Waiheke Island is, without a doubt, one of the most popular destinations in Regional Auckland. Close to the central city, Waiheke is easy to access and offers a great deal to visitors.
A fantastic combination of modern convenience and laid-back island lifestyle, this convenient getaway is popular amongst locals and travellers alike.
The island itself is beautiful and diverse. Because of this, it offers a fantastic range of activities for all tastes.
Whether you enjoy the finer things in life – perhaps a wine tasting amongst the vines or a degustation menu – or to let your hair down, you’ll find plenty of incredible things to do on this amazing island in the Hauraki Gulf.
It’s also easy to get around Waiheke, and lots of accommodation is available should you want to extend your visit to a long weekend.
Did you know? Waiheke Island was originally named Motu-Wai-Heke in Te Reo Māori. In English, this translates to ‘island of trickling water’.
In no particular order, these are our favourite things to do on Waiheke Island.
We’ve included something to suit everyone, so you’re sure to find something that appeals!
The Best things to do on Waiheke: Activities for adventure seekers & active travellers
1. Hit Waiheke’s Bike Trails
Waiheke Island has a range of fantastic mountain bike tracks and cycle trails, catering to fans of this increasingly popular pastime.
The Rangihoua Mountain Bike Trails range from grade 2 to 4 and come with beautiful views of the island.
In addition, the Onetangi Sports Park has a series of fantastic bike trails covering everything from grade 1 to 4.
You’ll also find some great trails at the Whakanewha Regional Park!
Be warned though, Waiheke Island is known for its hills. This means you’ll get a great workout when riding many of these trails! With that in mind, you may like to consider an eMTB (e-mountain bike) to help with steep inclines.
2. Find Your Inner Archer
If you fancy yourself an archer, we recommend heading along to Wild on Waiheke!
Book a 30-minute slot and test out your aim with friends and family.
When you’re finished, why not reward your hard work? They have a winery and brewery on site, along with a fantastic restaurant!
Wild on Waiheke: 82 Onetangi Road, Waiheke Island 1971
3. Test Yourself with Clay Shooting
Whilst at Wild on Waiheke, it’s also possible to book in for a 30-minute laser clay bird shooting session.
Popular for team building and hen & stag dos, it’s also a great activity for smaller groups!
Wild on Waiheke: 82 Onetangi Road, Waiheke Island 1971
4. Fly on a Zipline
Soar like a bird above Waiheke Island!
Equipped with three different ziplines (AKA flying foxes), reaching up to 220 metres long, you’ll race over Waiheke’s famed Syrah vineyards and bush. Riders reach speeds over 50 kmph and can even ride side-by-side!
Whilst zipping your way down Waiheke, you’ll enjoy city and beach views before disembarking and taking in the beautiful native bush. Keep your eyes peeled for geckos, skinks, weta, eels, and even glow worms.
EcoZip is one of the best things to do on Waiheke Island – especially if you love a thrill!
5. Soak Up the Views Whilst Horse Riding
Horse riding is the perfect form of active relaxation. With incredible scenery all around and a gorgeous horse to get you from A to B, it’s a great way to spend a day.
Waiheke Island provides an especially-fantastic backdrop for your hack thanks to its beautiful vistas and beaches. Whether you admire the views from high atop the island or head down for a canter along the beach, it’s hard to beat this Hauraki paradise.
With options for riders of all experience levels, why not hit the trails when you’re next on the island?
Did you know? It’s even possible to take your horse swimming on the island!
Nature lovers’ activities on Waiheke
6. Enjoy Waiheke’s Beaches
You may already enjoy some of the surf beaches in New Zealand but don’t overlook the beautiful beaches of Waiheke. Waiheke Island is home to countless amazing beaches, so there was never any doubt that a visit to the seaside would be on the cards.
Take your pick from Onetangi Beach, Oneroa Bay, Palm Beach, Palm Beach, Sandy Bay, Man O War Bay and so many more.
Many of the beaches on Waiheke are well-suited to swimming, sunbathing, and family fun, with fine sand and grassy areas for the kids to play.
On a beautiful day, there’s no better place on the island to be!
Did you know? Oneroa is the most accessible beach from the Matiatia Wharf ferry. From there, it only takes half an hour to walk around to this beach paradise. This is also one of the main townships with restaurants, cafes, and art galleries.
7. Hike the Ta Ara Hura Track
The Ta Ara Hura Track is Waiheke’s main walking track. Starting at Matitaia Bay, this hilly two-hour hike works its way through to the Atawhai Reserve before arriving at Oneroa village.
All along, you’ll enjoy spectacular views and plenty of native forestry and bush – and at the end, we suggest you reward yourself with something delicious to eat in town!
