In Oneroa, visit the Waiheke Community Art Gallery, 2 Korora Rd. (tel. 09/372-9907; www.waihekeartgallery.org.nz), where you'll find a wide range of works from the many resident artists and craftspeople on the island. It's open daily from 10am to 4pm. You can pick up a copy of the Waiheke Art Guide there (or at the Visitor Centre). It lists about 20 local artists, many of whom open their studios to visitors. The guide also marks the location of six large public sculptures acquired from previous Headland Sculpture on the Gulf events. Nearby is the fascinating Whittaker's Musical Museum, 2 Korora Rd. (tel. 09/372-9627; www.musical-museum.org; about NZ$12), where Lloyd and Joan Whittaker will hold you spellbound with their 90-minute live performances on a range of antique musical instruments, including organs, concertinas, pianolas, and mouth organs (Sat at 1:30pm). A screening of a recorded show is shown Sunday through Friday at 1:30pm. The museum is open daily, 1 to 4pm.
The Waiheke Island Historic Village & Museum, 165 Onetangi Rd. (tel. 09/372-7143 or 09/373-6861), is overlooked by a fortified Maori settlement site first inhabited some 700 years ago. There are old cottages with collections of furniture, books, documents, and photographs. It's open Wednesday, and weekends year-round, and daily during school holidays and in summer, from noon to 4pm. Catch the Onetangi Bus no. 1 to get there.
Be up early to experience a bit of local culture at the Ostend Market, Ostend Hall, on the corner of Ostend Road and Belgium Street (tel. 09/372-4475; www.ostendmarket.co.nz). A parade of local pottery, island-made goods, fruit and vegetables, herbal remedies, massage, plants, herbs, and more, it's held every Saturday from 8:30am to 12:30pm. On Sunday between 10am and 2pm, visit the Waiheke Island Farmers' Market at 7 Belgium St., Ostend.
Another "must" activity is a drive to the glorious Onetangi Bay - in my mind, one of the best beaches in New Zealand. Here you can swim and surf in crystal-clear water with views as far as the eye can see. If you want to feel the true spirit of freedom, take it all off at the western end of Palm Beach, a small bay used for nude swimming.
For a peek into a fabulous private garden, check out Lance and Kay Peterson's Dead Dog Bay (formerly Te Whau Garden), 31 Vintage Lane (tel. 09/372-6748; www.deaddogbayco.nz), which features a stunning combination of art and native bush. Even better is Connells Bay Sculpture Park ★★★, Cowes Bay Road (tel. 09/372-8957; www.connellsbay.co.nz), where you'll find a superb display of work by top New Zealand sculptors set into the magnificent native bush landscape. Admission is NZ$30 adults and NZ$15 children 14 and under. This outstanding guided experience is by appointment only from late October through April. If you're a real art fan you might consider their accommodations for one or two couples.
For additional, delightful walks pick up the excellent Waiheke Island Walkways brochure from the visitor center. It outlines and maps out eight great island walks.
Another fabulous way to see the island is to Drive the Loop, a 1-day self-drive tour that starts and finishes at Waiheke Auto Rentals on Matiatia Wharf. The company provides the rental vehicle and loop tour package, which includes maps with all the most interesting people and places highlighted. It takes 4 to 8 hours (65km/40 miles) to complete the loop, depending on how often you stop, and costs NZ$120 to NZ$175, depending on the vehicle category. For information, call tel. 09/372-8998 or fax 09/372-9822.
The Good Oil
Waiheke is fast becoming known for its premium extra-virgin olive oils, with some 20,000 olive trees growing on the island. Harvest season is April through May or June, and there is no better place to start sampling than Rangihoua Estate, 1 Gordons Rd., Rocky Bay (tel. 09/372-6214; www.rangihoua.co.nz). The Frantoio Room is open Monday through Saturday in January and February; otherwise, tours and tastings are held Saturdays from 11am until 4pm, or by appointment. You'll find more award-winning olive oils at Azzuro Olives, 152 Te Whau Dr. (tel. 09/372-2700; www.azzurogroves.com). Their farm shop offers olive tastings and sales, and includes fine alpaca clothing made from the alpaca herd on their property.