Waiheke Island (/waɪˈhɛkiː/; Māori: [ˈwaihɛkɛ]) is the most populated and the second-largest island in the Hauraki Gulf of New Zealand. Its ferry terminal in Matiatia Bay at the western end is 21.5 km (13.4 mi) from the central-city terminal in Auckland.
Waiheke is the second-largest island in the gulf, after Great Barrier Island. It is the most populated island in the gulf, with 9,660 permanent residents. Another estimated 3,400 have second or holiday homes on the island. It is New Zealand’s most densely populated island, and the third most populated after the North and South Islands. It is the most accessible island in the gulf, with regular passenger and car-ferry services, a helicopter operator based on the island, and other air links.
In November 2015, Lonely Planet rated Waiheke Island the fifth-best region in the world to visit in 2016.
There are many scenic beaches, including:
- Oneroa Beach – The main beach, on the northern side of the town of Oneroa. It has free BBQ facilities, public toilets and a swing for children.
- Little Oneroa Beach – A small secluded beach at the east end of Oneroa Beach, separated by a protruding cliff wall. It has free BBQ facilities, public toilets and a children’s playground.
- Palm Beach – Similar in shape to Oneroa Beach (complete with protruding cliff wall at the east end that separates a small private beach in Boatshed Bay), it gets its name from the mature phoenix palms at the east end, where a public toilet and free BBQ facilities are also located. There is a children’s playground in the middle section of the beach which also has a free BBQ area, public toilets and an outdoor public shower.
- Little Palm Beach – A small clothes-optional beach at the west end of Palm Beach.
- Blackpool Beach – The south-facing counterpart of Oneroa Beach, lining Blackpool and popular for kayaking and windsurfing.
- Surfdale Beach – A zoned-in beach on the southern side of Surfdale, separated from Blackpool Beach by a small protruding peninsula, which has a scenic unsealed route called The Esplanade linking the beaches. Popular for kitesurfing. Also has a free BBQ area and children’s playground.
- Onetangi Beach – A 1.87-kilometre (1.16-mile) long, north-facing beach lining Onetangi, a Māori name meaning “weeping sands”. For many years it has been the site of the Onetangi Beach Horse Races. Its western end, often inaccessible at high tide, is clothes-optional. It has sandcastle-building contests annually; participants have a few hours to build their creations in soft sand that is free of shells and suitable for digging. Free BBQ and public facilities.
- Cactus Bay – Considered by many Waihekeans as the most perfect beach and, with nearby Garden Cove, a romantic place for picnicking. The beach is accessible only by boat or kayak, as its land access was blocked off by a private landowner.
- Shelly Beach – A small and well sheltered shell and stone beach located between Oneroa and Ostend. It has free BBQ facilities, a public toilet and a diving platform located just off shore. It is a popular choice with families as at high tide, it is often calm and flat – ideal for children (but not sandy).