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We tend to procrastinate. We tend to procrastinate, a lot. We procrastinate to such a degree that we will be five minutes from checkout at our hostel and still not have a bed to sleep in for the night. Such was the dilemma we found ourselves in, as we were frantically jamming our last remaining coins into the machine that runs the internet at our hostel – internet in New Zealand, a nightmare I will reserve for another day.

Our search for any hostel in Auckland, no matter the quality, was proving unsuccessful. Apparently, there was a cricket match and sailing race going on in the city and all reasonably priced rooms were already booked. Without any luck, and without being willing to shell out $100, we expanded our search and found a room available at Hekerua Lodge on Waiheke Island. Waiheke Island is a stunning, tropical paradise, a mere 35 minute ferry ride from downtown Auckland.

Waiheke Island is the island of wine in New Zealand, with local winemakers taking advantage of the Mediterranean climate and volcanic soil structure. They have small vineyards with exceptional wine. Because the ferry from Auckland is so quick and convenient, most tourists and Kiwis alike only spend the day seeing the island. Big mistake. After spending four days on the island, we left knowing that we had only really explored a tiny bit of what Waiheke has to offer.

Don’t Miss:

1. The Headland Sculpture on the Gulf event occurs every odd numbered year in January and February. It is mind-blowing. Simply amazing. Walk along the cliffs of the coast for two hours and view 31 sculptures placed strategically along the path. Most of the sculptures are massively complex, it’s hard to fathom the number of hours that have been spent building such stunning creations.

James Bond Selfie by Chase Vreeland

2. The Ostend Market occurs each and every Saturday, rain or shine during the summer and winter. The market is a fantastic mix of food, art, music, and clothing. We wandered throughout the morning spending every penny we had brought with us to the market on healthy juices, world-renowned garlic breads, crepes and lemongrass, sweet chili hummus. The market had the feeling that it had all just been pull

We thought the day couldn’t get any better, until we stumbled into the owners of L’Authentique. These ambitious Frenchies seek to squeeze generations of French culinary tradition into mouth-watering sausages, terrines, tapenades, and rillettes. Each product is delicately, handcrafted in Auckland from free-range, happy animals. Chase and I still have dreams of the rillette, or as we call it “meat butter,” that we tasted at the market. We still aren’t quite sure what all was in it, but we did hear the words “pork bits” and “duck fat” which must be a magical combination, because it is one of the greatest things our tongues have ever tasted.

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3. Waiheke Island Walks are the perfect way to see the island by foot. The Auckland Council maintains eight incredible walks across various regions of the island. The walks range from 3km to 100km and take you high along ocean cliffs and down to secluded beaches and coves.

As we are travelers on a relatively tight budget, our favorite activities all happen to be free.  The one item we did spend our money on was a $10 “all day” bus pass that allowed us to hop on and off across the entire island. Buy a buss pass! It’s a perfect way to see the vineyards and olive groves on a budget.

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