Waiheke Island (New Zealand) is located in the Hauraki Gulf and east of North Island. The gateway to the island is Matiatia Bay with its cruise ship and ferry terminal. Port Matiatia is approx 18 km (11 mi) from the ferry terminal in Auckland. Tarahiki Island is approx 3 km (2 mi) to the east.
Waiheke Island is Hauraki's second-largest isle (after Great Barrier Island) and also the most populated - with permanent population over 9,000 plus around 3,500 residents owning second or holiday homes.
In 2015, the Australia-based travel guide Lonely Planet ranked Waiheke Island the world's 5th "best destination to visit in 2016". In 2016, the international magazine Conde Nast Traveler ranked the island 4th in its list of "30 Best Islands in the World".
The island has west-east length 19 km (12 mi), width ranging 1-10 km (0,5-6 mi), total land area 92 km2 (36 mi2), coastline length 134 km (83 mi), including sand beaches 40 km (25 mi), highest elevation point (Maunganui) 231 m (758 ft). Among the largest and most popular beaches are:
- Oneroa Beach (island's main, on the northern side of Oneroa Town) has BBQ facilities, public toilets, swing for kids.
- Little Oneroa Beach (east end of Oneroa Beach) has BBQ facilities, public toilets, kids' playground.
- Palm Beach has public toilets and showers, BBQ facilities, kids' playground.
- Little Palm Beach is a nude beach at the west end of Palm Beach.
- Blackpool Beach is popular for sea kayaking and windsurfing.
- Surfdale Beach is separated from Blackpool Beach by a peninsula with a scenic linking road. Surfdale Beach is best known for kitesurfing and has a BBQ facility and kids' playground.
- Onetangi Beach is a nude beach, where annually is held a sandcastle-building contest. BBQ and public facilities are offered free of charge.
- Cactus Bay Beach and the nearby Garden Cove are Waiheke Island's best locations for picnicking. Cactus Bay Beach is accessible only by sea (boats or kayaks).
- Shelly Beach is a rocky beach (between Oneroa and Ostend) with BBQ facilities, public WC, off-shore diving platform.
As cruise port, aaa was first included in Seabourn Cruises 2019-2020 itinerary program of the newbuild superyacht Seabourn Encore (launched 2016). The inaugural 16-day itinerary "New Zealand's Splendors" (January 6-22, 2019) was a roundtrip from Auckland to Waiheke Island, Bay of Islands, Norfolk Island, Fiordland National Park, Stewart Island, Dunedin, Akaroa, Kaikoura, Wellington, Napier, Gisborne, and Tauranga.
Waiheke Island is accessible via regularly scheduled ferries and also by air (helicopters).
- Fullers Group ferries (passenger-only) run from Downtown Auckland to Matiatia, with crossing time 40 min. SeaLink ferries provide Ro-Pax shipping (passenger, cars, wheeled freight) between Half Moon Bay (East Auckland) and Kennedy Point (Waiheke), with crossing time 50-60 min. SeaLink also offers "City Service" between Kennedy Point and Wynyard Quarter (Auckland).
- Air services are provided via Waiheke Island Aerodrome (heliport and airport) serving fixed-wing planes (by Flight Hauraki) and helicopters (by different operators). The Aerodrome is island's only airport and offers regularly scheduled seaplane flights.
Waiheke Island cruise terminal
Cruise ships to Waiheke Island anchor near Matiatia Bay (at island's western end) and transport their passengers to ferry port's wharf via ship's tender boats. Smaller-sized ships and ferries berth directly at the wharf.