Waiheke Island is another place close to home (35km) I’ve been to, and around (sailing), countless times but never cycled. Bizarrely, although parks closed to cycling, I’ve ridden more at its Rangitoto & Motutapu Island neighbours thanks to the annual DUAL Charity Cycle event.
I joined Thomas and Guy on a sweltering summer day for a loop of Waiheke (TO2122-62). They were getting the ferry from Devonport so drove there to meet up. I considered riding to get the ferry from town, which stops at Devonport, but by the end of the day was glad I didn’t!
Ferry, jet skis and sad sight on the rocks.
Guy’s advice (from Fullers) to be early and get to the front of the line paid off. It was a lovely day, and the ferry was busy. Plenty of room for us all but there were quite a few bikes onboard already (from Auckland).
The harbour was very calm, we were passed by a fleet (or is ‘annoyance’ the collective term?) of Jet Skis. Appeared to be a tour as one was leading, appeared to be guiding, and they all had a similar custom colour scheme.
As the ferry approached Matiatia we were greeted by the sad sight of the Rosalie Clare. This 70-foot, Lidgard designed, sloop rigged wooden ketch had dragged anchor and ended up on the rocks and was extensively damaged. Sadly, it was not able to be recovered before another storm broke it up a few weeks later.
From the ferry (left on map below) we headed East along the Northern coast (top), then South before returning on the Southern coast as much as connecting roads allow.
Little Oneroa & Palm Beach
The road to Little Oneroa was quite busy with ferry related traffic, a van gave Thomas a much too close pass, but after that it was OK as were off the main road. The beaches were quite busy, but the size of the island means none were too crowded. I think not having a vehicle, and the bulk of the vineyards/restaurants being there, restricts lots of ferry arrivals to the Western end of the island.
We rode too, and along, Onetangi beach (below). Thomas started counting ‘Sealegs Amphibious Boats’ which rapidly became a bit of a chore because there are so many. The new Waiheke standard seems to be a multi-level mansion with at least two huge SUV/Utes and Sealegs boat on the driveway. A far cry from the cobbled together holiday batches of old.
We stopped at the East end of Onetangi (below) for a swim. The water there was shallow, mid-tide, and was a nice temperature. After I left Guy & Thomas and doubled back to get some more water, a bottle of which proved to be worth the exorbitant price paid. I was waiting on a couple of new bottle/snack bar bags as my Trance bike only has space for one bottle cage so had to refill it when could.
We headed East where the road follows the hills above Cactus Bay, Garden Cove, Owhiti Bay. The gravel and extra distance to Man ‘O War Bay, vs the other route, seemed to keep most of the vehicle traffic away. Stunning coastal views are a nice distraction on the uphill grinds.
Waiheke is hilly in a ‘none remarkably high but lots of them’ way! The gravel was good but hot and dusty conditions made me glad for the extra water. We ended up climbing about 1300m over the ~60km ride.
We passed, but didn’t go to, Stony Batter Reserve Park or its WW2 Fort and extensive underground tunnels. Named for the large boulders that litter the slopes, it was built during the Second World War as part of a top-secret defensive shield against German and Japanese attack. Up to three 9.2-inch (234mm) guns were to be installed (capable of hurling 172kg high-explosive shells up to 32km) but only two ever were and they were never used in anger.
The tunnels were open to all when I last visited, sometime in the 1980s, but now you must join a formal tour (which is helping fund their refurbishment). Back then we were walking far underground (tunnels go down over 40m) and heard sounds like some sort of horrific torture being inflicted echoing through the tunnels. Approaching lights resolved into a couple of guys riding mountain bikes with screechy brakes!
Man O’ War Bay
Our destination was Man O’ War Bay, for lunch, but on arrival squeezed through the line of beached boat tenders to have another swim. The calm shallow waters were even warmer than Onetangi but still very refreshing. I’ve only previously been here by boat and, although the carpark was full, judging by the bay and beach I think today most had arrived that way!
In damp bike gear I felt underdressed for the (quite formal looking) Vineyard Restaurant but it was booked out anyway. They had a garden 'container kitchen' doing BBQ food, Burgers & Fries which filled the gap, dining picnic style, in the shade of the trees. A couple of beers helped the rehydration and one of the waiters collecting glasses, a fellow cyclist from South America trapped by COVID travel restrictions, showed us where we could refill our bike bottles. Water sorted for the ride back.
Back via Te Matuka (McLeods) Bay, Ostend & Surfdale
There’s quite a climb out of Man ‘O War Bay which, combined with hauling all that lunch, shocked the legs back into action. Having folks breeze past on ebikes didn’t really help. Thankfully, there wasn’t much traffic on this part of the ride as although the gravel was good it is nice to be free to choose your lines.
The ridge gave spectacular views of Pakatoa (left), Rotoroa, and Ponui (right) Islands.
Once back nearer civilisation we stuck to the more direct roads, through Ostend & Surfdale, heading for the ferry. It wasn’t great riding, as there was a bit of traffic, but some parts did have (painted) bike lanes.
Oneroa drinks and home
Being too late for one sailing, and the gap to the next direct Devonport one, meant time for a drink at Oneroa. Quite a few places were on short hours, or closed, with the reduced COVID visitors and staff. Sol Bar & Cafe was open and had a magnificent view for a relaxing drink. From there it's mostly downhill to the ferry which was a bonus!
After a bit of 'ducks in the sea' watching, always looks a bit odd, it was on to the ferry for an uneventful trip home.
Disembarking at Devonport was aggravated by having to carry our bikes down the extra steep steps from top to bottom deck (what the?) before getting off the boat, thanks Fullers 360!
It was a superb, if demanding, day but I was glad to chuck the bike in the car and drive home. It would have been a long evening cycle home from the city.
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