One summer’s morning a trip across the Hauraki Gulf, to the wonderful and internationally acclaimed Waiheke Island, awaited. Boarding the ferry as the sun rose, the promise of some outstanding artisan food was a very appropriate counter to the rather early morning rise.
Crossing the water provides a very tangible “getting away from it all” feeling. The island’s close proximity to Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city - it is only around 30 minutes away by passenger ferry from the central business district - belies the noticeable difference in pace and attitude. You’ve swapped the city’s rush for the island’s relaxation. Slow down, you’re here. And it’s name - “Waiheke” - translating to trickling or cascading waters, gives a great sense of the peace you can hope to find there.
An artisan bounty to feast on
Waiheke Island is one of this country’s truly beautiful spots, with a bounty of artisan food to match. So head there with an empty stomach for a great day out, with wonderful food to match. There is a fine array of cafes and restaurants on the island catering to many tastes and budgets. But don’t miss the chance to drive, e-bike or scooter around to find the many publicly accessible secluded bays, picking up local and New Zealand artisan picnic provisions along the way.
The list of local artisan possibilities is long, and here is but a sample…. The Humble Pie Village Butchery is an old fashioned butcher with a great supply of raw meat cuts, and of course their own ready-to-eat pies. There are excellent bakeries - Franco’s at Ostend has an unmistakable Italian influence. Don’t miss the wonderful bakery at Ringawera - we’d travel back to the island for their bread and pastries alone - and you can practice your te reo if you decide to order coffee while you’re there. Pick up some fabulously fresh oysters harvested in a local bay and other seafood delights from Te Matuku Oysters, sparkling or still water taken from Waiheke Water’s aquifers deep under the island, and pop into the long-standing Rangihoua Estate (boasting the first olive press in the North Island) for olive oils and some of their herb paste, full of herbs from around the region.
To round all this out, there are wonderful local grocers - The Island Grocer at Oneroa and Raw at Ostend - who provide an ample selection of seasonal fruit and veges, and Waiheke and New Zealand artisan product, to supplement your choice of local provisions.
If you want to do a round trip, to get a full sense of the island’s beautiful geography, do the eastern loop out to Man O War Bay. At this farthest eastern end you can also get your hands on some creamy delicious Man O War pohutakawa honey when available, olive oil and Eastern End ginger beer. It is a beautiful spot, very much away from it all, and a favourite with boaties who regularly call in. And it’s perfect for a picnic.
For a slice of New Zealand history… (and a slice, and a coffee)
On some days you’ll find the Rocky Bay Cafe open - its setting in a quintessential New Zealand war memorial hall, with its classic kiwi home made baking, makes it a must do if you are able.
Similarly, a stop at The Annex, a most gorgeous wee cottage in Ostend, should not be missed if you are lucky enough to be there on an open day. The cottage itself is an historical gem, around 120 years old and one of the very oldest buildings on the island still standing. It serves wonderful coffee from the Island Coffee Roasters - who are a stone’s throw away - so you can also pop in and visit, and pick up some freshly roasted coffee beans. There’s also delicious baked treats made in nearby Oneroa.
Don’t forget the gelato stop
Finally, on the way home, don’t forget to stop into the very colourful Island Gelato Company for a decadent seasonal range of gelato, to get you through the ferry ride home.
A local platter bursting with flavour
With such an array of fine artisan food, after a delightful day of travels, what better than an island artisan platter - a simple and divine supper to finish the day off. Click here for more on that. And perhaps what was best of all - there was coffee, sparkling water and honey, with leftover bread, for breakfast the next morning. There sure is something to be said for island life.