Looking out across the incredibly calm ocean, my deliciously crisp New Zealand white wine flowing across my tongue, I felt a stillness in me I hadn’t felt for a long time. In that exact moment I was happy. All felt right with the world. I looked over at J, who had the same expression of sereneness on his face, and I knew he felt the same way.
We were spending the day on Waiheke Island, New Zealand, a popular little spot for wine tasting, beaches, food, and even a few adventure activities like kayaking and zip-lining (this is New Zealand after all!).
The Island is a short ferry ride from downtown Auckland, and our plan was to rent a car when we arrived and just start exploring. This was a perfect idea since rentals are way cheaper than bringing your own, and you won’t spend much on gas driving around. Having a vehicle also allows you to access some out of the way places we wanted to visit, and having little to no plan meant we were free to do whatever we felt like.
After getting the rental and finally figuring out how to get out of the parking lot (we were following the guy in front of us as he drove around in circles looking as perplexed as us), off we went to find Stony Batter, which was on the complete opposite side of Waiheke.
Stony Batter is a World War II defense site secretly built in 1943 to defend New Zealand from enemy forces entering the gulf during the war. There were three gun emplacements built which you can go see (sans guns), and an expansive tunnel system which we did not get to see due to the large padlock at the entrance. The gun emplacements are cool though and seeing the tracks in the concrete that would allow the guns to rotate 360° and shoot a target 30km away shows the Kiwis meant business.
The views are spectacular and you can wander around freely. We were out there for almost 2 hours, trying to avoid getting sheep shit on our shoes (pretty much impossible), and enjoying the incredible New Zealand landscape.
After our walkabout, we took off in search of good wine and amazing food….two of the most important things needed for a perfect day. We were in luck since NZ is known for having an abundance of both.
We didn’t have to go far before we found the Man O’ War Vineyard. It is an incredible place sitting on 4500 acres of land and I could not have dreamt of a more picture perfect place for us to enjoy our afternoon. It is one of (if not the first), vineyard on Waiheke and they clearly love what they do. From the moment we walked into the tasting room, we were taken care of. They allow you to try the wines for free (because they know they’re awesome and you’ll end up buying some…which we did), and the gentleman helping us answered our many questions and gave us recommendations.
We ended up eating lunch there and I really wish I had taken a picture of it. Homemade Turkish bread, chutney, olives (grown on the island), meats, cheeses, crackers…..basically the best antipasto platter ever. Top it off with that crisp NZ white wine and it’s basically heaven.
After the food and wine, J and I felt like we needed to get some exercise and drove around to try and find something active to do. We saw a sign for a sports complex so we went to go check it out. Google said there was disc golf and other activities and we were pumped.
Unfortunately it was a holiday, or a long weekend or something and the sports complex was closed. Bummer. We didn’t bring our bikes and there wasn’t a rental place. Double bummer. So we kept driving and found this awesome little beach that we walked along. Apparently there were some birds there that were nesting so you had to be careful where you walked so you didn’t step on their eggs. These birds were really good parents though and even with us walking really far away from their nests, they felt the need to dive-bomb us just to make sure we weren’t coming any closer.
We stopped at one more winery (very briefly as it was loud, busy, and not nearly as nice as the first one), and went to dinner at a great Thai place overlooking the ocean. It really was a magical day and one of my favourite memories of this latest trip to NZ. Every time I think of The Island, it makes me smile.