Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Heaven--an Island with 26 Wineries

Yesterday, we left Auckland and took a morning ferry to Waiheke Island. It's a small island 35-minutes from the city with beaches and 26 wineries. We arrived with the intention of catching a bus to the main hostel on the island. We got off in the main town, Oneroa, only to realize when we had gotten off the bus that we actually wanted Onetangi, another 25 minutes further down the road. And the buses only run once an hour when the ferries arrive. Fortunately, there was an i-Site just around the corner from the bus stop. I-Sites are amazing resources--we booked our spaceship through them, they'll give you advice on where to go, book hotels, give you maps and information. In short, they are a traveller's dream, and they are friendly and helpful and don't try to pressure you into other activities or more expensive things.

Auckland Skyline from the Ferry

At the i-Site, the nice woman suggested that rather than sitting around for the next bus, we could leave our bags there and walk to two nearby wineries, including one that had been highly recommended by our friends, JJ and Piper, who left us the goodie bag (see Tyler's entry below!). So, 35 pounds or so lighter, we started walking. First stop was Cable Bay Vineyards. For $5, we got to taste seven delicious wines. The island is known for producing good red grapes (cabernet, cab franc, merlot) and chardonnay, so most the wineries get grapes from Marlborough (on the south island) to make Sauvignon Blanc. Cable Bay is relatively new to the scene, started in 1996 and the tasting room and restaurant just opened a few months. Loosened up with some tasty wine, Tyler and I decided to treat ourselves to a delicious lunch (snapper and steak) from their modern-style dining room with a fantastic view. After lots of "self-cooking" at our Auckland hostel and plenty of mediocre food in general, it was fantastic.

After that, we walked a little further up the hill to Mudbrick Vineyard for another $5 8 wine tasting. Unfortunately, we weren't as wowed by these wines, but it was still fun.

We made our way back to the i-Site, passing by rows of grapes, views of the Bay and Dwell-worthy modern homes to find that our friendly helper had not yet (nor the previous day) been able to reach the hostel. We decided that since we'd be living on the road for the next few weeks that we would treat ourselves to a B&B, Tawa Lodge, for our two nights here. With great views and close access to town and a beach, we happily settled in for the evening.

Little Oneroa Beach, just down the road from our B&B

Exploring Tidepools at Little Oneroa Beach

Today we got up and decided to hit more wineries--four in all, including the best one we've had, Stonyridge. The prices matched, with their best Bordeaux-style wine costing $200 a bottle. But the wines we had (a Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Viognier, Morvedre, Pinot Noir, Bordeaux-style red and a Rhone-style Red) were fantastic, and the guy serving us was enthusiastic and informative.

View of Putiki Bay from Goldwater Estate Winery

Waiheke has been a great vacation from travelling. We thought Tahiti might serve that purpose, but there were enough difficulties and a short enough time that it wasn't as relaxing as we had hoped. Being here feels more like taking a "trip" than "travelling." Though it's only been four days since we've arrived, I've been really charmed by New Zealand already. People are friendly and helpful, and the culture is really focused on the environment--rain water collection, worm composting toilets, dual-flush toilets, plenty of recycling, billboards promoting reducing your personal carbon emissions, and last night--on primetime TV--there was a show called "Wasted," all about reducing waste (energy, water, and just the usual solid trash waste) with young people sharing a house. And people think renting a campervan for a few weeks is the best way to see the Island.

While I'm happy we'll have more exotic--and challenging--adventures ahead of us, I think this is going to be a nice month or so.

Oh--and another note for any regular readers--we're guessing that being on the road and the more rural South Island might lead to less frequent posting. But we still hope to check in every so often and post lots of pictures!


Sarah said...

All that wine!! Seeing as I'll probably never do anything like you two are it's been great reading about your travels and seeing all the photos.

Sarah said...

Thanks! We're also planning on hitting two other big wine regions--one here on the North Island called Hawkes Bay (another red area) and Marlborough on the South Island, famed for whites and Sauvignon Blancs! We're looking forward to many more tastings....