Known as the ‘Island of Wine’, Waiheke Island has earned a place at the top tier of New Zealand wine regions alongside more established areas such as Marlborough, Hawke’s Bay and Central Otago.
Located just off the coast of New Zealand’s North Island, Waiheke is also the most accessible premium wine growing region to the country’s largest city, Auckland – which can be reached within 35 minutes by ferry. The island’s closeness to the city and its reputation for producing some of the finest artisan wines and accompanying cuisine in New Zealand, have seen Waiheke wine tours become an increasingly popular pastime for travelling wine tourists – either as part of an extensive wine holiday or simply as a brief escape from Auckland.
Although Waiheke Island is less than 100sq.km, its surface is covered with a patchwork of vineyards that are home to around 20 high class wineries – approximately one for every 370 residents – that regularly produce international award-winning wines. Highly revered red wines come from Bordeaux-style blends using Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc grapes are the island’s signature style, while Chardonnay whites are also well regarded.
At Wine Paths, our local expert can organise exclusive Waiheke wine tours across the island, which include elaborate tastings, luxury accommodation, fine dining experiences and some unique outdoor activities.
Among the wineries in our portfolio is the Stonyridge Vineyard, which was established in the early 1980s and has become renowned for producing world class Bordeaux blends by combining traditional wine making techniques with meticulous organic viniculture. Stonyridge was referred to as ‘one of the top ten must-visit wineries in the world’ by The Guardian UK, and recently topped the list for the best Cabernet Merlot in The Age/Sydney Morning Herald Good Wine Guide.
The estate’s 1987 Larose brought Stonyridge international fame and is still regarded as the greatest red wine ever to come from New Zealand, which has been enjoyed by royalty including Queen Elizabeth II and King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia of Spin. The secret behind Waiheke Island’s wine growing success is a consequence of three factors: a subtropical marine climate that is regulated by the surrounding Hauraki Gulf; favourable soil structure that allows vine roots to delve deeply into the mineral rich ground; and a protective topography with steep hills providing sanctuary for vines from prevailing winds. Aside from Waiheke wine tours, the island is also renowned for its beautiful beaches, bohemian way life and a flourishing art scene that can be explored in the many galleries, and even an art sculpture trail among the vineyards.
The white sandy beaches at Oneroa, Palm Beach and Onetangi are perfect for swimming, kayaking, strolling or simply lazing the day away – while many secluded beaches can be found as part of cliff top walking trails, which include underground tunnel remnants of World War II. And, with Waiheke Island ranked the fifth best destination in the world to visit by the Lonely Planet in 2016, while also being voted the fourth best island in the world by Conde Nast, there are few better places to explore Waiheke wine tours.
The region is also a haven for food lovers, with a host of wonderful restaurants and cafes, while many wineries accompany tastings with gourmet food pairings featuring local cuisine. At Stonyridge, the Veranda café that nestles in a shimmering valley of olive groves and vineyards is an exceptionally romantic place to enjoy an inspired modern menu.
If you are interested in taking a wine tour of Waiheke, visit our New Zealand destination page for more ideas and inspiration before planning a tour – all of our private tours can be tailor made to meet your exact requirements, ensuring every detail is taken care of before you arrive on the Island of Wine.