Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Waiheke Island, Auckland

Waiheke Island is located 17.7km from Auckland. One mode of transportation to Waiheke Island is via ferry which takes about 35 minutes to arrive. 

View of city from Downtown ferry terminal

We drove our car and parked at one of the a parking space in Downtown which provides early bird rate before 9am. Then we walk across to the ferry terminal to catch a ferry to Waiheke Island.


Photo of the ferry captain who is ferrying us to Waiheke Island


We had choosen the right day to visit Waiheke Island as it was a nice sunny day in the spring season. Throughout the journey in the ferry, I managed to see a fair bit of Auckland's views and buildings from far such as the Sky City Tower, Habour Bridge, Mount Eden, Rangitoto Island and etc.


View of Auckland Sky City Tower from ferry

Once we arrived Waiheke Island, we dropped by the car rental booth to rent a car to go around the island. The rental was really affordable as they charged as according to the mileage that you use plus the standard car rate rental. The total rental costs us less than NZD100.

We had a light breakfast before we board the ferry. Hence once we arrived Waiheke Island, we dropped by Thymes Tables Restaurant to have our morning coffee and dessert. This restaurant is located at 8th Miami Avenue, Surfdale and it has been voted as "Excellent Honest Food" by Viva and "Top 50 Restaurant" by Metro magazine for year 2008 and 2009.

Our first stop - Thymes Tables Restaurant

We had skinny flat white and lemon tart as our morning tea. The restaurant serves every coffee with a small shot of sparkling water in a tray. If you ordered two coffee, it will be served with two trays. That are the unique serving style of serving coffee that I had encountered so far. The sparkling water enable us to clean the palette with a refreshing feeling after coffee.

As for the lemon tart, it was so yummy. The pastry was crunchy and the lemon filling was very smooth and tasty. This was the most yummy lemon pie that I ever had so far.

This is how the coffee and lemon tart being served

Apart from being the traditional restaurant, they do offer some products for sale. For example: olive oil, sauces, sandwiches, dessert and others.

The interior of Thymes Tables Restaurant

Oh... If you are observant enough, you will be able to see this little monster hiding underneath the bar table. When I first saw it, I find it so cute and actually recommended my friend to buy it. To our surprise, the wall stickers are very expensive and they have a variety of designs to choose from.

Little monster hiding underneath the bar table

After our morning tea, we moved to the next stop, Onetangi beach. Since it was still early, the sea level was still low tide. A few benches has been provided along the beach side. Hence we decided not to go down to the beach but to sit at the bench along the beach side to enjoy the nice scenery and natural music. The air were very fresh too.


View of Onetangi Beach, Waiheke Island

Then we drove around and passed by a few places which breed these animal called "Alpaca". This is my first time seeing it. This is a species of South American camelid. They are being breed for their fibre. The fibre are being used for making knitted and woven items such as blankets, sweaters, gloves, socks, coats and others.

Alpaca - Camelid of South American species

When it's lunch time, we head to Stonyridge Vineyard Veranda Cafe as our lunch destination. Stonyridge Vineyard is one of the biggest and famous vineyard in Waiheke Island. Celebrities like Pamela Anderson had also visited this Vineyard, you will be able to see the photos of celebrities and ministry at the cafe area. Apart from growing grapes, they also boast their own olives and olive oil which is not often available else where.

Stonyridge Vineyard sign boards

We gotta to drive really slow to go into the vineyard as the road are being paved by cobblestones. When we arrived, what we saw from outside is a house that are being fully covered with grapes leaves. It looks like a long abandoned house, but it's not!

Stonyridge Vineyard Veranda Cafe

The area of the veranda cafe are being surrounded by lots of grapes trees. It is a very nice and cosy place to be in. Even the waiters and waitress are very friendly and polite.

We arrived 5 minutes earlier before the opening hour, but we are allowed to take a seat while waiting for it to be officially open. Hence the whole area was empty when we arrived, but all the table setting are all done.

View of Stonyridge Vinyard Veranda Cafe

We were being served with a jug of plain water while deciding on what food to order. We ordered a Stonyridge Ploughman Platter that serves lunch for two with two glasses of Luna Negra - 100% Malbec. This red wine is highly recommended and being rated 91-93 by Robert Parker. I personally find it very nice and it flows smoothly from mouth to throat to tummy.

