Paradise City – Waiheke Island, New Zealand



Just a short 35-minute ferry ride from the bustling capital city, Waiheke Island has an incredible subtropical climate and unsurpassed diversity of flora.  

It was recently voted the fifth best place to visit by Lonely Planet.  Can’t beat that, mate.  With hilly little residential streets, gorgeous expansive gardens, and covey beaches, Waiheke is a true gem tucked just behind the skyscrapers of New Zealand’s most populous city.

Many visit the island of Waiheke for day trips centering around wine tours.  But it’s well worth sticking around for more than just an afternoon.  You’ll find plenty of backpacker hostels, hotels, and luxury accommodations, depending on your budget and needs.

Take a gander at the grandeur:


Because of the rocky shores on the island of Waiheke, there are many separate little beaches to enjoy, from family-friendly to clothing free. And with the relaxed pace of the island, you’re bound to find the perfect spot for relaxing and exploring, even if you do decide to simply swing the day trip.

Cactus Bay is one of the most popular and beloved beaches for the locals.  It’s no longer accessible by road, because of a private property, so you’ll have to take a boat, or rent a kayak to get there.  It’s close to a garden cove, making it a perfect romantic trip for a picnic.

Shelly Beach is a great beach for families.  It has a public grill for BBQ, as well as a diving dock.

Blackpool Beach is a southern-facing beach with great winds.  It’s very popular for watersports like kayaking and windsurfing.  New Zealand has no shortage of extreme sports, with the city of Queenstown on the south island laying claim as ‘extreme sports capital of the world’.

Little Palm Beach is your clothing-optional option on the island, and is also affectionately referred to as “nudey bay”.   Soak up that southern-hemi sun, but don’t forget the ozone down under is rather thin, and you best be latherin’.

Oneroa beach is considered the primary beach on the island.  It’s a very family-friendly beach, and is a short walk to the Oneroa village, with restaurants, cafés, art galleries, and shops.

Life on the Island

About 2,000 of the island’s 8,900 permanent residents commute into the big city each day for work.  Once you visit, you’ll be asking yourself how you might make the hustle work.  Not to say that city work is a necessity.  The island remains very creative and artsy, with many musicians, actors, writers, and poets inhabiting this slice of Kiwi paradise.

waiheke island in auckland

Beyond Waiheke

Aside from its stand-alone beauty and general amazingness, there are numerous logistical reasons to visit Waiheke Island.  Many folks make a quick stop in Auckland as a side-trip from Australia, and if you find yourself in that situation, Waiheke is the perfect way to pack a bit of splendor into a city stay without travelling down to the beloved south island (a must if you have time).

Many people will fly in and out of Auckland as well.  If you don’t want to spend your last New Zealand night right in Auckland, consider heading out to Waiheke Island for a last hurrah of natural wonder.  And for those just arriving to the southern hemisphere from the epic time-vortex that is an American or Europe-to-Auckland haul, this is an amazing way to ease into your New Zealand journey, and calibrate your body clock.  The last thing you want is to be nodding off, while rolling through the country.  Oh yeah, and this site is dedicated to beaches.  So yeah, Waiheke, beaches!

New Zealand is best known for its breathtaking beauty.  And while Waiheke has all kinds of delightful coves and plant life, Kaikoura is on a whole other level of breathtaking.  It’s set against a mountainous backdrop, with a wide range of outdoorsy goodness to take part in. From whale and dolphin watches to epic hikes, you won’t regret a second of a trip here.

If you time your trip to Kaikoura right, be sure to check out the baby seal sanctuary.  They head upstream for a few weeks while their mothers go out on the ocean hunt.  You’ve never seen such a cute and slippery playpen in all your days:

We couldn’t possibly begin to cover all that makes New Zealand wonderful here.  You’re best spending as much time exploring the islands as humanly possible.  But if you do decide to take on the south island, consider making your way all the way down the west coast to the southernmost point of the southern island, Bluff.  Every year they hold an oyster festival to kick off their season.  It’s a truly authentic New Zealand Southland gathering.

Fishing is the most popular water activity in these parts.  You’ll find some swimmers and windsurfers, but take heed if you wade the waters.

Here is some nice footage of Bluff, the edge of the colonized world:

If summer in December doesn’t sound too shabby, put New Zealand on your bucket-list, and start saving those pennies.


About the author: Patrick has the record of travelling the most out of everyone, visiting over 30 countries around the world in 15 years, and sleeping in the most tents with the least amount of blankets and cushions.  He can literally sleep anywhere! A few countries Patrick has lived in include India, Mexico, Tanzania, and Morocco, and currently he lives in Peru.