Looking for places near Auckland to visit?
David Farrier Corrects Lonely Planet’s Shamefully Inaccurate Analysis of Waiheke Island
By David Farrier
Many moons ago, (when writing about places near Auckland) I penned an article entitled It’s Time We Admitted That Waiheke is Terrible. I told some terrible truths in that piece, and the people of Waiheke were unhappy. The comments section was clogged with vile filth: death threats and winery recommendations.
But today, Waiheke residents are rejoicing. Lonely Planet has named their island the fifth best region to travel to in 2016. It calls it a “utopia of coves, beaches, vineyards, bohemian sensibilities, and above all, fun”.
I call it a water-ringed prison colony for Auckland’s most annoying people. Here I correct the travel bible’s inaccurate take on our biggest city’s shameful excuse for a holiday island.
Lonely Planet: Nestled in the Hauraki Gulf and shouldering the impressive dormant island volcano Rangitoto, a mere 35-minute ferry ride from downtown Auckland sits an island utopia of secret coves, beautiful beaches, rolling vineyards, luxury lodges and bohemian sensibilities. Waiheke Island, known as the ‘Island of Wine’ and home to over 30 wineries and some of the best boutique cellar door experiences New Zealand has to offer. Many wineries boast views of the spectacular Auckland skyline, and you can quaff a Syrah (Shiraz) or rosé, bask in brilliant sunshine, taste local produce and discover the meaning of ‘Waiheke time’. Dionysus would approve.
David Farrier: A mere 35-minute ferry ride? Does that include the time spent lining up like cattle to file onto a musty boat? It’s hard to know what to do while onboard. Your choices include eating a damp sandwich, downing a scalding hot coffee, or getting sea-sick. But soon you’re on the island, wine gripped tightly in hand. Why doesn’t it mention that before quaffing the wine, you have to take a photo of it and post it to Instagram with the hashtag #Waiheke?
LP: Waiheke’s bohemian and hippie past is not far from the surface and the island continues to have a thriving artistic community where over a hundred working artists ply their trades in disciplines such as sculpture, glass blowing, painting and woodwork. Waiheke is an outdoor enthusiast’s playground, where mountain biking, sea kayaking and sailing can all be indulged. The island is an electric, heady mix set against a Buddha Bar soundtrack: fast yet slow all at the same time – there’s nowhere else on earth quite like it. The secret is out and in 2016 Waiheke Island is welcoming the world to sample from its abundant offerings and inviting all visitors to fall under its spell.
DF: By “artistic community”, I think you mean the fiercely defensive, gossip-ridden cluster of marooned residents. In Iceland (also on many of Lonely Planet’s Top 10 Lists) the government released an app so that when you meet someone you have a sexual interest in, you tap phones and it tells you if you’re related. This App would sell like hotcakes in Waiheke’s artistic community.
As for those “outdoor enthusiasts”, then you’re probably talking about the weekend visitors to the Island. There’s another name for those visitors: Auckland’s worst people.
Also, it’s scientifically impossible to be fast yet slow all at the same time. Has Lonely Planet slipped through a tear in the wall of the universe to emerge in another dimension?
LP: Life-changing experiences
Book a bach. That’s what the locals do. A ‘bach’ is a holiday house that can be used for short-term rental and it’s the perfect base from which to explore the island’s variety of offerings. And there are plenty of baches – over 450 across the island, bookable online.
On waking to the singing chirrup of the cicadas in summer, take a stroll or scooter to Palm Beach for an early morning swim in the cove’s shallow, sheltered waters. Then it’s off to Wild on Waiheke to sample a beer float before challenging your party to take on archery in the vines. Ride the flying fox zipline across native forest at Eco Zip Adventures before knocking on a few cellar doors such as Mudbrick or Cable Bay to sample the nectar of the island. Finish your evening mingling with locals at the Oyster Inn, where a curated offering of craft beers and local vintages are offered alongside a menu brimming with local produce and fresh oysters. Sleep. Wake. Repeat.
DF: So, are the locals just booking baches every day of the year? Do they not live in their own homes? Or are they just running rampant in the woods, occasionally breaking into a bach to live the high life? But thank God, what’s that noise? The beautiful soothing sound of 100,000 screaming cicadas, New Zealand’s most annoying insect. Then it’s back to securing your man bun for wine selfies at Mudbrick and Cable Bay and more glasses of craft beer.
LP: Regional flavours
Waiheke Island’s boutique wineries and their accompanying cellar doors and restaurants are the most accessible in New Zealand; a 35-minute journey from Auckland and you’ll find yourself sampling your first Syrah. ‘The Island of Wine’ is best known for its award-winning Syrah, but varietals such as Montepulciano, Pinot Gris, Tempranillo and Viognier can be found among the island’s 30-plus vineyards. With cellar doors offering everything from simple tastings to five-star restaurant experiences, Waiheke has options for all palates and budgets. Many tour companies offer day trips from Auckland that take in a minimum of three cellar doors or, during summer, the popular Vineyard Hopper allows you to hop on and off at the cellar doors of your choosing.
DF: It starts well enough, the sun on your neck and the allure of a decadent vineyard on the horizon. You walk inside, wiping some sweat from your brow, before ordering your award winning Syrah. You drink it slow, trying to forget about the last week. Hell, the last year. You order a bottle – it’s delicious, and you finish that faster than the 35-minute ferry ride. You raise your hand, exclaiming – “Waiter!” and order a Pino, swiftly followed by a Tempranillo. You look up and you’re not even in the winery, you’re walking on the road, singing The Feelers. You think back to their great concert on the island in the mid-90s with your ex. Or are you still with her? You can’t remember. Who gives a fuck. You double over, stomach suddenly cramping. You projectile vomit onto the lush Waiheke roadside grass. A car drives by. “Wankers!” you yell. The car doesn’t slow. It’s 3am. You can’t remember where you put your return ferry ticket. Christ, you forgot to try the Viognier. You throw up a second time.
LP: Random fact
Waiheke Island was the first community in New Zealand to vote for a nuclear-free zone. It is popularly believed that this stand helped contribute to the whole country becoming nuclear-free under the prime ministership of David Lange in 1987.
DF: This is the only good thing Waiheke has done. Great job.
So we say “why would you?” You’re much better to come to Mahurangi West and stay at our B&B: Bed and breakfast accommodation near Auckland but a world away from the city! See if we have a vacancy at a time that suits you.
Read more: http://www.3news.co.nz/tvshows/newsworthy/david-farrier-corrects-lonely-planets-analysis-of-waiheke-island-2015102819#ixzz3q0vC7f51