The Waiheke Sculpture on the Gulf walk

I’ve been meaning to walk Waiheke’s headland Sculpture on the Gulf trail for ages and finally last weekend I did. It was also the hottest day we’ve had so far this summer (of course!), but my friend had come over for the day so along we shuffled and nattered under the blazing sun and this is what we saw…

The views!

If you want views to to upload killer Instagram pics then the Sculpture Trail has it in spades. Here are just 4 of my favourite photos, but I could have filled this post for days!

Outside of this event, there are plenty of other trails and walks past lavish homes and rolling hills, so allow a couple of hours on your next visit to Waiheke to wander along one.

View from Waiheke

The sculpture!

From 250 initial proposals from artists, 34 were eventually selected. What I would have liked was a brief description from each artist as to their inspiration and meaning. Maybe artists just don’t do that lest they take away from my interpretation, but honestly some were too wacky for me yet probably had a cool story if it had been told.

So I probably need to write a small disclaimer here: I don’t really understand “modern” art. Wacky art. The Emperor is wearing no clothes kind of art. Don’t get me wrong, there are several stunning pieces here – and they’re all for sale. But some? Welllll, I’ll let you decide whether you want to fork out a cool $20K…

Sculpture on the Gulf

I did like this one. Like fish hanging on lines to dry with carved tuis on each post

This installment was weird! Buried gemstone, it was called. Bricks by any other name! And it could be yours for $21,000


I loved these flying birds catching the light. I understood that!

headland sculpture on the gulf

This was cool too. Phantom Fleet made from marine grade stainless steel. Three waka hanging in the gnarly pohutukawa tree and all for sale for around $50K each.

Waiheke sculpture walk

Nope sorry. Didn’t get what this hose reel was about. We did wonder how the artist would recreate it exactly for the buyer too!

Waiheke sculpture trail

I’m sure this had a good meaning. Some kind of totem, but it was lost on me.

Waiheke scultpure walk

This was a close call with the bricks as to wackiness. Sorry. What? Why? Who would?

The coloured panels are called 12 Intervals and made of plywood. This could be yours for $26,000

Waiheke headland walk

I liked this one too.

These are just some of the amazing and weird installations and you have from January 27 to February 19, 2017 to see them.

For more info including buying your ticket for $10 (however they call it a donation) with your ferry pass, click onto headland Sculpture on the Gulf website >>

A taste of luxury on Waiheke Island




A visit to Auckland is best done accompanied by a glass of the local nectar and if time is precious, then a day on Waiheke Island is the place to do it!

The sparkling Hauraki Gulf is dotted with islands and the largest is Waiheke, inhabited by 8000 people and home to 20 wineries that roll gently over its lush green hills. It takes about 30 minutes by ferry from downtown Auckland to Matiatia where a bus, taxi or even car and scooter rentals are your ride into Oneroa, the tiny heart of the island about two kilometres from the ferry terminal.

Here you’ll find cafes with tables spilling outside to drink in the views of the many bays and beaches that surround the island. Boutiques, homeware and souvenir stores vie for attention alongside antique shops and a small grocery store.

Browse along the main street, sit down for a flat white coffee and plan your wine tasting day, because the options are plentiful. Or better yet, book a bach (local holiday home) make a weekend of it.

This is worth driving over a dirt road for!

Five wineries to visit…

Man O War Bay

If you have a car then a trip out to Man O War Bay should be on your list. It’s about a 30-minute drive across the island, bumping over dirt roads and hills affording stunning ocean views, to a private bay where boaties pull up in summer to drink the famous wines and nibble on the equally famous lunch platters.

Don’t expect a full restaurant with tables covered in cloth, instead it’s a casual affair for friends and families to make their selections at the cellar door, then sit at an outside table under an umbrella while the kids play cricket on the lawn and when the tide is in, they can swim.

Passage Rock

Another family-friendly winery, Passage Rock knows how to keep the children entertained so the adults can get on with the serious business of wine tasting. The wood fired pizza oven will keep everyone happy and while the kids are bouncing on the trampoline or in the sandpit, you can sit back at an indoor or outdoor table among the vines and enjoy the day.

Their reserve Syrah is the most awarded wine on Waiheke with 18 gold medals and six trophies. The bistro is open only on weekends in winter.

