Imagine a place where the sun shines on plump vines, where every hill crest reveals a new view more perfect than the last, where the barley grass sways in the sunset and every third building is a tasting shed imploring you to get gently trashed? Well that place is Waiheke.
It’s a wondrous place: part ‘knotted hankie’ seaside fun, part Napa sophistication. Being only 35 minutes by ferry from Auckland, it’s North Island’s very own Hamptons and certainly there’s evidence would-be Gwynnies are most at home here. But while there’s kombucha on tap in Oneroa village, it’s dirt cheap and made round the corner. This isn’t a chichi magazine spread of an island, but a pretty, down-to-earth kind of paradise.
There’s lots and lots to see and do (You and Me! Me and You!) but for the kids, Waiheke has been a chance to say NO WAY JOSÉ to sightseeing for a couple of precious weeks. Poor sods have been hoiked up hills and round temples for months now and they’ve only gone full postal a couple of times. A week. This is the BACKLASH: the boys have spent the vast majority of our time here completely starkers.
And what a landscape to romp through in the buff. Although magnificent, there’s a cosiness to Waiheke that means you feel curiously … at home. At a glance, you could be in Cornwall, but zoom in a bit and you’re in the tropics: English lawn abuts beds of hibiscus, pine and fir shade crops of cactus. Box hedging gives way to marram grass then craggy cliffs and endless curves of brilliant blue. I’m in serious danger of losing my mind here.
And everywhere, the vines. On Waiheke, it all comes back to the WINE. Vineyards are like mini-festivals, with bean bags under the trees, music and food stalls. Famous Waiheke winery ‘Man of War’ does it’s tastings pretty much on the beach. You see? Heaven.
Waihekans take their quaffing so seriously, this house even has a post-bender chairlift. Now that’s what I call commitment to the local economy.
As for us, I’m not going to lie: wine has been drunk. Christmas Day was like a fizz-off: I think four bottles disappeared between being shaken awake at 6am and slouching to Beddington at 10pm. And that was just the kids.
Somewhere in that space of time I managed to perform my traditional ritual of reducing an entire pannetone to charcoal (seriously, NASA should look into this stuff, it’s the most flammable substance on earth), as well as roast a disappointing turkey (probably also quite a disappointed turkey, in the circumstances) and it’s usual accompaniments (farty veg and once-a-year sauce). Nigella need not fear for her job. But Christmas 2017 was delivered, with a reasonable amount of ease. And the kids, all the while, have played their arses off.