That morning we boarded our second boat of the trip, a ferry that would take us to the second-largest island in the Hauraki Gulf. Following instructions, we had first donned hats, suntan lotion, and sunglasses as the sunlight is strong and bright in NZ. The ride was a lot calmer than our yacht trip so we had time to get to know our fellow travelers better. We were greeted at the terminal by our Ananda Tour guide, Michael-a cheerful, spry leprechaun of a man whose ability to promote all things New Zealand was seemingly as endless as his enthusiasm for the area .
Impression: Though I haven’t met too many people here yet, I’ve been amazed at their passion for their island home. For example, when I asked two of the crew on the America’s Cup boat where they went for vacation, they stared at me as if I had two heads and Jesse said “Why would we go anywhere else? It’s all here.”
Our first stop was Rangihoua, olive growers and producers of extra virgin olive oil. After a brief tour and tasting we saw a short video which answered many of our questions. Judie and I liked the Waiheke olive oil best but what we bought was this fabulous herb spread that was reputed to have been made using every herb in their garden. We agreed to serve it sitting by the lake this summer to rekindle our memories of the trip!
When I asked what they do with the olive paste left after a pressing, it turns out they feed it to the cows on the neighboring farm who the Rangihoua staff claim “have the glossiest coats and longest eyelashes of any cows on the island!”
Next up was Batch Winery (Thomas Estate Vineyard) with a lovely, friendly tasting room and a view to rival any winery’s in America. Our tasting guide basically served us the wines in the way we’d drink them if we started in the morning and didn’t finish until it was dark outside. Which none of us minded in the least. Though they were all good, the champagne was particularly delectable so we bought a bottle to toast each other with on our last day in New Zealand. The Syrah served at the end was also worth mentioning.
Lunch was at Stonyridge Vineyard where we had (surprise!) another wine tasting under trellises while grazing from large and gorgeous plates overflowing with seafood and charcuterie. The beautiful weather and abundance of wine early in the day caused some confusion however, and somehow our table agreed to pay extra to taste a $500 bottle of red wine. Quite honestly at that point we couldn’t tell the difference!
Michael then drove us up to see a picture-perfect view of the harbour. There he gave us a yet another reason to return in 2021-not that we needed much of an excuse! Every two years there is a juried sculpture exhibit on Waiheke Trail which artists from all over the world vie to be included on.
Some of us chose to walk down the hill to the return ferry where we bid goodbye to Michael then headed back to the hotel. Dinner was on our own and Judie and I went to Soul-recommended by Kreig and the hotel staff. The Auckland Pride Festival, celebrating a variety of cultures and gender identities, had just concluded so there were still all sorts of people out and about and plenty of waterfront activity for us to watch from our outside table as we had one more drink. Of course, I ordered another tomato salad. It was a vacation night after all!
Sadly, my sister just had to reschedule her college reunion trip to the Virgin Islands this weekend. So-I’d like to end my post with her friend Joe’s response. “You know, the best part of any trip is the anticipation you feel ahead of time. Now we get to look forward to St. John until December!”
That’s the spirit! Onward to the South Island!