Mudbrick Vineyard

Mudbrick’s exquisite gardens have been nurtured for 25 years and are the first wow that ensures visitors get their cameras out. Herbs and edible flowers mingle with cleansing teas and a formal design that draws you up from the car park. The restaurant offers local New Zealand flavours and stunning views, but for a more casual experience, the bistro, next to the cellar door and gift shop, spills outside onto the gravel path and is great on a fine day picking at small plates and trying their wines.

Cable Bay Vineyards

Located a stone’s throw from Mudbrick, visitors to Waiheke for just a day often choose these two. The energetic can even walk from Oneroa, about twenty minutes away (or two minutes by car).

Relax under the white canopies on the veranda with groovy lounge music and a bottle of Rose, or sink into a beanbag on the huge lawn that rolls down into the view of Auckland city. For something really special, book for lunch or dinner in The Dining Room. They also often have live music and events inside and outside in their sculpture garden.

Te Whau Vineyard

The drive along the peninsula to this winery is part of the enticement for coming out here. The restaurant and cellar door look down over Waiheke’s Kennedy Point or across the Hauraki Gulf back to Auckland, for spectacular 360-degree views. This is a small family-run winery with a big reputation for Chardonnay (which you can only buy in their restaurant) and a Bordeaux-style Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot called The Point.



Getting here

Take the 35-minute ferry from downtown Auckland to Waiheke.

Cost NZ$36 return per adult, $18 per child, $98 family.



Man O' War has a large lawn, picnic tables, and platters to die for. Photo / Megan Singleton
Man O’ War has a large lawn, picnic tables, and platters to die for. 

This post first appeared in Mabuhay Magazine for Philippines Airlines


A perfect weekend on Waiheke Island

And so it was that myself and six family members found ourselves on the car ferry gently chugging from Auckland’s Half Moon Bay to Waiheke’s Kennedy Point for a weekend of frivolity and hilarity. Sans children.

Nicknamed Waibiza for our quick cousinly vacay, we drove ten minutes to our bach. Now I must stop right here. When I say bach, I do not mean like the one my grandparents had at Te Awanga on quite possibly the roughest beach in Hawkes Bay. When I was a kid the sand was long and wide. Today the bach is hanging there by the skin of its piles having been smashed by waves several times over the ensuing decades. There is no longer any sand and it’s only a matter of time before the current owners (who bought it for $1000) will abandon it.

No indeed. We had booked Waiheke White House, which sounds either like an official residence or one that has poles in the lounge. Neither are correct.

White House Waiheke
The deck handily doubles as the coffee and paper spot in the morning and wine and cheese at 5pm

This place is plush and huge. It’s a two-story home with decks all around to capture the sun any time of day. It has two living rooms, two bathrooms, a dining area off the new kitchen and sleeps eight. Three double bedrooms open out onto the aforementioned decks where various members of our party were gathered for functions like newspaper reading or coffee drinking.

Upstairs the living room has a daybed that is actually a king-single bed in disguise with a trundler bed underneath for making into a king for an eighth person.

Two bottles of wine from a local vineyard were waiting for us, plus a pot of Waiheke honey and a little bag of coffee. I was in my happy place.

What’s nearby?

Turn right out of the gate and in two minutes you’re wandering down the path to Little Oneroa Beach. This tiny bay has a children’s playground, a dairy and the owner makes a fine flat white. Next to them is a fish and chip shop – which does a mean wonton! Then on the beach front each night a mobile pizza oven pulls up to make delicious kebabs and pizzas to eat right there or take back home.

Within ten minutes walk is the main township of Oneroa that bulges with cafes, restaurants and shops along the main street. Plenty of brunch options abound.

Which wineries to visit on Waiheke?

We visited five wineries over the weekend and these three I would recommend taking some time to stop in at for a while:

Man O War Waiheke
The cottage at Man O War Vineyard

Man O War
Located at the far end of the island and reached by about 30 minutes on a dirt road – or you could just bring your boat – this is a hike to get to, but worth it. I had heard great things about their platters, so we ordered about five for the table, some cheese and some with meat. Both outstanding.

