10 fun facts about Waiheke Island

If you, like me, happen to like the taste of fermented grapes on your lips (read: wine) and want to get out of Auckland for a bit, Waiheke Island is the perfect destination for you.

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A short 40 minute ferry ride from Auckland takes you to this paradise, which makes it a perfect day trip or weekend trip if you want to stay overnight. There are a few different companies that runs ferries to Waiheke, but we used Fullers, where you can get a return ticket for $38 ($20 for children), with ferries leaving every hour.

Fullers also offer a Waiheke Explorer pass for $60 that includes the ferry as well as a day pass for the hop-on hop-off bus; a great way to explore the island at your own pace without bringing your car over (which you can do, although it is a bit more expensive).

What to expect? Amazing wine, beautiful landscapes, gorgeous beaches, cute little cafes and restaurants, crafty shops and art galleries and a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. Definitely a must-do if you visit Auckland!

Getting to know the island is of course important, and here are some fun facts that can be fun to know before you go:

1.   The name “Waiheke” means “cascading waters” although the original Maori name for the island was “Te Motu Arai Roa”, meaning “long sheltering island”.

2.   It is the third most populated island in New Zealand, after the North and the South Islands.

3.   Around 9000 people live there permanently, with around 1000 commuting in to Auckland each day for work. During summer the population goes up to 40.000-50.000 with seasonal residents and tourists.

4.   There are over 30 vineyards on the island, although not all of them are open to the public. The first one was Goldie Estate established in 1978, and the island is now home to many well-known vineyards like Mudbrick and internationally renowned Stonyridge.

Mudbrick Vineyard
Wild on Weiheke Estate
Stonyridge Vineyard
Stonyridge Vineyard

5.   The island have two primary schools and one high school.

6.   There are nine police officers on the island. There is a very safe community on Waiheke, with most people not locking their windows or doors when they sleep.

7.   The  island covers 92 square kilometres and is the second largest island in Auckland’s Hauraki Golf, after Great Barrier Island. It has 133km of coastline and 40km of beaches, and at its thinnest part it is 600 meters.

Onetangi Beach

8.   The island residents relies on rainwater harvesting for drinking and household use, and during the summer months many locals need to purchase water from water delivery trucks that operate on the island.

9.   There is no hospital on the island, so if patiens need further care than what the local doctors can provide you have to go to Auckland.

10.   Waiheke has been voted number four best island in the world by Conde Nast Traveler, only after Palawan and Boracay in the Philippines and Ischia in Italy (ahead of islands like Santorini in Greece, Bali in Indonesia and Maui in Hawaii). It has also been rated the fifth best destination in the world to visit by Lonely Planet.

You shouldn’t need any more convincing than this! Just get over there! 😃<<
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Road trippin’ to Rotorua (geothermal awesomeness)

If you want to experience some real geothermal activities while you’re in New Zealand (and yes you definitely should!), Rotorua is the place to go.

Located on the north island about 3,5 hours south of Auckland we have gone there for weekends (only stayed one night), although you may want to stay longer if you want to be able to see as much as possible (because there is SO MUCH to see and do there!).

Here are a couple of recommendations which you can do in a day:

Hell’s Gate

One of the most popular places to visit is Hells Gate, which is about 20 min out from Rotorua. The reserve is set over 50 acres with a variety of geothermal features like steaming fumeroles and pools of boiling mud.

The entry for the geothermal walk around the reserve is $35 per person (for an adult, child is $17,50). They have several different packages that you can choose from if you want to try the mud baths or spa activities.

For the geothermal walk you follow a trail around the reserve, and I have never seen anything like it! The hot steam is rising from the ground everywhere, and it feels a bit surreal walking through it all. What people don’t warn you about though is the smell! The so-called “rotten egg-smell” of geothermal areas is associated with hydrogen sulphide and is exactly what it sounds like, a strong smell of rotten egg… Or a really bad egg fart! But the experience makes it worth it! 😂

Hell’s Gate is also home to Kakahi Falls; the biggest hot waterfall in the Southern Hemisphere. This is a very special place for the Maori people, and warriors use to clean themselves here when they returned from battle. Unfortunately you can’t swim in it, but it looks beautiful!

They also have a mud volcano, cooking pool, medicine lake and much more.

When you get to the end of the walk you can choose to carve your own souvenirs (not sure if that is mainly for the kids but James and I did it anyway 😃). You also get to dip your feet in a hot pool, which was wonderful!

Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland

We then decided to go to another of the most visited places; Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, which is about 45 min from Hell’s Gate.

Tip: don’t follow the GPS! Follow the signs on the road! 🤪

The GPS will take you to the Lady Knox Geyser , which you can see erupt at 10.15am everyday (we missed it, hah). If you however want to go to the geothermal wonderland you follow the road to the tourist centre.

The entry to the park is $32,50 (adult, child is $11), and that is including the entry to see the Lady Knox Geyser.

This is definitely where you should go if you want the colourful water. It is not as steamy as Hell’s Gate, but it still has the smell… 🤣

Wai-O-Tapu is however filled with the most beautiful colourful lakes you have ever seen. The park is bigger than Hell’s Gate, and we spent a good 2,5 hours there (to walk around the whole park is around 3 km).

