Waiheke Island is the second-largest of the Hauraki Gulf islands. It is the most populated, and the most easily accessible – it’s a mere 40 minutes by ferry from downtown Auckland.
Waiheke has a permanent population of around 8000, which swells to over 30,000 over holiday periods, particularly during the Waiheke Island Jazz Festival on Easter weekend.
There’s an artsy, bohemian vibe still alive in Waiheke – you might see stickers calling it the “People’s Republic of Waiheke” or spot a “Free Waiheke” t-shirt – and there’s a vibrant café culture and arts scene. At the same time, it’s also become an upscale, fashionable place with expensive homes and vineyards.
Still, Waiheke retains plenty of natural, relaxed charm. There are more than 40km of beaches and numerous walking tracks, and a much more laid-back vibe than its big-city neighbour to the west, Auckland.
Coming and going
Waiheke is only a 40-minute ferry ride from central Auckland, making it the most accessible of the Hauraki Gulf islands.
Most travellers take the Fullers Ferry that runs hourly from the Auckland ferry terminal on Quay Street. The ferry costs $22 one-way or $36 return.
Sealink also operates ferries between Auckland and Waiheke, but they depart from suburban Half Moon Bay rather than the downtown ferry terminal. The Sealink ferry costs $20 one-way or 36.50 return.
There are frequent local bus services on the island, although a rental car offers a lot more flexibility. Local bus fares are $3.50 or $1.85 if you pay using an AT Hop card.
There are six bus routes on the island, all of which originate at the Matiatia Wharf ferry terminal. Most buses run every half hour.