I love Man O War’s sauvignon blanc, so happily quaffed that while shooting the breeze, although not literally as we were sitting in a marquee with roll down blinds to protect us from that effect. Tables were dotted on the lawn with fellow imbibers under umbrellas and kids played cricket at one side of the lawn as the low tide sat about twenty metres away. Perfect.

Waiheke winery
The famous and scrumptious platters!

Cable Bay Vineyards
Even since last summer a lot has changed at this winery that is the closest to Oneroa – in fact about two kilometres away, so an easy stroll from the shops.

They still have their fine dining restaurant, but there’s a new tasting room which has allowed for the former tasting room to become a more casual dining option. Then out from that they have built the Verandah – a sunken outdoor dining area under huge white canopies. Bean bags are dotted on the lawn that stretches into the view of Auckland city and a new pizza oven accompanied by groovy lounge music means it’s easy to while away an afternoon here.

Cable Bay Waiheke
It’s very easy to stay until after the sun goes down here!

Mudbrick Vineyard
Set above a formal garden that will have any green fingers in your party twirling in circles, this has a lovely Italian feel. A styly dining room with white cloths is sought after for the multitude of nuptials held here, but walk along the gravel path to the tasting room and choose a flight from $10.

We decided not to queue up behind the tasting tour bus that had pulled in ahead of us, so pulled up enough outdoor chairs and ordered by the glass to enjoy drinking in the view with our splash.

How about a wine tasting tour by helicopter? This left Mudbrick and landed on the other side of the trees at Cable Bay!

 How to get around on Waiheke

If you don’t take your car (at $160 without passengers) there are a few options on Waiheke for getting around:

Rent scooters or a car, book a wine tasting tour bus to hop you around several wineries without the need for one of your party to remain sober, or taxi.

Budding photography at Auckland Zoo

I had a great day taking the God children to Auckland Zoo and the 10-year old was armed with a camera and ready to shoot.

I hadn’t been in years and was most impressed, diving between thunderstorms and the blindingly hot sun.

We fed the giraffe, held a tuatara, watched the alligators and otters being fed and fell in love with the one-week old baby baboon.

Here’s our day out at Auckland Zoo in pictures…

Zabulu giraffe Auckland zoo
Zabulu the king of the giraffe/zebra/ostrich/springbok enclosure waits patiently with his zookeeper for feeding time
Auckland giraffe Zabulu
My little charge James feeds a carrot to Zabulu. Check out the tongue!
Auckland zoo rhinoceros
Fortunately this rhino turned around and stopped his spraying for this pic. He could be Zambezi or one of his two sons Inkosi and Mtoto.
Auckland Zoo baboon baby
We fell in love with this week-old baboon whose mother kept him close by dragging him around by the tail. He’s very active!
Auckland Zoo baboons
This baboon kid gets to pick the nits out of his mother’s back. Mmmmm.
Ring tailed lemur Auckland zoo
“You whistled?” A great technique for getting an animal to look at you for a photo.
Auckland Zoo Galapagos
This is Smiley, the Galapagos turtle. He’s 40 years old and is loving having his back scratched by his keeper.
Auckland zoo Galapagos
An upside-down smile more like!
Auckland Zoo alligator feeding
Feeding time in the alligator fortress. Look how many zookeepers are involved to feed this lively lot.
Auckland Zoo alligator
Mmmm chicken carcass, as she slithers back into her river…
Auckland zoo otter
This cute little otter stands up to beg for lunch
Auckland Zoo meercats
And so does the meerkat but he’s on the look out. And yes, the meerkat domes for kids to peek through are still here!
Auckland zoo monkeys
One of the 16 spider monkeys that leap through the trees in the Rainforest. With very little fencing I don’t know how they don’t jump out!
Auckland zoo Te Wao Nui
The entrance to Te Wao Nui, the new New Zealand section with 6 habitats: coast, islands, wetlands, night time, forest and high country. Pic by James Stephens
Auckland Zoo tuatara
Kate and James Stephens get a behind the scenes experience with Tipua the tuatara
Auckland Zoo tuatara
Tipua was bred here to join the educational program. Her species is overbred, so she won’t breed herself. Instead she happily sits in the arms of adoring visitors who get to feel her lace-like skin and teeny fingernails
Auckland Zoo penguins
These little blue penguins take shelter under a row boat in their habitat
Auckland Zoo kea
This is probably New Zealand’s cheekiest bird. The kea loves to rip wind screen wipers off cars and will take off with your stuff if you don’t watch out!
Auckland zoo kidzone
James and Kate still have energy to burn after 5 hours of walking the zoo! And when your feet have had enough but the kids are still on fire, the Kidzone is a great respite. It’s full of domestic pets (including pigs and chickens) too

