The Oyster Inn.

Denizen’s definitive guide on everywhere to wine and dine on Waiheke Island

When it comes to weekend escapism, Waiheke Island is one of the easiest places to go from Auckland City. With elevated restaurants, cafes and bars befitting its unofficial nickname as the ‘Isle of Wine’, Waiheke has no shortage of exceptional eateries to explore. Here, we round up all the best places to wine, dine and be merry on the Island.

From left: Tantalus; Charlie’s.

Tantalus

Tantalus has been loved for its inventive food, award-winning wines and stunning location ever since opening its impeccable new space (the work of Cheshire Architects) in Onetangi Valley. Even the approach from the driveway is enough to take our breath away — and it only gets better from there. Given the estate’s popularity, bookings are absolutely recommended.

The Heke

As the new kid on the block, The Heke is a must-visit destination in Onetangi — home to a wood-fired restaurant as well as the award-winning Waiheke Whisky and Waiheke Brewing Co. Owned by two Waiheke families, who have created a welcoming feel, you can park up at one of the many outdoor tables, watch the kids bounce around on its jumbo bouncing pillow and have a thoroughly lovely afternoon.

Charlie’s

Nowadays, Onetangi is a world-class culinary destination with a line-up of sophisticated eateries with sweeping views of its beautiful beach. But before all this, there was Charlie Farley’s, a laid back restaurant and bar that locals and visitors alike kept coming back to. After a recent refurbishment, and the new moniker of Charlie’s, this Tropicana-inspired eatery sets the scene for an array of crowd-pleasing dishes. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner — and complemented by suitable cocktails all day long — Charlie’s is holding its own among the newcomers.

Waiheke Distilling Co.

Waiheke Distilling Co.

On the ridge above Cowes Bay, Waiheke Distilling Co. has unrivalled views of the ‘other side’ of the Island, looking out to Pakatoa Island and the Coromandel beyond. The artisan gin producer led by Liz Scott and Glen Cadwallader champions the local botanicals that grow in abundance in the area, while also allowing visitors to enjoy the beauty of the surroundings. Not only the birthplace of brand new gins, but home to a stunning garden bar as well, they deserve to pour themselves a drink — for a job well done.

Man O’ War

On the far Eastern side of the Island, Man O’ War is a complete slice of paradise. It’s where you will find 75 of Waiheke’s 100 vineyards. At the start of it all, the winery’s exquisite beachfront Tasting Room spills out onto a lawn where long lunches can be indulged in, before a stroll along the tranquil Man O’ War Bay. With covered and outdoor park bench seating, and plenty of room for little ones and pets, you can get that picnic feeling all year round.

Mudbrick.

Mudbrick

The most romantic spot on the Island, in our opinion, Mudbrick Vineyard & Restaurant is a charming estate to while away the hours on Waiheke. The Restaurant offers a sensory culinary experience while its modern bistro, the Archive, serves island-inspired dishes in a relaxed setting. With an outdoor bar and charming private dining rooms also available to book, Mudbrick sparkles as much as its view of the Hauraki Gulf.

Casita Miro

A little bit off the beaten beach track, Casita Miro is found in the frondescence of the Miro Vineyard. Set back from Onetangi Bay with views to the township and sea, Casita Miro is a Spanish-inspired tapas restaurant that appears more like a greenhouse than a dining room. With a colourful tiled ascent and courtyard, charming gardens and twinkling fairy lights at night, it lends itself to truly unique and memorable occasions.

Stonyridge

Stonyridge
Nestled in a valley of olive trees, Stonyridge Vineyard & Cafe offers an enchanting experience. The ongoing dream of owner Stephen White, it’s situated on an ideal north-facing site to both harvest vino and welcome visitors. Enjoy Stonyridge’s platters and seasonal plates with a glass of the estate produced Waiheke Bordeaux wines under the shade of its vines, which grow overhead — and all around.

From left: 372; Ki Māha.

372

On the aforementioned Onetangi promenade, 372 takes casual dining up a notch while keeping a breezy island vibe. Run by Luke and Helen Carter, who, in fact, originally set up their neighbouring stalwart (Charlie’s) — 372 feels like a luxury resort offering with an expansive front deck overlooking the beach, and a sheltered patio with a showcase bar towards the back. The menu subscribes to summery by-the-beach food with an elevated edge.

