Day 11: Waiheke Island
It was a rainy morning in Auckland, but things cleared up nicely by the time we ventured out. After sleeping in a little due to last night’s late arrival, we headed down to the wharfs and set sail for Waiheke Island, a 40-minute ferry ride to the east on our “Quickcat” catamaran.
Waiheke Island used to be pretty much unknown. It was an artist and tree-hugger hangout. People in Auckland didn’t bother visiting, and tourists didn’t make it out there either.
But recently, the island has gained significant fame and popularity thanks to 30-plus wineries and plenty of gorgeous beaches; so much so that many of the community’s original artists can no longer afford the million-dollar houses. A headline in the “Waiheke Marketplace” newspaper was “Rose McLeod Quits Island.” She’s not just moving. She’s quitting the island.
Expensive homes and wineries aside, the island also has zip-lines. On arrival, we were picked up by EcoZip Adventures and driver Jake provided plenty of entertaining commentary as we headed inland.
We started the adventure by stepping into our harnesses and checking all the straps were snug. After a group photo and a brief safety training, we got hooked up and were ready to fly.
The first line went over vineyards (sadly, too high for a tasting). We walked to the next line, which was a bit higher, a bit steeper, and a bit more exciting. It provided nice views of Waihake, and a hazy Auckland in the distance. We survived and continued to the third and final line. Higher, longer, and steeper than the rest, this line is called “big dog.” It lived up to expectations, and by then, we had figured out how to position ourselves to go as fast as possible.
To finish the tour, we hiked about a mile back up the hill through the forest. One of my New Zealand souvenirs will be an impressive amount of mud on my pants. Our guide Gaby informed us about the plants we passed along the way.
The plantlife on the North Island is significantly different than the alpine regions of the South Island. We saw the “mother tree” that inspired the big tree in Avatar, hugged a tree for good luck, and finally got to see (or at least realized we were seeing) the iconic Silver Fern. Green on one side and silver on the other, the Silver Fern can be used to leave proverbial breadcrumbs, signal that hunters are in the area, and reflect light for guidance or emergencies. It has become a recognized symbol of New Zealand. Sixteen New Zealand sports teams use the Silver Fern logo, and you can see it on basically any product exported from NZ.
We made it back to our starting point, and took a shuttle to the small town of Oneroa. With some help from Kiwis who were on the tour, we found The Cove, a little restaurant with excellent fish and chips, some local beer on tap, and a great view of the cove.
We tried to do a little shopping and walking around the town, but by 5PM, most of the stores had closed. We walked back to the ferry and caught it just in time.
Back in Auckland, as we meandered back to the hotel, we found a little place called Sumo Sushi with a great two-for-one deal and picked up a bottle of wine. Our kind of room service!
With an early start tomorrow (our last full day, what?!) we relaxed and watched 1993 music videos on MTV. Taking advantage of the fancy hotel perks, we even requested two of the “perfect pillows” they offer. The Billow Pillow for side sleepers, and the Belvedere for therapeutic neck and shoulder support. We are pretty sure that are the same as our other pillows, but we will find out shortly!