These are just a selection of my best pics, but there’s still Burma the elephant (who was indoors having some work done on her feet), lions, tigers, hippos (who stayed under water so were a bit hard to photograph), the hilarious orangutan hiding under their sheets and sacks, kiwi, bats and morepork furrowing around in their dark habitat and that’s not mention the spooky tarantulas and a few more besides.

We spent five hours here, had lunch in one of the cafes and ran out of stamina to see it all.

If I were you, I’d plan to spend the whole day at Auckland Zoo!

Click here for the Auckland Zoo website>>


An afternoon at Riverhead Pub

Whether you’ve got your own boat and want to brave the tides, you take a ferry from downtown Auckland, and cruise the upper Waitemata harbour, past the Chelsea Sugar Factory, Kauri Point, Hobsonville Airbase, Herald Island, the Poremoremo inlet and Huapai Golf Course to the Riverhead Pub, or just drive, it’s a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Auckland harbour bridge
Tootling past Westhaven Marina and under the Harbour Bridge

If you don’t have your own boat, book a ferry with The Red Boats or the Riverhead Ferry which depart from downtown Auckland.

Chelsea sugar works
It was a bit lumpy out here so my pic is not that clear!

Meanwhile, I travelled in convoy from the Outboard Boating Club in Orakei on their family day out with my cousin and her family, and 166 more of us. Although some took their cars, which in hindsight was a great idea as the wind and swells really got up!

Cruising past the Hobsonville Airbase around Herald Island

After about an hour and 3/4 we see the Riverhead jetty where we waited our turn to stop and clamber out while our skipper went off and anchored in the muddy water and waited for the tender to pick him up

Riverhead jetty
The Red Boat is docked out front

Riverhead jetty signRiverhead boats moored

Riverhead smokey bbq
It’s BBQ time! On sunny Sunday’s the Riverhead can do 2000 covers.
Riverhead bbq guy
It’s non stop sizzling – except for a quick photo

Live music starts at 2pm on Sundays at the Riverhead Pub which is one of the coolest places to spend an afternoon. In 2010 new owners Stephen and Paula bought the pub which was in receivership and frequented by a rather shady clientele. They had been sailing the world for 9 years in a boat they had built themselves before becoming landlubbers. It’s been such a successful venture, they haven’t had time to look back!

Riverhead entrance
If you come by car (or hog) this is the pub entrance
Riverhead pub
There are several bars, nooks of restaurants, outdoor seating – it’s huge!

The Riverhead is the 2nd pub in New Zealand to have applied for a liquor license and Stephen and Paula have done a ton of research and printed out century-old newspaper articles mentioning the pub and its sometimes dodgy past!

Riverhead pub martini
Andy whips up a chocolate martini with a flirty smile

Quirky decor and historic documents as art adorn the walls providing an insight into this pub’s skulduggerous history

Riverhead pub
This boar watches over one of the dining rooms
Gardens sprawl all the way down the water – and kids are discouraged from playing in them!

We set off just on high tide where the upper harbour was nice and calm. It was a different story heading into the wider harbour with an extreme wind warning in force, swells and gusts of up to 40 knots!

Riverhead Red Boat
Home time

Next time we have visitors from out of town, we’ll be bringing them here for sure.

Go west!

It had been a year since my cousin an bestie, Kate, visited me in Auckland, so to celebrate the auspicious occasion we decided to go somewhere we hadn’t been before. Out west.

Ara station balcony
The view from our balcony at Ara Station over the sand dunes

Auckland’s wild west coast is a bit of an undiscovered gem. Well to me at least. It’s spacious and rugged. The sand is volcanic black and the Tasman sea washes the dog prints and horse hooves away as surfers armed with their boards make their silent way out to the breaks.