8. Visit Whakanewha Regional Park
Whilst there, you’ll have the opportunity to spot natives (including the kereru, tui, piwakawaka, grey warbler and silver eye) along with a range of mature native trees. In addition, there is a historic Māori pā site and Pākehā settlements too.
When you’ve finished your hike, there’s even a beautiful beach where you can relax and swim – because, after all, this is Waiheke!
Walks include the Nīkau Track (2.5 hours), Pā Loop Track (30 minutes), Park Walk (2.5 hours) and the Rua Loop Track (30 minutes).
When you’ve finished exploring, it’s even possible to camp on the grounds of the national park.
So you know… The Whakanewha Regional Park is located on Gordons Road and can be accessed via ferry or shuttle.
Waiheke for foodies & winos
9. Go Wine Tasting & Enjoy an Amazing Meal
Waiheke is well known for its incredible wines. With its loose alluvial soil and preferable microclimate, this is one of the best places in New Zealand to grow grapes. It’s barely surprising then to learn that Waiheke island has over 30 amazing wineries!
Whether you’re looking to swing by for a casual tipple, want to participate in a full tasting at the cellar door or plan to enjoy a long, boozy lunch, the wineries on Waiheke have got your covered.
Or, if you’d prefer, several companies run wine tours. By booking one of these, you’re able to sit back and relax whilst someone else takes care of the trip.
Pro tip: Most vineyards open at 11 am, so you’ll be able to plan your visit any time from late morning. Many are also open until the evening with amazing degustation menus.
10. Visit the Olive Groves
Though Waiheke is known for its grapes, there’s another crop that also does exceptionally well there – olives!
By paying them a visit you’ll learn about how the trees are grown and cared for, along with olive harvesting and oil production. Of course, you’ll also be able to sample their lovely oils too!
Whilst you’re there, why not purchase a bottle of NZ olive oil to take home as a memento of your island adventure?
Things to do on Waiheke for art lovers
11. Enjoy Sculptures on Waiheke
Auckland is blessed with several sculpture collections and one of the best is on Waiheke.
The Connells Bay Sculpture Park
The Connells Bay Sculpture Park is a fantastic way to spend a couple of hours. The track itself runs 2km long, showcasing over 30 sculptures. They have a stunning collection of permanent art and also welcome temporary works to keep the display feeling fresh.
An awe-inspiring and thought-provoking collaboration of artist and environment.Urbis Landscapes
Interacting with the beautiful backdrop, these sculptures are varied and interesting. They’re made using a wide variety of materials (including stone and aluminium, for example) and provide real pause for thought.
Our personal favourites are Julia Oram’s bung and Kon Dimopoilos’s Pacific Grass.
Cowes Bay Road, Connells Bay, Waiheke Island 1971
Alison Park – Oneroa
If you’re keen to explore sculptural art on Waiheke without venturing too far, we’d encourage you to pay a visit to Alison Park in Oneroa.
Starting at the village, this sculpture trail takes 30 minutes to complete and takes in a wide variety of works – best of all, it’s free of charge to view!
1A Mako Street, Oneroa, Auckland 1081
12. Check Out an Art Gallery
If you’re the type of art-lover who would prefer to take a new piece home with you, there are plenty of options on the island.
Of particular interest are the Waiheke Community Art Gallery, [ s p a c e ], TOI, and the Kauri Art Studio.
Regardless of whether you’re looking to purchase art to take home, or just enjoy viewing it for the day, a visit to one of these art galleries is a Waiheke must-do.
2 Korora Road, Oneroa, Waiheke Island 1081
Get Out on the water
13. Catch the Big One – Go Fishing
The Hauraki Gulf is known for its fishing, so jumping on board a fishing charter whilst you’re on the island is a fantastic thing to do.
Out on the water you’ll be treated to amazing views whilst you reel in your dinner – snapper, perhaps?
Alternatively, if you’d prefer to save some money, it’s possible to successfully land a catch off piers around the island too. This is an especially great option if you’re travelling over with children and you’ve got your own fishing gear at home.
14. Sail Around Waiheke
Not all of us are fortunate enough to own a yacht or launch – actually, are any of us? – but it is absolutely possible to live the dream for a day.
A number of boat charters are available. Some choose to depart from Central Auckland, whereas others prefer to jump aboard from the island.
Regardless of how you choose to do it, a private charter can be a fantastic way to see the best of Waiheke. They’ll take you to all of the best remote beaches and little islands, providing plenty of incredible photo opportunities.
We suggest you talk to them about coming ashore at Man O War Bay for an incredible lunch before continuing on your seafaring adventure.
Alternatively, if you do own a boat or have a friend that’s willing to take you out, it’s possible to make your way over to Waiheke by water independently.
