History of Waiheke

Mar 10th 2011
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Welcome to Waiheke Island,

Hauraki Gulf, New Zealand.

36’48″ South 174’04″ East

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Waiheke Island is a picturesque blend of farmland, forest, beaches, vineyards and olive groves. There is a great range of activities on Waiheke. Options include sightseeing, mountain biking, sea kayaking, a relaxed vineyard tour and much more. The delectable cuisine on offer is complemented by a range of award-winning wines produced at the island’s many wineries. Significant industries on the island include wine-making, olive production, tourism and arts, crafts.

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Waiheke History

First settled in 12000AD, Waiheke Island was home to the Maru iwi until centuries later when Toi claimed the Island. During the 1820’s the famous Hongi Heke killed most of the inhabitants in a big battle at Onetangi beach. Unsurprisingly, Onetangi means “weeping sands” – and the name Weeping Sands is now the brand name of one of Waiheke’s great wines.

The island is the second-largest, after Great Barrier Island, of all the gulf islands. It is also the most populated with just under 9,000 permanent residents plus another estimated 3400 who have second or holiday homes on the island. This makes it New Zealand’s most densely populated island, with 83.58 people/km², and the third most populated after the North and South Island. It is also the most accessible offshore island in the Gulf, due to regular passenger and car ferry services and some air links. Waiheke is well served by a number of scheduled ferry services (Passenger and Transport) as well as various air transport connections. Fullers is the main passenger transport provider by ferry from Auckland CBD and Sealink provides a passenger and car ferry service from Half Moon Bay. There are also a number of Auckland Helicopter Operators that charter to the Island.

The Hauraki Gulf is a coastal feature of the North Island of New Zealand. It has a total area of 4000km², and lies between the Auckland Region, the Coromandel Peninsula and the Hauraki Plains. Hauraki is Maori for North Wind

Waiheke Island is a picturesque blend of farmland, forest, beaches, vineyards and olive groves. There is a great range of activities on Waiheke. Options include sightseeing, mountain biking, sea kayaking, a relaxed vineyard tour and much more. The delectable cuisine on offer is complemented by a range of award-winning wines produced at the island’s many wineries. Significant industries on the island include wine-making, olive production, tourism and arts, crafts. Waiheke’s climate has proven to be well suited to growing Bordeaus wine-type grapes, though some Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc varieties are also considered to be good. The local wines are relatively pricey due to the limited size of many vineyards.

The island is 19.3 km long from west to east and varies in width from 0.64km to 9.65km, and has a surface area of 92km². The coastline is 133.5km, including 40km of beaches. The port of Matiatia at the western end of the island is 17.7km from Auckland and the eastern end is 21.4km from Coromandel. It is very hilly with few flat areas, the highest point being Maunganui at 231 metres. The climate is slightly warmer than Auckland with less humidity and rain and more sunshine hours.

Waiheke Island has a higher proportion of ‘Europeans’ (92.8%) compared to 65.7% for Auckland City and 80.1% for New Zealand as a whole (2001 Census). The proportion of Pacific Islanders and Asians is thus also much lower than in the rest of the city.

Socially the island is highly diverse, with the creative sector, such as artists, musicians, scientists, writers and poets, actors and eccentrics strongly represented. Around 2,000 people commute daily to Auckland for work as the career opportunities are limited on the island. The main employment sectors are horticulture (wine, olives and some livestock), tourism, construction, food services, retail and real estate.  For more information about Waiheke Island click here

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The Waiheke Museum and Historic Village

Experience a slice of Old Waiheke at the Waiheke Museum and Historic Village.

  • A reconstructed woolshed housing the Museum’s main exhibits

  • A 1930s-style island cottage that can be used as a meeting room

  • Three small bach-style houses with period rooms and photo exhibits

  • The original Waiheke jail

  • Being developed: The Taonga Heritage Gardens

  • A wool press, a whale-oil cauldron, a hand-cranked telephone network, and even a fine old long-drop toilet!

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The Museum is located at 165 Onetangi Straight, Waiheke Island, and is open from noon to 4:00 PM on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays, all year round. Entry is by donation. More here

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Images of Waiheke Island

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Looking west towards Auckland and Rangitoto Island

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Walking along Queens Drive  looking at Oneroa Bay

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Enclosure Bay, looking towards Sandy Bay

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Waiheke Island and Enclosure Bay , my family has been coming here for five generations. We have an extensive collection of images, old and new… and here I will share some of them here

More history here


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Enclosure Bay in the foreground, looking out to Gannet Rock & Thumb Point

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Looking east across Oneroa Bay, Onetangi Bay to Coromandel in the distance. The road to Mudbrick Resturant has just been formed in Church Bay. The Quickcat Ferry is just entering Mataitai Bay.

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Waiheke local, her family has been coming her for 50 years.

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If you have some old photos you would like to share, flick us an e-mail at visitwaiheke.org@gmail.com


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Waiheke is a great place to visit if you want a revitalizing break. This place has so much to offer to tourists such as breathtaking scenery, excellent accommodations, exciting activities and more. So take budget flights to New Zealand and go here now!

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