For my first day on the island paradise of Waiheke Island I joined a day tour called Zip, Wine & Dine. As the name suggests, the day consisted of zip lining, wine, a vineyard lunch, wine, an olive grove, and, you guessed it, more wine.
My tour began in Auckland where I picked up my tour tickets and boarded the ferry for a short trip across the Hauraki Gulf. The scenic sailing offered great views looking back to the city, took me past golden sandy bays, islands and even Rangitoto, a volcanic island.
I had a beautiful sunny day for my crossing, but as we headed out from the shelter of Auckland harbour the wind picked up. As a Wellingtonian I am accustomed to wind, but let’s just say, on this day, it gave the windy capital some fierce competition.
We docked at Mataitai Bay and I was greeted by No’oroa, our driver for the morning. No’oroa is one of those people who is gifted at hospitality. Friendly and welcoming, he lost no time making jokes and sharing stories of the island with his new friends.
Waiheke Island is the second largest island in the Hauraki Gulf. With approximately 9000 people calling the place home, it is the most populated. The name Waiheke translates to cascading waters.
Our short drive to EcoZip Adventures saw our van winding up the hill through forest and blooming pohutakawa trees. The pohutakawa tree is fondly known in Aotearoa as the New Zealand Christmas tree as it is adorned with beautiful red blossoms around Christmas time. When the trees start to flower, you know that summer is on its way. Fun fact, there are also yellow Pohutakawa trees. I had never seen them before, or even heard of them until this trip but there were several lining the road to the entrance to EcoZip Adventures.
With our harnesses on we were ready to begin zipping above the forests. You may recall from my last post that I don’t like heights. I don’t really know why some heights I am ok with and some I am not, but the zip lining turns out to be one of those heights that doesn’t give me the hibijibis. Nice.
There are 3 zip lines, beginning with the shortest and gentlest gradient to ease you into it. This one is known as the Vinyard Zipline as you soar above syrah vines. The second line, a little bit longer and a little bit steeper offers great views across the harbour and out to Auckland city. The last line is the main event, longer and steeper, you can reach up to speeds of 60Km/h. With wind rushing through my hair I experienced the thrill of speeding through the air and the chance to view the canopy from above.
A 20 minute walk back to the office lead us through beautiful native New Zealand bush. Along the way, our guides shared stories and facts about the flora and fauna. With the arrival of the first settlers, deforestation cleared a lot of the original forest to make way for farmlands. However, part of the walk takes you through a section of ancient forest that has survived. It’s hard to describe how it was different, the look and feel of it, but it was, it was so unlike what I am used to. Large vines draped around huge old trees, place felt like it was bursting with ancient stories to be told.
With the adrenaline activities complete, it was now time to move onto the wine. There are around 30 wineries on Waiheke Island with their main produce being red wines. Our tour included visits to 3 of these boutique vineyards.
Our first stop was Stonyridge. A beautiful winery with a European feel, the building is covered in vines and overlooks rolling hills dotted with grapevines and olive trees. I felt like I was in Italy. They are best known for their cabernet blends but also produce olive oil. The wine tasting was done outside by the vines followed by a light lunch set up under a marquee.
Olive oil was next on the agenda at Rangihoua Estate where we heard a brief talk about the estate and the process involved in making olive oil. The olive grove has over 1000 trees and harvest is done by hand. It takes 7kgs of olives to produce just 1L of oil. Thinking back to my little olive tree at home, I think I would be lucky to get 100ml of olive oil from its crop!
We then tasted 4 olive oils, all delicious, (olive oil and fresh bread is one of my favourite things) and I left with a small bottle of their extra virgin ‘Koroneki’ oil to enjoy at home.
We then went onto Casita Miro, a Spanish styled winery that pairs tapas with its wine tastings. Perched up on a hill it had views over the vines and out towards the sea. My sweet tooth delighted in the “Madame Rouge’ a fortified wine beautifully paired with their Madame Rouge walnuts.
The tour didn’t finish here, our last stop was picture perfect Mud Brick. Our wine tastings were done amongst the vines as our guide shared a bit of the wineries history and process that goes into producing the wine. The tour concluded at the top of the vineyard which offered 360 views out across the ocean. With beanbags scattered amongst the lavender and olive trees, it was the perfect place to sit back and relax before the bus ride back. I ended the tour feeling relaxed and tingly after a day of sunshine and wines.
I booked my tour through EcoZip Adventures. It was a combo tour which pairs up with Fullers Ferries for the wine tasting component of the tour. It will set you back $294NZD and is a full day tour. The price includes a light lunch as well as return ferry tickets between Auckland and Waiheke. The return ticket is valid for 1 year, so you can return to Auckland after the tour or stay a bit longer and enjoy more of what the island has on offer. You can book this tour here.