Luna Negra - 100% Malbec with cigar

Stonyridge Ploughman Platter consists of stuffed olives, Waiheke pork terrine, comichon pickles, prosciutto with rocket, chorizo, olive tapanede, salad, cheddar cheese served with french baguette. Do not under estimate this platter. By the time we finished it up, we were quite full.

Stonyridge Ploughman Platter - lunch for two

Though we were already quite full with the platter, in our opinion a meal is never satisfying without ending it with nice dessert. Hence, as usual, we'll order a plate of dessert to share. The menu of the dessert is very unusual. Usually dessert menu are being printed in a booklet form or paper form. But at Stonyrigde Vineyard Veranda Cafe, the dessert menu are being written on a blackboard. Hence whenever you ask for a dessert menu, the waiter or waitress will bring the blackboard dessert menu for you to choose.

We were unable to make our decision on what dessert to choose as we are interested with most of the desserts. The waitress was kind enough to recommended us her favourite dessert which is the sticky pudding with caramel served with vanilla ice cream.

By only listening to the name itself, it gave me the impression that it will be a very sweet dessert though I know desserts are meant to be sweet. But what I meant here is the definition of very sweet. To my surprise, it's was not as sweet as I thought off. The sticky pudding was served warm. Hence it blends well with the caramel. It tastes much better when I had the warm sticky pudding with caramel together with the vanilla ice cream. The combination of the warm pudding and the coldness from ice cream blends just well. Thinking of it makes me craving for it again. Haha...

Sticky pudding with caramel served with vanilla ice cream

Since it was a good and sunny day, we adjourned for cigar and dessert wine session at the outdoor seating. The outdoor seating provides some long beach chair type and also normal chairs with coffee table.

View of outdoor seating

We had ordered two tasting glass of Fallen Angel dessert wine, Chardonnay Gisbon 2006, as our combination with cigars. Then we were give a wooden order number to the seating that we had given. The reason of the wooden order number is to indicate which is our bills.

The dessert wine are in a clear light golden colour. To be honest, I am not a really dessert wine person. However, this dessert wine is just right to pair up with the cigar I had and ended the whole lunch session with a clean fresh finish palate. I don't mind having it again next time.

Fallen Angel dessert wine - Chardonnay Gisbon 2006

While enjoying our dessert wine and cigars, we get to enjoy the overview of Stonyridge vineyard which nestled in a shimmering valley of olive tress and colourful vines.

View of Stonyridge Vineyard

There is also a black dog going around the vineyard. His name is Northam. His souvenirs are also available for sale at Veranda Cafe.

Northam - The famous black dog in Stonyridge Vineyard

After the satisfying lunch, drinks and cigar session, we were ready to leave the vineyard. As we drove out from the parking space, we saw the vineyard actually provides a field for all the old folks to play lawn ball.

View of old folks playing lawn ball

To know more about Stonyridge Vineyard, do visit their website at www.stonyridge.co.nz

The climate in Waiheke Island is slightly warmer than Auckland with less humidity and rain and more sunshine hours. Hence it makes the island a good place to grow grapes for wines. The whole island is almost being filled with wineries and vineyards around it. 

Then, we visited a few more vineyards around Waiheke Island.  Next stop was Gold Water Estate. In the middle of this vineyard, there is a tree planted in the middle of the vineyard. That is why the logo of Gold Water Estate have a tree in the middle vineyard. What is the story behind it, I am unsure.

Gold Water Estate Vineyard sign board

View of Gold Water Estate Vineyard

Our last stop in Waiheke Island was Cable Bay Vineyard. Cable Bay Vineyard provides not only the view of vineyards and olive trees, but also nice views of Auckland city. Apart from that, they do have art gallery as well. Before I went it, I thought the art gallery will feature photos and drawings of vineyard related. However, to my dissapointment, the art gallery was featuring photos and drawings of flowers during my visit there.

Cable Bay Vineyards Entrance

View of Cable Bay Vineyard


Overall, I must say that Waiheke Island trip was very interesting and satisfying. Though sometimes the winds were chilly. This trip had opened my eyes on good food, good wines, good views and also thought me what is Alpaca.

Should you happen to be in Auckland, MUST visit Waiheke Island at least once to enjoy all the good and fine things there.

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