Waiheke Island, the ‘Hamptons of New Zealand’

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And in 2017, Vogue journalist Amy Louise Bailey coined Waiheke Island, the “Hamptons of New Zealand,” and called it an “escape that is high-end but low-key.”

Oneroa beach on Waiheke Island, New Zealand.

Oneroa beach on Waiheke Island, New Zealand.


Westend61/Getty Images


Source: Vogue

The 36-square-mile island sits in the Hauraki Gulf. It has about 10,000 permanent residents according to Mansion Global, including New Zealand’s richest man, investor Graeme Hart, and former All Blacks rugby coach, Sir Graham Henry.

An arrow points to Waiheke Island in New Zealand.

An arrow points to Waiheke Island in New Zealand.

Google maps


Source: Mansion Global

Beyond its permanent residents, Waiheke Island is also considered a vacation hotspot. About 3,500 people own vacation homes on the island, Mansion Global reported.

A scattering of homes on the coast of Waiheke Island, New Zealand.

A scattering of homes on the coast of Waiheke Island, New Zealand.

Monica Humphries/Insider


Source: Mansion Global

And reportedly, rich and famous people from around the world flock to Waiheke Island for its wineries, pristine beaches, and dramatic landscapes. The island has hosted everyone from Bill Gates to Madonna and Beyoncé, Vogue reported.

Beyoncé and Bill Gates.

Beyoncé and Bill Gates.

Barbara Davidson/Getty Images/Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation


Source: Vogue

I was eager to see if Waiheke lived up to its Hamptons reputation, so on a trip to Auckland, I planned a two-night getaway to the island.

A view of the Auckland skyline.

A view of the Auckland skyline.

Monica Humphries/Insider


And while wealthy vacationers often take private jets and boats to the island, according to The New Zealand Herald, that wasn’t in my budget. Instead, I joined local residents and visitors on a 40-minute ferry ride from Auckland.

The line at the Auckland ferry terminal for to board a ferry to Waiheke Island.

The line at the Auckland terminal for to board a ferry to Waiheke Island.

Monica Humphries/Insider


Source: The New Zealand Herald

The ferry was my first indicator that the island is a place for the wealthy. My round-trip ticket on the Fullers360 ferry cost $50 USD, and, according to The New Zealand Herald, it’s one of the most expensive public ferries in the world, costing locals $250 USD monthly.

The view of Auckland, New Zealand, from a ferry.

The view of Auckland, New Zealand, from a ferry.

Monica Humphries/Insider


Source: Fullers360, The New Zealand Herald

As the ferry departed from Auckland, the city’s harbor and Sky Tower faded into the distance. A little over half an hour later, a lush, green island speckled with homes came into view.

The view of Waiheke Island, New Zealand, from a ferry.

The view of Waiheke Island, New Zealand, from a ferry.

Monica Humphries/Insider


I disembarked from the ferry and set out to explore Waiheke. Although Waiheke Island is 36 square miles, the western half of the island is more developed with a concentration of wineries and homes.

The ferry station in the Waiheke Island terminal.

The ferry station in the Waiheke Island terminal.

Monica Humphries/Insider


Source: Mudbrick

One of my first stops was Mudbrick Vineyard, where I planned to do what Vogue says locals, tourists, and wealthy visitors do — sip wine.

The entrance to the Mudbrick Vineyard and Restaurant.

The entrance to the Mudbrick Vineyard and Restaurant.

Monica Humphries/Insider


Source: Vogue

According to Tourism New Zealand, Waiheke is home to about 30 wineries, and the island has a micro-climate that is ideal for producing Syrah and Cabernet blends.

The Mudbrick vineyard.

The Mudbrick vineyard.

Monica Humphries/Insider


Source: Tourism New Zealand

As I pulled into the parking lot, I understood why. The vineyard had grand views overlooking Te Haruhi Bay. I tasted six wines, which included Chardonnays, Syrahs, and red blends. It cost $22 USD.

Two wines that were part of the premium wine tasting at Mudbrick.

Two wines that were part of the premium wine tasting at Mudbrick.

Monica Humphries/Insider


The wines were bold, I thought, and as I wandered through rows of vines, fields of lavender, and forests of fruit trees, I could see why a place so stunning and peaceful would attract a wealthy crowd.

The author at the Mudbrick Vineyard and Restaurant.

The author at the Mudbrick Vineyard and Restaurant.

Monica Humphries/Insider


After visiting a celebrity-loved winery, I hoped to catch a glimpse of where the wealthy stay on Waiheke Island, too.

A real estate company advertises homes for sale on Waiheke Island.

A real estate company advertises homes for sale on Waiheke Island.

Monica Humphries/Insider


You won’t find any Hiltons, Marriotts, or large hotels on Waiheke. There’s a handful of boutique hotels, but most visitors book vacation homes for their trip, Vogue reported.

A home for sale on Waiheke Island.

A home for sale on Waiheke Island.

Monica Humphries/Insider


Source: Vogue

Dotted along the coast are these vacation homes, many of which cost millions of dollars. According to OneRoof, the most expensive sale this year was $9.15 million, and The New Zealand Herald reports that the average home is valued at $3.5 million.

