Step Into a Postcard Picture Gallery on a Waiheke Island Walk

Overlooking Owhanake Bay

Experience Waiheke Island in her raw, natural beauty during nine days of free guided walks between 18 – 24 November 2017. Jump on a ferry in Auckland for an enjoyable 35-minute ride across Hauraki Gulf dotted with islands. Escape the tourist traps and enjoy the unique diversity that makes Waiheke Island so special. Vineyards and other private land have been opened up as a special treat for some of these walks, including Bruce Plested’s property, Rorohara, at Pie Melon Bay.

This year marks the eighth annual Waiheke Walking Festival, which has grown from 20 walks in 2010 with 500 participants to over 50 walks with 1500 participants. It is now an international event.

Many of Waiheke’s unique walks would not exist without the dedicated teams of men with spades and shovels and picks who sculpted them through scenic native bush and along Waiheke’s stunning coastlines, backed and financed by the Waiheke Local Board. Thanks to their vision, Waiheke now has 100 km of connecting walking tracks and roadway that loop the entire island called Te Ara Hura.

Track through Whakanewha Regional Park

I remember when Waiheke’s guided walks started off as “twilight rambles” each Tuesday during January to showcase some of the new tracks created during the previous year. The promise of a free sausage sizzle afterwards always encouraged more participants, and was a great way to end a summer day.

As more and more tracks were made and opened to the public, Gary Wilton, who had organized the twilight rambles in his capacity as parks officer for the former Auckland City Council, thought a walking festival would be a good way to encourage even more people to use and enjoy these walking tracks. Jenness Reeve then did the hard work to turn his idea into reality and make it an award-winning event.

Added to the walks this year are opportunities to do some star gazing, mindfulness training, pilates, improve photography skills, or to sample Te Matuka oysters and Waiheke wine while enjoying picturesque Te Matuku Bay at the end of a walk. There are also art walks, dog walks, food foraging walks, interesting walks for children – and more. If you are up for a challenge, you can also walk the Te Ara Hura over four days (25 kms a day) as part of the walking festival.

Te Matuku Bay is a stunning place for a picnic – or to sample Waiheke’s own Te Matuku oysters with a Waiheke wine after a walk.

While all guided walks are free, there are costs involved for transport to and from most walking locations, and for meals and wine sampling. Bookings for each walk are essential at the festival’s official website, where a brochure and details for each walk are available. An added bonus is that Fullers have generously offered a 10% discount on ferry tickets for those who register for the festival.

I recommend the following walking experiences, two offering a chance to relax and enjoy a well-earned meal and a Waiheke wine afterwards in a very special place. I think Gary Wilton would agree that Waiheke has come a long way from sausage sizzles to entice you come and enjoy a Waiheke Island walking experience.

Awaawaroa Coastal Magic

Awaawaroa Bay and Estuary

Friday 24 November, 2.00 pm
This walk has transport and dinner options. It is a Festival first and only available as a one-off special. The walk is set in stunning scenery around the southern coastline and along the Awaawaroa Estuary, up through private land nurtured by Awaawaroa village residents, and finishes at award winning Poderi Crisci vineyard for Friday evening refreshments – a generous complimentary offering of canapes at La Locanda with a cash bar available. Also on offer is a special three or four course Italian dinner in the main restaurant. How much better than a sausage sizzle can this get! See the Walking Festival website for full details.


Poderi Crisci Restaurant

Madame Rouge Onetangi Vineyard Walk

Saturday 18 November, 9.00 am
This is a hilly but always popular festival walk through Onetangi’s vineyards at Casita Miro and Obsidian to Stonyridge, with spectacular views after some steep climbs. Along the way your guide, Casita Miro winemaker Barnett Bond, will share his knowledge and expertise on the establishment and management of a vineyard, with tips about the extra care and work it takes to create a good wine. While it may seem romantic, Barnett will be quick to tell you that a vineyard is very hard work requiring constant attention and a lot of pruning.

Casita Miro Vineyard

Normally not open to the public, the original mown track for this walk began as a high school run, so it was easy to make it available as a walk for the Walking Festival. It will also take you through some stands of native forest between the vineyards. After about three hours you will end up back at Casita Miro Restaurant, where you can treat yourself to something special for lunch from their Spanish menu. Reservations are necessary. More details are available at the Waiheke Walking Festival website.

Stony Batter Tunnels Historical Tour

Fort Buildings at Stony Batter at Waiheke’s eastern end.

Sunday 19 November, 11.00 am
Waiheke Island has it own fort, built in secret during WWII at the eastern end of the island at Stony Batter. It has around a kilometre of rabbit warren-like tunnels, currently closed to the public, but will open for two guided walks with archaeologist Tim Moon, who will tell you how the tunnels were built and what their purpose was. There are also chambers for generators, plotting, magazine and ancillary equipment – all dug out manually with picks and shovels by 200 men in two years and four months.

The gun pit at Stony Batter

Torch/headlamp and sturdy shoes are essential for this walk. Bring a picnic lunch to enjoy with the panoramic views overlooking Hauraki Gulf, and marvel at the very unique boulders with fluted weathering dotting the farmland that an erupting volcano spewed out over seven million years ago. They are truly a fascinating and amazing sight and will leave an indelible impression.

A charter bus service is available for this walk. See the Waiheke Walking Festival website for full details.

For more walks or to register for a walk see the Waiheke Island Walking Festival website.

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