Waiheke Island, a short ferry ride away from Auckland City, makes an excellent day trip or even better a weekend getaway destination. The island is a perfect retreat with picturesque beaches and wineries galore.
We selected Waiheke Island as our Christmas Holiday getaway despite it being the island’s busiest time. The laid back vibe was exactly what we were looking for after a full on year. Our original plan of lounging on the beach and nature walks fell through due to the weather. It was cold and frequently rained during our stay. The beach was only suitable on one afternoon and the kids were cold and miserable the entire time. We decided that the wineries would be our best option because even it if rained they had indoor tasting rooms.
Now I am not one to complain about spending the afternoons tasting wine but I did not want our girls disappointed about not spending the days on the beach. It is not always a breeze traveling with kids (shocker I know since we make it look so easy-peasy… wink wink) especially when you want to do more adult activities like wine tasting. In all honesty our kids are fairly laid-back and typically happy doing handstands in the middle of a field; however, the places that cater to families always score bonus points with me. Turns out these Waiheke wineries are prepared for just such a situation offering kid-friendly accommodations. We enjoyed an opportunity for wine tasting and excellent food. The girls were fully entertained and even made friends during their stay.
Top 3 Family-Friendly Wineries
1. Wild on Waiheke – Where to even begin with this venue? They had everything from entertainment for the entire family, Wine Estate Winery , Waiheke Island Brewery, and an excellent restaurant. We could have easily spent all day hanging out here!
The venue leisure activities featured archery lessons which Aubrey and Andrew participated in (additional cost and age restrictions apply). Best to make a reservation because they can be crowded during busy holidays and summer months. We almost did not get a seat when we 1st arrived due to the number of reservations already committed. Ella spent her time on the playground and became “best friends” with another little girl her age. Other activities included yard games, trampoline, skeet shooting and more.
Andrew and I agreed they had some of the best food we had tasted since moving to New Zealand! We came back a 2nd day to have lunch based strictly on meal quality and entertainment options. They are known more for their pizzas and burgers; however, I thought their menu was impressive. I settled on these tacos and they were delicious! The menu did feature a kids section with typical fish and chips, pizza, and sammy pack (sandwich, popcorn, and fresh fruit). My kids devoured the sammy pack! I love how New Zealanders typically shorten words to sammy instead of sandwich or arvo in place of afternoon. It is catchy once you figure out what they are talking about.
Andrew was impressed with the brewery which features 4 different craft beer, a cider (I enjoyed) and their popular non-alcoholic Ginger Beer that the girls both ordered. Following lunch and play, we went inside to the tasting room to sample the selection of wines. My favorites were the Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris but those typically are my top picks.
2. Man O’ War Vineyards – The winery is located right on the waterfront. In fact, the easiest way to get there would be by boat. Otherwise you have to take the curvy roads around to the other side of the island from the main town. Once you get there, the winery offers a full afternoon of relaxing. The kids can play in the sand or take part in one of the many game options such as lawn cricket, petanque, bowling and swingball. They have plenty of lounge chairs and picnic areas available too.
Andrew and I booked a tasting with a small group while the kids played frisbee on the lawn. We did order off the menu but was not as extensive as other wineries. I think we ended up settling on a cheese plate to hold us over. They did have specialized kid packs for those that did not bring their own lunch (like us). My suggestion would be to pack a picnic basket and blanket to stay for the afternoon.
We left with an expensive bottle of the 2012 Kulta Syrah Reserve wine to take home with us and it was divine. I typically prefer drinking white wine but the Syrah was my favorite during the tasting. The bottle came in the wooden box pictured below which we saved until celebrating our move to Sydney recently.
The only downfall to me was accessing the winery without a boat. The drive is scenic but a bit of a trek for my kids that easily get motion sickness. Otherwise it was a beautiful area with delicious wines!
3. Passage Rock Winery – This was our first lunch stop and the sunniest afternoon during our stay. The food and wine were good but the kids area completed the experience. Out the back of the winery was a kid’s dream area with a trampoline, sandbox, art area and more. They also had some archery targets set-up but think there were age restrictions here too. Andrew and I sat at a picnic table outside while the girls enjoyed a long play. The vineyards in the background made the perfect backdrop for pictures too.
The Syrah Wines here were my favorites too and I began to see a theme. Where in the Marlbourgh and Hawkes Bay regions I found Sauvignon Blanc to be superb, here on Waiheke Island the Syrah was top-notch!
The kids had a little fun too! Don’t call the police on us yet… it was cranberry juice!
We did visit several other wineries, restaurants, shops and enjoyed at least an hour on the beach before it rained. Too bad the weather cleared up the day we left.