A view of homes along Oneroa Bay, Waiheke Island.

A view of homes along Oneroa Bay, Waiheke Island.


denizunlusu/Getty Images


Source: OneRoof, The New Zealand Herald

I headed first to Cable Bay Lane, which is home to ritzy vacation homes like Fossil Cove, the property where Lady Gaga stayed when she visited the island, according to the property’s listing.

Parts of Cable Bay Lane were gated off.

Parts of Cable Bay Lane were gated off.

Monica Humphries/Insider


Source: Fossil Cove

Today, Fossil Cove costs more than $6,000 a night with a minimum 7-night stay, and according to the property, it includes daily butler service, champagne, and transfers from the ferry wharf or helipad.

A helicopter at a vineyard on Waiheke Island.

A helicopter at a vineyard on Waiheke Island.


Andrew T Hall/Shutterstock


Source: Fossil Cove

While I wasn’t able to catch a glimpse of Fossil Cove, I drove down Cable Bay Lane searching for other modern mansions, luxury cars, or helipads. But I should’ve known better. Each home was gated, and there wasn’t a celebrity in sight.

The ritzy homes along the rode were gated.

The ritzy homes along the rode were gated.

Monica Humphries/Insider


After my failed mansion mission, I decided to explore one of the island’s pristine public beaches instead. I walked along Little Palm Beach, which is free to visit. It was dotted with a mix of large homes, small abodes, and duplexes.

The entrance to Little Palm Beach on Waiheke Island, New Zealand.

The entrance to Little Palm Beach on Waiheke Island, New Zealand.

Monica Humphries/Insider


I was there during New Zealand’s winter, so the beach was nearly deserted. While it was smaller than some of the beaches I’m familiar with in Florida, it appeared cleaner and rockier to me.

A public beach on Waiheke Island.

A public beach on Waiheke Island.

Monica Humphries/Insider


At Little Palm Beach, I met Chris McCarthny, an architect at Gulf Architects. We chatted about New Zealand food, his favorite wineries, and he pointed to a handful of mansions he designed along the rocky coast.

A row of homes on Little Palm Beach on Waiheke Island, New Zealand.

A row of homes on Little Palm Beach on Waiheke Island, New Zealand.

Monica Humphries/Insider


McCarthny also told me to hike Owhanake Bay. There, he said the cliffs allow for a better view of the multi-million-dollar mansions I hoped to see.

The homes on Little Palm Beach ranged in size and design.

The homes on Little Palm Beach ranged in size and design.

Monica Humphries/Insider


With my new lead, I hopped in my car and headed to Owhanake Bay.

A parking lot at Owhanake Bay.

A parking lot at Owhanake Bay on Waiheke Island, New Zealand.

Monica Humphries/Insider


As I climbed up and through a forested area, the hiking trail led me to a freshly paved road that had a scattering of large homes.

A view of a mansion and road on Waiheke Island, New Zealand.

A view of a mansion and road on Waiheke Island, New Zealand.

Monica Humphries/Insider


Thanks to the hike’s high elevation, I spotted mansions I envisioned Waiheke’s rich and famous would own.

A mansion along the hike.

A mansion along the hike.

Monica Humphries/Insider


Beyond glamorous homes, the hike offered peaceful views of the bay, I thought. As the sun started to set, I headed to my accommodation for the night.

A view of Owhanake Bay on Waiheke Island, New Zealand.

A view of Owhanake Bay on Waiheke Island, New Zealand.

Monica Humphries/Insider


I wasn’t staying on Waiheke Island with a celebrity budget, so Fossil Cove was out. And since the island doesn’t have chain hotels, I turned to vacation properties listed on Airbnb and Vrbo.

The tiny house was tucked into the cliffside of Waiheke Island.

The tiny house was tucked into the cliffside of Waiheke Island.

Monica Humphries/Insider


On Airbnb, I found a tiny house on the coast for $475 USD for two nights. It had views, privacy, and was centrally located — not unlike many of the nearby mansions.

The interior of the tiny house.

The interior of the tiny house.

Monica Humphries/Insider


But overall, I thought the views made the bathroom worth it. Plus, it was reasonably priced. According to Champion Traveler, the average nightly vacation rental on the island costs between $140 and $580 for an entire home.

The outdoor deck had a table and two reclining chairs.

The outdoor deck had a table and two reclining chairs.

Monica Humphries/Insider


Source: Champion Traveler

 

The next day, I continued to explore Waiheke and headed to another part of the island, Oneroa Village. It’s the island’s largest suburb, according to Waiheke Local, and home to many shops, restaurants, and businesses.

A view of Waiheke's main shopping and dining area.

A view of Waiheke’s main shopping and dining area.

Monica Humphries/Insider


Source: Waiheke Local

Along Oneroa Village’s main street, I expected designer stores, luxe window displays, and fine dining. But I thought the area was surprisingly quaint. For example, I noticed restaurants serving everything from burgers to grand seafood dinners.

A row of shops in the Oneroa suburb.

A row of shops in the Oneroa suburb.

Monica Humphries/Insider




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