Ki Māha

The third, and finest, jewel in Onetangi’s crown is Ki Māha by Dominique Parat. The artfully designed restaurant has a front deck with panoramic views that are a pleasure to be a part of. Indoors, the sophisticated interior is just as charming. The menu combines sustainably harvested seafood and ethically farmed meats, with locally sourced seasonal fruit and vegetables — expressing the essence of Aotearoa cuisine.

From left: Poderi Crisci; Passage Rock.

Poderi Crisci

At the end of a country lane in the Awaawaroa Valley, Poderi Crisci is an Italian family-owned vineyard and restaurant. As such, it’s a stunning destination vineyard, which appreciates the art of al fresco food and wine, and fine gardens. Antonio Crisci and his partner Vivienne Farnell also originally opened the charming Non Solo Pizza in Parnell, but now their focus is on this slice of Tuscany, on Waiheke. The main restaurant is inspired by the finest traditional cuisine of the chefs’ homeland, prepared with local produce and modern touches. Nextdoor, La Locanda is a breath of fresh air, for those who prefer a more casual outing — still with freshly shucked Te Matuku bay oysters accompanied by a glass of Poderi Crisci Arneis.

Passage Rock

It seems the further we get from the main township of Waiheke, the more carefree things become. Passage Rock Wines in Te Matuku Bay was established in the 90s, and while the team takes great pride in their award-winning 14 varietals, their home base is a friendly, casual place where you can enjoy pizza, platters and tapas over summer. Surrounded by Syrah vines, the Bistro café comes with lawn games to entertain all ages and encourage the whole family to enjoy a day out.

Te Motu

Te Motu Vineyard is a hidden jewel in the island’s already impressive wine stable, but has fast become one of the most popular Waiheke restaurants. The estate is nestled in the stunning Onetangi Valley, and epitomises every element of the ultimate Waiheke experience. Famed for their award-winning reds (of which we recommend sampling the entire cellar), The Shed’s restaurant offerings are created to complement the varietals, with a modern-rustic approach that harnesses the best of local produce in an un-intimidating way. An essential on every Waiheke itinerary, we think.

From left: Akitō; The Oyster Inn.

Akitō

They say good things take time, and this is exemplified at daytime eatery Akitō, named after the word for doing things slowly in te reo. Owners Shantala Tengblad and Simon McNeish’s approach their cooking and food practises with patience, love and attention, especially with their plant-focussed pickling, preserving and fermentation. With inventive twists on typical brunch and lunch fare, this holistic eatery on Ocean View Road, Oneroa, is certainly one of the best Waiheke restaurants.

The Oyster Inn

Josh and Helen Emett were regulars at The Oyster Inn since it opened in 2012, and made their presence official in 2020 when they became the new ‘innkeepers’, taking the restaurant and hotel on an exciting new trajectory. Situated above the shops on Ocean View Road, it has charming views of Oneroa Beach and of spectacular sunsets on a good day. The coastal-inspired bistro menu features fresh seafood dishes and seasonal crowd-pleasers. The namesake oysters come from Waiheke’s own Te Matuku, harvested fresh daily.

From left: Cable Bay; Island Gelato Company.

Cable Bay

When thinking of where to wow visitors to Waiheke Island, Cable Bay is often first in mind. Both its award-winning dining room and the more casual wine bar have served many intimate dinners and laughter-filled lunches for over a decade, all to the stunning backdrop of its sweeping views back to Auckland city. With an ever-revolving display of produce, Cable Bay’s focus on seasonal goods means that we’re met with different, garden-fresh fare on every visit. The short meander back to the ferry through native bush afterwards completes the full experience.

Island Gelato Company

Built on the nostalgia associated with ice cream and balmy kiwi summers, Island Gelato Co. has long been the go-to spot for a taste of island paradise. Owners Ana Schwarz and Geoff Tippett opened their gelateria originally as a pop-up in Oneroa eight years ago, and — three new openings on the mainland and a new location on the Island (up Ocean View Road) later — it still has us lining up for more.

The Courtyard

Whether you’re out for a casual dinner, ordering takeaways to be enjoyed on the beach, or slurping a few Bloody Marys the ‘morning after’, The Courtyard is the place to go. Set off the main stretch in Oneroa, the carefree Waiheke restaurant has a bach-like feel to it, with a mix of indoor and outdoor dining and enviable water views. Stop by no matter the time of day and enjoy a relaxed atmosphere, with refined food.

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