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Published: February 10th 2010
View of the CBD on the way to Waiheke Island.
For Christmas this year, we gave Liz and Allard a trip to Waiheke Island (pronounced why-heck-ee) including ferry and car hire after finding out that they haven't been there for well over 10 years. When Liz pointed out that you can get 4 people in a hire car and suggested we go along too, we naturally jumped at the chance! Waiheke is one of the few places left on our list of local destinations to visit for the first time and we were most definitely not disappointed!
Liz and Allard picked us up at 8am and we drive up to the city, parked and headed for the 9.00am ferry. We made a beeline straight for the top deck and were afforded lovely views of Auckland's skyscraper skyline as we set sail, stopping briefly at Devonport before arriving 45 minutes later in pretty Matiatia Wharf. The water was Mediterranean turquoise blue and little sail boats bobbed in the water just off the beach. At first glance the landscape looked hilly with some steep peninsulars jutting out into the sea that looked like they would make great lookout spots.
After collecting the hire car, we picked up the main road to
It sure was cold on the top deck but Liz, Allard and Glynn hide it well!
Ostend where the Saturday market was in full swing. The market had been recommended to us as a great place to pick up arts and crafts items and it lived up to its reputation. We were tempted to try every type of food and drink on offer and ultimately opted for langos, a Hungarian style fried puffed bread topped with a jalepeno pesto, feta cheese, tomato and fresh basil. It was utterly delicious and well worth the $7.
Inside the town hall, I picked up a couple of handmade items including a necklace made from a dark mother of pearl shell and a pack of 6 cards made of recycled paper infused with flower petals and leaves. Glynn treated himself to some refreshing home-made ginger beer - perfect in the day's gathering heat. There were so many curiosities and crafts that I wanted to buy but I managed to restrain myself. Some of the other stalls were more like car boot sale stands with bits of old junk on them but the overall atmosphere was great.
Our next stop was at Stony Batter, a WW2 gun emplacement located on the farthest side of the island. We stopped frequently
Lots of people in Auckland own boats and you can literally see them everywhere as you sail out of the harbour!
along the way to admire some of the beautiful views across the hills, vineyards and out to sea. Waiheke is particularly well known for its home-grown wines and many thousands of people visit the island every year purely to visit the wineries and sample the local produce.
Stony Batter is an unusual place, taking its name from the large boulders strewn across the terrain by a volcanic eruption over 7 million years ago. While Liz and Allard made their way to the first of the gun emplacements, Glynn and I scrambled uphill and delighted in climbing atop some of the bigger boulders. The views from the top of Stony Batter were stunning with a virtually 360 degree view looking out to the rocky inlets by the sea on both sides and then out across the undulating hills inland. We then headed back downhill and met up again with Liz and Allard who were busy making friends with some of the local sheep - possibly the friendliest ones since we met Weetbix in taupo on our big trip! This was also the entrance to the secret tunnels leading to yet more gun emplacements and a variety of underground chambers.
First glimpse of Waiheke Island.
An $8 entrance fee per person and $5 to hire a torch saw us gain entrance to the cool dark tunnels excavated in secret back from 1941 when NZ feared attack by the Japanese and sought to establish a first line of defence. Inside the tunnels were various displays of old machinery and tools and we happily explored as tunnels led off tunnels into vast rooms where munitions were once stored in readiness for attack. Climbing a giant staircase at one point led us to one of the larger gun emplacements and although none of the weaponry remains, it was easy to imagine the large gun set in place and the shells sitting neatly in the storage alcoves set into the walls all around.
Further into the tunnel system and another big staircase leading down this time. Ever the explorer, Glynn bounded down the steps in search of adventure. At first I didn;t join him as I didn't fancy climbing that many steps to get back up but curiosity got the better of me and we had fun peering into the darkness and finding all sorts of remnants of the tunnels' history. I was particularly amused to see the
The Waiheke Ferry.
original latrine still in place and a newer, more modern latrine just next door! There was also another room full of old chairs and what looked like a 1980s TV set in the corner! Life couldn't have been that hard down here!
Back out in the daylight, we made our way to the car with rumbling tummies. The beach was beckoning and we opted to try Onetangi Beach, the closest beach to Stony Batter and also the largest sandy beach on the island. We picked out a shady spot under a little tree and tucked into a big picnic before running down to the sea (the sand was pretty damn hot) and splashing in. The water temperature was much improved on the last time we swam in the sea just over a month ago and we all happily bobbed and swam, jumped the waves and enjoyed the sunny skies for quite some time.
Alas it was starting to get late in the day and the hire car would need to be returned soon. There was enough time still to pop into the cafe across the road for a drink but with today being Waitangi Day and therefore a
mmmm, Hungarian fried puffed bread.
public holiday, the cafe was slapping a 20% extra surcharge on everything so instead we went to the dairy around the corner and picked up some cold drinks from the chiller and a scoop of icecream on a cone each for a much more reasonable price.
We had originally thought about catching the 5pm ferry home but by now it would have been a rush to get the car back and make the boat in time. The next sailing was at 6pm so we relaxed, took in the views and had a leisurely drive back to the wharf. With keys returned to the car hire company (Waiheke Auto Rentals - decent car and friendly service in case you're thinking of going one day), we queued up and bagsied ourselves seats on the top deck for the return journey. The sun was still shining brightly but by now Glynn and I realised we had both developed a little sunburn and found ourselves covering up just to be on the safe side. We chatted to a friendly American tourist on the way back who asked us to recommend places to visit on South Island, which we were happy to. Geraldine's giant
Stunning view across the island.
jersey and the 'Bayeaux Tapestry out of sewing machine parts' guy are about to get another visitor courtesy of the Harrises!
For anyone thinking of going to Waiheke for the day I can certainly recommend it, especially on a Saturday when the market is running. I had thought that Waiheke wouldn't be my kind of place because it is so popular with tourists but I really can't wait to go again and see the rest of this beautiful island. You should come too!
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