Island life in Auckland

Near enough for an afternoon out, but still far from the bustle of the big smoke, Waiheke Island is Auckland's own bit of offshore paradise.

Save a day or more to explore the island's wines, beaches, villages and forest sanctuaries. You can roam the island on a rental bike or scooter, or catch the local bus between places. Ferries to Waiheke operate from 5:30am to nearly midnight.

Discover Waiheke's strangest secret - a maze of tunnels and secret rooms left over from World War II.

Waiheke vineyard adventures

Waiheke deserves its reputation as the island of wine. Despite its relatively small size (92 square kilometres), it's home to more than 25 exceptional vineyards and wineries. With so many wonderful options to choose from, including a few internationally-acclaimed vintages, a wine tasting tour is always on the cards.

Although a handful of wineries offer tastings by appointment only, the majority have cellar doors that are open all year round. And there are local wine tour operators who'll gladly whisk you from one winery to the next, sparing you the inconvenience of driving yourself. You can be picked up and dropped off at the ferry terminal.

Wild and unusual

While Waiheke's population of permanent residents is growing every year, the island knows to protect wild areas from development. Onetangi Reserve is one of those places, a 50 hectare reserve that's home to many native bird species. There's also a 100-kilometre network of walking tracks around the island called Te Ara Hura. Whether you hike for a day or several, the tracks deliver massive ocean views and access to some of Waiheke's best beaches.

Beneath the ground at Stony Batter, down the far end of the island, you can discover Waiheke's strangest secret - a maze of tunnels and secret rooms left over from World War II. Bring a torch for this epic underground adventure.

The Ostend market

No matter what the Auckland weather is doing, the Waiheke Markets at Ostend War Memorial Hall is open for business on a Saturday morning. Get there early and begin with breakfast. There are plenty of food options, from pastries and fresh breads to locally grown produce and free-range eggs.

With your hunger sorted, it's time to browse the crafts, artisan products and other goodies. There are always unique things for sale, often locally made. Having cash on hand is always a good idea, as there are no ATMs near the market and the hand-crafted goods can get snapped up quickly. Getting around all the stalls takes a little while, but it's a great chance to meet the locals. Just keep in mind that the market closes at 1pm.