New Zealanders are very proud of their young wine industry and vineyards have sprouted up all over the country — in the Otago Valley near Queenstown way down in the South Island (where we end up our New Zealand tour), in the Marlborough region in the northern part of the South Island not too far from Christchurch (where we planned to visit before the earthquake changed our minds), around the Wellington region in the southern portion of the North Island (our next stop), and on Waiheke Island in the Hauraki Gulf less than an hour from downtown Auckland. We wanted to taste some of these wines during our visit and so thought why not make a day of it during our last day in Auckland and take another ferry from the terminal right next to our hotel.
So on Thursday morning after breakfast we ventured over to the ferry terminal again and hopped on board the 40-minute Fuller ferry to Waiheke island.
Our day began at dawn with the horn from the first ferry of the day. So I sauntered out to our balcony and took a picture of the sun rising in the gulf in the direction of Waiheke Island.
Our ferry's wake.
Near the ferry terminal on the West side of the island.
On the wharf we bumped into a local who was looking for passengers. He said for 15 dollars each he would take us around the island in the morning, drop us off in the village of Oneroa for lunch and then pick us up again an hour later and take us to a couple of wineries and then drive us back to the ferry. We agreed.
We stopped at a few scenic places to take pictures and our guide talked about the history of the island.
Oneroa is mostly just one street a couple of blocks long. We found a small cafe and ordered a couple of sandwiches. After lunch I walked down to the beach while my wife visited some of the shops in town.
This is the view halfway up the hill from the beach to the village.
An interesting yard behind a studio / gift shop in Oneroa.
Oneroa is strictly for tourists. Our guide showed us where the locals shop, dine and relax -- a few miles away. When we drove past an Irish bar he told us that we would be guaranteed to see a "punch-up" if we visited this place after a rugby game.
Our guide dropped us off a the first winery and told us he would be back in an hour and a half. We decided to walk to the top of the hill for a view before tackling the wine.
There's another way to get to the island besides the ferry: You can rent this chopper for 500 dollars an hour.
We weren't the only ones on the hill.
Some of the gardens at Mudbrick Vineyards.
Mudbrick's popular restaurant is housed in a building made from mud bricks.
This dirt road leads to the entrance of Mudbricks. We enjoyed the wine tasting -- two glasses of whites followed by four glasses of reds. Most of the Waiheke wineries are noted for their syrah wines.
Another view of Mudbricks. Our guide then took us to the Jurassic Vineyards nearby where we tasted seven more glasses. The owner runs his winery all by himself. He also monitors a vineyard in Marlborough with his personal computer. His most expensive wine was a montepulciano which sells for a hundred dollars. I remembered that I had a montepulciano with dinner at Portofino's on Viaduct Harbor on Tuesday evening. It was delicious.
Back on the ferry.
Rangitoto Island. This volcano erupted in the 1600s, killing hundreds of Maori.
Sea gull sculpture back at Auckland's ferry terminal. After dinner near the hotel we entertained a distant cousin and her husband at the hotel lounge -- and had a couple more glasses of wine! The next morning we said goodbye to Auckland and flew to Wellington.
Some facts about Waiheke: About 8,000 people live on the island. About 2,000 of these commute every day to the mainland to work. There are some very rich people on the island who live in fancy houses on top of hills. And there are some very poor people, mostly pensioners who moved to the island to get away from the bustle of the big city. Our tour guide told us that he was born in England and came to New Zealand when he was quite young. He retired about 15 years ago but had to start his business recently in order to afford to stay on the island. The cost of living is higher than on the mainland because everything has to be shipped in. Auckland is about 35% Asian or Polynesian (in fact, there are more Polynesians in Auckland than in any other city in the world) but Waiheke is about 93% European. Among the lower income people are a lot of artists. Waiheke reminded me a lot of San Francisco in the 60s. Except for the accents.