You get to see some crazy beautiful lakes with water that is out of this world, and all colours are natural and due to different mineral elements in the ground in the area. Definitely worth a visit! 😃

To finish the day off we drove to the Polynesian Spa in Rotorua, where we had a Deluxe Private Pool for $30 per person. That gives you 30 min in the private pool which may sound like an expensive deal, but at 38,5 degrees 30 min is pretty much all you need!

The view over Lake Rotorua was amazing and the pools were so private. I definitely recommend this as a little treat ☺️

There will be more posts about things to do in Rotorua, so sign up to get notifications whenever I post so that you don’t miss anything… 🙃

On top of the world! (Or at least on top of Kitekite Falls)

I must say, there are some impressive waterfalls around in New Zealand. And what keeps surprising me is that there are so many close to us!

On Sunday we decided to explore Kitekite Falls in Waitakere Ranges. This is actually very close to Piha as well, and as I’ve said before (and I don’t want to say it too many times! 😂) the drive there is stunning (ok so I said it).

What is really cool about this place is that you can actually go all the way to the top of the waterfalls, which offers some incredible views. There is about a 20 min walk from the car park to the bottom of the falls, and then another 15-20min (uphill, obviously 😉) to get to the top. You feel on top of the world!

The water is so clear in some places!

Sadly, the forest surrounding Kitekite falls is dying from kauri dieback disease, and you have to wash your shoes and other equipment before you enter and when you come back out. The track to Kitekite Falls will close on 1st May to prevent the disease from spreading further, I’m not sure how long for…

If you decide visit before then, be mindful and wash your shoes properly and stay on the tracks!

Bird watching! (Muriwai Beach & the gannet colony)

Only about an hour west of Auckland (not too far from Piha) is Muriwai Beach with its gannet colony.

About 1200 pairs of gannets nest at Muriwai Beach from August to March before flying over to Australia. The birds have only one life partner, and although they spend the winter apart from each other they return to this spot to find each other again each year. Naaaaaaw. ❤️

Apart from bird watching, Muriwai also offers some stunning landscapes and beaches with VERY black sand! The water is very rough and it’s quite windy (which is why the gannets love it so much), and you get to see some crazy waves when you’re there. Ideal for surfing, but be careful when you swim!

It’s definitely worth a visit. ☺️

The journey is just as important as the destination (Coromandel Peninsula)

The beautiful thing about exploring a new country is that you can just wake up on a Saturday morning and go “where should we go today?”

And as I had read so many good things about Coromandel Peninsula and especially Cathedral Cove and the Hot Water Beach we decided to go and check it out!

We set the GPS for Coromandel and drove off.

The scenery on the way was absolutely breathtaking. This country is so full of beautiful nature that it’s crazy! It’s about 2,5 hours drive from Auckland.

There are lookout points along the way, and we stopped a couple of times. I also tried to take a few photos from the car which always fails! 😂

Drive to Coromandel Peninsula TravelchickNZ
Sooooo pretty! 😍

We finally got to Coromandel only to realise that… it’s a very cute little town, however Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach is actually on the other side of the peninsula…

Coromandel TravelchickNZ
Coromandel Town

So we had to jump back in the car and drive for another 1,5 hours (it says one hour and nine minutes on the screenshot below, however it was more like 1,5).Once again, the nature on this drive was amazing. Unpaved roads – yes! And they were soooo narrow, and full of sharp turns. It was crazy. It felt like being on a rollercoaster! We finally arrived at Cathedral Cove, and there is a Visitor parking where you have to park. There are plenty of signs saying that there is no parking available closer to the cove, so… you have to walk. There is a shuttle bus going for $5 for an adult, but we thought that it can’t be that far?! It is however a decent 20 minute walk from the car park, and mainly uphill. Then you get to the end of the paved road, and you get on to a smaller trail that leads you down to the beaches and caves.

Cathedral Cove TravelchickNZ
View from the trail

There is a lot of uphill and then downhill, and up and down again. Quite challenging if you’re not used to it (and if you just want to GET THERE! Like we did). On a sign in the beginning of the trail it says that Cathedral Cove is 45 min on foot, however we walked it in 25 min, but we walk fairly quickly. There are options to take a water taxi, boat cruises or hire kayaks to get there as well, and we will check out those options next time we go there.

Anyway. After walking along the trail you all of a sudden reach the beach and… It is paradise. You come down to a small, secluded beach that is just gorgeous. There were quite a few tourists there, however it was on a Saturday so maybe that’s why. We’re going back in a couple of weeks with a friend of ours who is visiting, so we’ll see if there are less people then. Anyway – the cove is on your left, and as you walk through, another piece of paradise appears before you. It is so incredibly picturesque. The water is blue and green, the sky is blue, the sand is soft, the rocks are white (ish!)… How many photos can one person take in a day? 😂

The waves were quite high however and the water quite wild, so be careful if you go swimming!

The walk back was less challenging than the walk there, because it was less uphill. It took us 50 min from the beach to get back to the car (and I can feel it in my legs today! 😀)

As we got a bit delayed we didn’t get a chance to visit Hot Water Beach, however we will go there next time in a couple of weeks so stay tuned for that blog post. ☺️

As we drove back we got to watch the most beautiful sunset as well. What an amazing day! I can’t wait to go back! ❤️