‘Around the Bays’ has become synonymous with Auckland, and New Zealand’s largest fun run – but our version requires little in the way of fitness, and is just a hop, skip and a jump from the mainland. So relax, wind down, and catch the ferry to Waiheke. We’re off on a tour of its best bays and beaches – each with its own special character!
Tea, trails and a touch of retail therapy at Ostend Beach
Waiheke’s largest settlement nestles into the hill just 13 minutes bus ride from Matiatia, where the passenger ferry arrives. The bay and its surroundings have so much to offer, it makes for the perfect inter-generational day out.
On arrival, send the teens on a discovery walk along the track which leads to another cute bay: Little Ostend (the trail it starts from the western end of town just as the commercial buildings start to thin out). The troop can return via the footpath, which makes for a perfect loop track of around an hour. Just remember, if it’s summer, to arm them with some cash for an Island Gelato experience once they hit town again.
Retail therapy is available for the adults in Ostend, right above the beach. There’s everything from fashion to knick-knacks, and wholemeal delicacies to jewellery. If you’re into art, the gallery close to the library, as well as a host of others, are serious must-sees.
Settle great-grandparents and littlies down at the beach where you’ll find swings, seats, loos, and lots of lovely shade. Food, wine and coffee establishments tend to hover, cantilevered overlooking the water. Take-aways (it can be difficult for those who are less able to access eateries) are up some steep steps which lead back to town. Among them are some great coolers in the form of refreshing chilled (and exotic) tisanes from ‘Pause for Tea’ – we recommend the sparkling Hibiscus and Ginger.
Old fashioned charm at pretty Palm Beach
A day out at Palm Beach is like a trip back in time. Small and unpretentious, this quiet stretch of sand lies on the northern side of the island. While its perfectly possible to bus all the way, on a day that’s not too warm we recommend you walk there via the Okahuiti Wetland trail which leaves from the causeway five minutes stroll from Ostend. This interesting track skirts the Waiheke Raupo Wetland reserve and meets the road after about 15 minutes. Once at the beach, you’ll find loos, picnic tables, and a lovely sculpture that appears to be generously shared with public by the owners whose property fronts onto the sand.
Palm Beach is perfect for picnicking but why not eat out at the delightfully low-key and classically charming palm Beach Store. Quite how this little treasure maintains its country feel while producing top-rate coffee is anyone’s guess. In fact, even if you don’t want a coffee, promise us you’ll pop in for an ice-cream!
A touch of tranquillity at Onetangi
Combining beachside dining, white sand, and a peaceful walking trail through nikau-laden forest, Onetangi ticks all the boxes. Start your visit with a mouthwatering toastie melt from ‘Charlies’ (open winter and summer) before setting off on the nikau-laden walkway which leads uphill at the eastern end of the beach. The hike is on the steep side but the path is well formed and the views from the top are spectacular.
If you’re after a more gentle stroll, mosey along The Strand, the beach-side lane which affords views of some impressive holiday-home architecture and attractive coastal gardens. Onetangi is the island’s longest beach but if you enjoy it for its tranquillity, steer clear of February beach racing day (then again, why not treat yourself to this delightful bay two ways!)