The Northern Loop Walk

I love being in nature, surrounded by bush, listening to the birds or on a beach with the sound of the ocean, so on my second day on Waiheke Island I decided to get out to explore the island a bit.

Waiheke has a number of different walks suitable for a variety of fitness levels and ranging in length and time.

I chose the Northern Loop Walk, an 8.5km walk with difficulty level rated moderate. Usually you would start the track from the Matiatia Bay ferry terminal, but as it was a loop track, I started on the other side from Karora Road where my accommodation was located.

Very convenient!

The black dot is Matiatia Bay where the track starts

The first part of the walk led me twisting and turning along the hillside, around a vineyard and past olive trees. The whole time I kept thinking, I could be in Tuscany right now. It reminded me so much of Italy. I went to Tuscany mid last year in search of the romantic, dreamy, picture perfect shots I had seen. I never realised that it also existed here in New Zealand.

A little bit further and I came to a clearing offering the first of many spectacular views.  I am sure I added on at least an hour to my walk from all the stops. There were so many amazing photo opportunities. (And so hard to choose which shots to include in this post!)

The track lead me along the top of rugged cliffs and then down to a quiet, secluded bay. It was the perfect place to stop for a rest and a bite to eat. Continuing on I headed past flax bushes filled with Tui and reeds that were dancing in the breeze.  Cicadas were going about their day, their happy chirping filling the air.

Back into the forest, I was followed by curious Piwakawakas (Fantails) flittering around the trees. They like to follow humans as we disturb the leaf floor and stir up all the bugs and grubs for them to eat. There are lots of seats along the way to stop and rest and enjoy the view, to be still, listen to the birds and the ocean.

I decided to take a detour up a hill through the forest. With Tui’s darting overhead through the canopy, the cool walk was a welcomed change to the heat of the day. The 10 minute detour took me to Cable Bay vineyard. I arrived hot and sweaty wearing sneakers and active wear. I thought possibly they wouldn’t want to serve me – I certainly wasn’t dressed to match the beautiful setting, but I was quickly welcomed in.

Before long I was enjoying  a light lunch and (if I do say so myself) a well earnt glass of pinot gris. The Zucchini salad was creamy and delicious, I ate it slowly, savoring each mouthful. With Post Modern Jukebox playing in the background the atmosphere was chilled and relaxed.

Just what I needed.

Hydrated, refueled and legs nicely numbed after the pinot gris, I set off for the last leg of the walk towards home, but not without making one last detour to Oneroa village. Shopping isn’t really my thing, but if it’s your vibe, you will find some cute little boutique shops here well worth visiting. The draw card in Oneroa Village for me – Island Gelato Company . A funky little gelataria with a delicious and creative selection of flavours.

I was spoilt for choice.

Basil & lime, burnt caramel coconut, strawberry and balsamic – I sampled a few and I can assure you, whatever you choose, you won’t be disappointed. I settled on yogurt lemon thyme shortbread gelato – creamy with such intense flavour.

Oh my. It was amazing!

After a rest in my tent at Fossil Bay, I made my way back to the village to Too Fat Buns, to grab a take away burger for dinner. Fresh and tasty, they have a great menu catering for a range of dietary requirements including vegan and gluten free. 
I ate my burger on Oneroa Beach, watching dogs enjoy their salty playground and reminiscing about my time on Waiheke.

Tomorrow I must leave Island time behind and head back to my 9-5, but not without first promising myself that I will return.

On Waiheke, you truly feel a world away from everything.

What a little paradise I discovered

The Details

The Northern loop walk apparently takes around 2-3 hours. It took me about 5 hours. I did however make many stops for photos and took a detour to the winery. I also came across a couple of closed sections of track, but the detours are well marked.  I have a pretty poor sense of direction. If it’s possible to get lost then I will, however, I had no trouble navigating my way around the walk, even with the detours.

Make sure you check the tides. Part of the track is tidal (Matiatia Bay, where you actually walk along the beach) I didn’t realise this and had to take another detour (sign posted) up a rather steep hill which added more time to my walk. Best to try and time this for low tide!

My first time Glamping

Fossil Bay Lodge.

From the moment I arrived, I knew it was a place I was going to love.

Nature. Stillness. Tranquillity.

Perfect.

I was welcomed onto the property by doves and a sweet little chicken named Rosie.

I then met the owner and was lead past trees, reeds and a pond, then across a bridge to my generously sized canvas tent. The surrounding water was home to a Pukeko (a native New Zealand bird) and a mamma duck with her ducklings.

My room was beautifully presented; a super comfy looking bed covered with lots of pillows, a mirror and a couple of chairs. Freshly picked flowers sat in a vase on the table. Sometimes it’s the little details that make all the difference.

Camping with comfort. No foam mat on the floor for me.

There was a communal kitchen and a lovely dining room with a very homely feel to it. It looked like a converted glass house, light and bright, it let the outdoors in.

I had my own private outdoor bathroom fitted with a composting toilet, hand basin and hot water shower.  Tree stump stepping stones connected my tent to the bathroom. The child in me couldn’t resist hopping from one stump to the next. It had to be done.

While showing among the trees, I watched a Tui (another native NZ bird) dance around in a nearby eucalyptus tree.

No city noise, no traffic or hustle and bustle, just the sound of nature.

This is how you refuel your batteries.

As the day turned from dusk to night the sound of the birds was replaced with the chirping of insects.  Warm and snug in my bed, I feel asleep to the sound of nature, the soft pitter patter of rain on the tent canopy and then woke in the morning to dawn’s chorus.

It has been many years since I last went camping.

I had forgotten how much I love it.

The Details

Fossil Bay Lodge is a boutique accommodation providing cottages, glamping and a self contained apartment. Set amongst trees and surrounded with birds, it’s the perfect place to switch off and relax.

Located on the western side of Waiheke Island, it is in a great location, close to beaches, Oneroa village and walks. The standard tent like I stayed in will cost you $100 a night and sleeps 2 people.

Zip, Wine & Dine

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.

The Details

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.