The island paradise of Waiheke has a lot to offer if you have four legs and a waggy tail, writes Vicki Angland. Some say the island is even shaped like a dog, albeit one with six legs.
Waiheke is chock full of off-lead tracks and trails, sandy beaches, freshwater streams for the thirsty or water loving – and many of the fabulous wineries are happy for tired dogs to rest under trees and tables, while their humans enjoy the hospitality.
The fun starts as soon as you disem-bark! Those with four feet travel free on the Fullers360 ferry. There is a selection of off-road options for walking from the ferry at Matiatia to the village of Oneroa. The village itself caters to dogs with water bowls lovingly topped up with Waiheke Island sky juice (rainwater) and expect to be stopped on the main street while your best bud gets pats and belly rubs along the way.
The Waiheke Island bus company will let dogs and humans on the bus. Of course, this is at the driver’s discretion, and you’ll need to be on your best behaviour! Waiheke has very generous dog rules for the beaches, too.
The main beaches of Oneroa, Palm Beach and Onetangi are dog friendly and off-lead all the time from 2 March until 30 November, then over summer they are off-lead before 10am and after 5pm.
Three of the island’s beaches are off-lead year-round, including Owhanake Bay, the western part of Surfdale Beach and Anzac Reserve in Ostend.
If you’re venturing over for the day, or for a few days, you can find some favourite dog walking tracks and trails at walkwaiheke.co.nz. The website is an encyclopedia of walking on Waiheke and each walk is graded out of 10. Grade 1-2 is gentle walking, while grade 9-10 is tricky tracks and conditions, steep, muddy and prolonged steep hill sections where rope-assisted hill climbs or descents may be required. The website gives directions, maps and duration times.
The Waiheke Walking Trust, a charitable trust that exists to showcase Waiheke Island as a walking destination, runs the website. The trustees all love walking and are passionate about sharing their favourite walks with others. In return, they ask both two-legged and four-legged visitors to look after the environment and help keep Waiheke kauri dieback disease free.
Whakanewha Regional Park
On the southern coast in the centre of the island is the beautiful Whakanewha. Apart from the beach areas, which are inhabited by seabirds and shorebirds including our rare and very sweet dotterel, which we need to stay well away from, the rest of the park is shady stunning bush tracks, streams with dog-only swimming holes and soft mossy resting spots.
The bush is alive with flora, including supple jack, epiphytes, giant tree ferns and rata vine, and full of birds flitting through the trees above. Tūī, pīwakawaka (fantails), kererū (wood pigeons) and kōtare (kingfisher) may be seen in the bush.
The walk is 4.3 kilometres and takes about an hour, depending on how many sticks are thrown and retrieved.
Matiatia to Oneroa village, via Mokemoke Pā site and Owhanake Bay
This stunning coastal path takes the scenic route from Matiatia around the coast to Cable Bay (not the winery) and Owhanake Bay, and on to Oneroa village. The track passes the historic Mokemoke Pā site along with multimillion-dollar homes dotted around the coast, and dips in and out of tranquil unpopulated coves and bays.
The track is mostly a narrow dirt track, some grassy sections, with lots of ups and downs, and many steps, but every step is worth the spectacular views, out to Rangitoto and Motutapu, and beyond into the Hauraki Gulf. You need to be on-lead for parts of this walk but getting to the bays, especially Owhanake, is worth every impatient pull of the collar. Owhanake is a shingle beach and grassy reserve where our doggy friends can go wild.
The walk is 5.5 kilometres and will take about two hours but allow longer if you love to swim and refuse to get out of the ocean!
Te Toki Dog Park
This fabulous reserve at 12 Wilma Road is where all the locals come to meet up with their pooch pals. The whole area is off-lead 24/7 and includes grassy fields and outer tracks which wind through shady native bush. Your dog will run through uniquely beautiful wetlands, impressive 600-year-old pohutukawa, as well as frolicking through the long grass while you get to walk on mown tracks.
The loop track is about 3.5 kilometres and would take 1 hour, but maybe longer if your dog likes to make new friends and play around.