Bethells Beach horses

Bethells Beach surfer

Bethells Beach surf lesson
Ready for a surf lesson on the beach?

It’s September, barely spring and the rain was falling intermittently as we set off towards the view from our window for a walk along the beach as the tuis sang of their love for the kowhai trees.

Bethells Beach tuis
There are more tuis out here than in a brewery!
Bethells Beach river
The river that we can see from Ara Station winds its way down here
Bethells Beach
Take a left and wander down to this cave – before the tide comes in!
West Auckland
Mist, boulders, waves and sand. You’ll blow the cobwebs away out here!

Where to stay at Bethells Beach

Ara Station stands halfway up the bush-covered hill facing the sea at the end of the silver slither of river that runs past the road below.

I must admit we cheated and took the car as far as we could, but if we’d felt so inclined, or the weather was more reliable, we could have walked across the Lake Wainamu sand dunes draped towards the east and running down to the beach.

Ara Station Bethells
The timber is all ecologically sourced. Lovely to flop on a couch and listen to vinyl on the old-fashioned turntable.

It has a rustic farmhouse feel, Ara Station. Named for its position on the Hillary Trail, this is a great spot for walkers and hikers – or those like us who just fancy hunkering down in front of a roaring fire out in the wops. Ara means a traditional Maori pathway and the ‘station’ denotes the style this timber house is built to replicate: an old railway station.

Ara Bethells Beach
Pick a spot and curl up with a book

If you have the run of the place, there is one huge master bedroom upstairs with a bathroom and large living/dining room with a balcony edged in party lights to signify a good night. Or when the owner is in residence (she was in Spain when we stayed, as you do!) you can take the ground floor and she’ll provide breakfast.

Ara Station shower floor
I love this tiled shower floor!

Downstairs there are 3 double rooms and another bathroom. About $400-$450 a night gets you the whole place.

Tip: You can’t buy wine from supermarkets out west, so a separate stop at a bottle store is required. Or do what we did and stock up with happy hour nibbles, dinner ingredients and wine before you hit the motorway.

I reckon this would be a great place for a group of friends who want a week far from the madding crowd, and in summer the burger caravan is open at the bottom of the road which sounds like such fun!

Auckland Night Market

I’d seen the billboard advertising the Auckland Night Market at Pakuranga on my way to and from work for weeks now and keep meaning to pop along. It happens in seven locations, seven nights a week and on a Saturday night it’s under The Warehouse at the Pakuranga shopping centre.

Auckland night market
Mmm, dinner!

With The Bloke away and me enjoying a sunny Saturday pottering about, my big outing was a visit to said market. And I wasn’t disappointed. They’re open from 5.30pm till midnight every Saturday, rain or shine because they’re under cover.

Not sure what Bunch of Mutton is…

Since I first wrote this post in March 2011, the market has quadrupled in size.

Come hungry because you’ll find all sorts of food sizzling away from Malaysian satay to Pad Thai noodles to dumplings, Hangi pies, steamed pork buns, curry and plenty of sweets in the form of churros, donuts and even a cupcake stall.

There were a couple of stalls selling antiques (read second-hand), some cheapie jewellery stalls (which will be perfect when I bring my 8-year old god-daughter here for her birthday treat). Artists painted kids names to be framed, and kids $2-shop style toys make it fun to bring the kids with a bit of pocket money. People were selling soaps, others socks and pantyhose. A candyfloss man was making floss on a stick bigger than a kids’ head, the Avon lady was there and so was The Coffee Guy. There are clothes for sale and fresh fruit and vegies. A sound system was being set up which I presume was for some markety tunes, but I’d had my fill by the time he got it all plugged in.

Auckland Night Market
An octopus anyone?

I bought The Bloke a battery powered fly swat from a stall selling toys and electronic games, and I’ll be grateful not to consume any more giant puffs of Raid every time a fly enters his personal space.

Oh and I also bought a bag of fantastic seasoned salt mixed with smoked garlic and chilli which will go just grand on roast chook, barbecued salmon or as a dip with bread and oil. In fact this was the purchase of the night and I am now an internet purchaser of the stuff.

If you’re in the area, pop in one Saturday, The Auckland Night Market, Westfield, Pakuranga Plaza, Auckland.