow the path through the vines to walk next door to Cable Bay. You’ll notice Mudbrick’s Airbnb cottage on the top of the hill overviewing the views as you leave.
Winery 4: Cable Bay
Arriving at Cable Bay, our first difficult decision was casual or formal dining. We opted for the formal.
With wineries on Waiheke Island and in the Marlborough region, Cable Bay produce Pinot Gris, Viogner, Marsanne, Chardonnay, Syrah (Shiraz), Merlot and Malbec.
What makes it special?
Situated on the west coast of Waiheke Island, the Cable Bay estate boasts some of the best views over Auckland’s skyline.
Awarded Metro Magazine’s Best Winery Experience in 2018, Cable Bay offers the choice between two restaurants both sourcing freshly harvested, seasonal produce grown on site. Restaurants include a bistro for “elegant and contemporary cuisine” and dining on the verandah for “Mediterranean style cuisine” both designed to share.
Back to the ferry
Cable Bay is located on the hop-on hop-off bus route but it’s also just a 15 minute walk or 2 minute taxi ride from the Matiatia Ferry Terminal. This makes it a very convenient place to end your day, with an easy exit to make the last ferry.
A helipad is also available for those wishing to make a grand entrance and exit.
I hope you enjoy reading about the best wineries on Waiheke Island. For more on planning your New Zealand adventures click here.
For more on planning your adventures to wineries and vineyards click here.