15. Test Your Balance on a Stand Up Paddleboard
With calm, flat waters, the island is the perfect place to test out your paddleboarding abilities.
Nothing beats the peace of being out on the water!
Whether you opt to hire a paddleboard by the hour to take off on a self-guided adventure, or to join a tour, there are many opportunities to explore.
16. Go Kayaking
If your balance isn’t quite up to the challenge of SUPing, or you’d rather ride in tandem with someone else, it is also possible to hire kayaks on the island.
Doing so is a fantastic way to check out all the little coves and bays that Waiheke is fortunate to have.
17. Join a Jet Skiing Tour
If you’d prefer to race your way across the Hauraki Gulf, we suggest joining a jet ski tour.
A whole lot of fun, a jet ski tour is also a great way to cover a great deal of distance in a short period of time. And to make things all the more special, they’ll be sure to take you to a number of locations that simply can’t be accessed via land.
18. Head out Scuba Diving (or Snorkelling)
The last activity on our ‘water lovers’ list involves getting a bit wetter than the others.
Dive straight into the gulf and get acquainted with the local marine life!
Though it’s possible to snorkel off the beach in some locations, we recommend joining a tour to ensure you head out to the most lively of spots.
It is possible to both snorkel and dive from these tour boats, allowing everyone in your whānau to participate as they prefer.
If you’re looking for a unique experience, it’s even possible to join a night dive! On these excursions, you’ll head into the ocean in the dark, armed with your dive gear and a powerful torch. Doing so is a completely different experience – and you can expect to see a unique range of nocturnal sea life.
Sight-seeing on Waiheke
19. Join a Segway Tour
If you’ve never ridden a Segway before, Waiheke Island could be just the place to do so!
Using a revolutionary balance-control system, riders steer from an upright/standing position, shifting their balance to manoeuvre the machine.
Though it sounds complicated, Segways are surprisingly easy to learn to ride and genuinely are suited to most people. There’s a small learning curve (which will be accounted for at the start of your tour) but you’ll be off rasing around the island before you know it!
These tours take in native bush, stunning beaches, and, of course, the island’s incredible vineyards.
The choice is yours whether you choose to tour during the day or as the sun starts to set.
20. Take to the Air
Waiheke really is beautiful from any angle, but perhaps none quite so amazing as from the sky.
Instead of catching the ferry over to the island, why not jump onboard a privately-chartered helicopter?
These transfers can be combined to form once-in-a-lifetime packages that include dining and adventures right across the island.
You’ll be the envy of all your friends!
21. Catch a Flick
If you’re on the island for an extended period of time, you’ll likely be keen for something low-key to do.
In that case, we recommend checking out the Waiheke Island Community Cinema.
A true example of collaboration and teamwork, this theatre is funded and governed by local board members and a collection of volunteers. They screen your typical Hollywood blockbusters alongside locally produced short films, showcasing life on the island.
With comfy couches and an inviting atmosphere, we must warn you – you mightn’t want to leave!
127-129 Ocean View Road, Oneroa, Auckland 1081
22. Explore the Waiheke Island Historical Village
Providing a glimpse into the past, this museum is representative of a transitional Kiwi village. It consists of five main buildings, all of which you’re able to explore.
Within the woolshed, you’ll also find a massive collection of genuine historical items.
Though not something most would consider when visiting the island, we highlight recommend it as a fantastic low-cost thing to do. In fact, entry is by suggested donation of $3 each – too good!
165 Onetangi Road, Waiheke Island 1971
23. Check out the Ostend Market
If you’re looking for a bargain or, perhaps, to enjoy a morning in the sun, we recommend checking out the Ostend Market.
Open each Saturday, from 8.00 am to 1 pm, this market comes alive with energy!
With a wide range of amazing food, fresh (local) produce, herbal remedies, clothing, toys and so, so much more, this awesome local event provides visitors with a glimpse into what living on Waiheke is all about.
If you’re there on Saturday morning, don’t miss it!
76 Ostend Road, Ostend, Auckland 1081
Get married on Waiheke Island!
24. Yep, tie the knot on Waiheke
Last on our list but sure to be the most memorable, is a Waiheke Island wedding.
Many couples choose to tie the knot on the Island, thanks to its stunning beauty, fantastic range of venues, and close proximity to Auckland.
With so many amazing vineyards and dining options, guests are sure to enjoy the festivities!
Situated conveniently on Central Auckland’s doorstep, Waiheke is a treasure trove of amazing sights and experiences.
Whether you’re planning a day trip, a weekend getaway or a full-blown holiday, Waiheke Island is ready and waiting for you.
Photo credit: Jonathan Suckling, Waiheke Gulf News