Waiheke Island is an idyllic coastal oasis in the Hauraki Gulf, just 40 minutes by ferry from Auckland CBD. A favourite getaway spot among locals, Waiheke is famous for its beautiful white-sand beaches, excellent eating and more than 30 wineries and vineyards that dot the island.
Here’s our weekend guide to the wineries and dineries to visit.
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Mudbrick Vineyard & Restaurant
Established 30 years ago by Robyn and Nicholas Jones, Mudbrick Vineyard and Restaurant is a Waiheke institution. Gazing across the Hauraki Gulf towards Auckland's CBD, Mudbrick Restaurant is a spectacular spot to watch the sunset. Much of the fresh produce that appears in the seasonal menu comes from the winery’s own garden. Mudbrick also offers luxury accommodation to day-trippers who want to extend their stay.
In 2013, young entrepreneurs Carrie Mendell and Campbell Aitken bought a tired vineyard in the heart of Waiheke’s Onetangi Valley. They replaced underperforming vines with new varietals and brought in an architect to redevelop the winery. Today, Tantalus – which now features an on-site restaurant and brewery as well as the cellar door – is thriving. The winery’s small batch Bordeaux- and Rhone-style reds have picked up a slew of awards since the release of the first vintage in 2014.
Man O’ War Vineyards
A visit to Man O’ War Vineyards takes you to Waiheke’s far eastern coast along a picturesque and, at times, bumpy and dusty road. The winery’s bayside aspect – looking out over the water towards Pakatoa Island – makes the 30-minute journey well worth it. Find a spot at one of the beachfront tasting room’s picnic tables to sample Man O’ War’s signature syrah, chardonnay and bordeaux blends.
A pioneer of the Waiheke wine movement, the first vines were planted at Te Motu (the original Māori name for Waiheke) back in 1989, producing a debut vintage in 1993. Focused on Bordeaux-style wines built from its abundance of cabernet and merlot grapes, Te Motu takes pride in reflecting the unique terroir of the stunning surrounds of the Onetangi Valley with its low intervention wines. Visitors here can perch on the deck of onsite award-winning restaurant The Shed and dine and drink while overlooking the valley, or just visit the cellar door for a browse, tasting flight or glass or two.
Dragonfired, a mobile pizzeria set on Little Oneroa Beach, has a well-deserved cult following thanks to its delicious build-your-own pizzas. Start with a margherita – mozzarella and house-made tomato sauce – and take your pick from a list of extras, which includes Mānuka-smoked venison, pepperoni, caramelised onion and (somewhat controversially) fresh pineapple. Pocketbreads are also on offer – choose from Mexican beef, vegetarian Mexican or Greek lamb – and a gluten-free polenta box with refried beans, seasonal greens, olives, artichoke, goat feta, capers and tomato salsa.
Three Seven Two
Three Seven Two – the first three numbers of Waiheke phone numbers – is a waterside eatery on Onetangi Beach. The vibe is casual, befitting its beachy locale, and the fare is produce-driven and polished. Chef Bronwen Laight’s deft touch in the kitchen saw the restaurant win Best Destination Restaurant and Best New Restaurant awards in its first year of trading. A year or two later, locals have embraced Three Seven Two – be sure to book ahead.
Casita Miro pays homage to the cuisine of the Iberian Peninsula and the Mediterranean. The menu, made up of tapas and raciones, features Spanish classics such as patatas bravas, gambas al ajillo and paella. The wine list includes local and international wines that showcase the family-owned Miro Vineyard, as well as wines from Waiheke Island and, of course, Spain. Churros con chocolate appears on the dessert menu, or opt for a queso platter and a glass of Madame Rouge, Miro Vineyard’s vino tinto dulce.
Ki Māha – which loosely translates from Māori as “towards contentment” – is dedicated to showcasing Aotearoa cuisine. Sustainably harvested seafood, ethically farmed meats and locally sourced produce feature on a menu divided into small and large plates, as well as offerings from the grill. An absolute must-order destination dish here is the seared scallops served with parsnip puree, black pudding crumb, crispy jamon and hazelnut burnt butter.
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