Something that I definitely didn’t appreciate as I grew up in HB was the serious abundance of wineries in the area. This was probably due to me being underage, but also because I think it is incredibly easy to neglect activities that exist in your own backyard, as they are something that will always be there. To think that my childhood home has since been converted into a winery absolutely blows my mind. A really fun day out (no matter the size of the group) is to grab some bikes and cycle your way around the wineries. Warmth, wine and cruising at your own pace; it all sounds so appealing! If you can source your own bike, great, but otherwise bikes are available for hire from On Yer Bike (approx $45/day). On Yer Bike is located at Ash Ridge Winery, which can make a good starting point (or end point) for your day. (*see bottom for something to be wary of when bringing your own bike)
I think the best winery to start your day at is Sileni Estates. With its magnificent entrance, Sileni is all things grand. It has probably one of my least favourite tasting rooms, meaning it’s good to stop here first as you’ll probably need less time here. It also logistically makes sense to start here because then it is all one-way traffic from here baby. ($5pp)
Next stop is Alpha Domus. On a great day with a large group, an outdoor tasting here is PERFECT. It has a lovely seating area and is peaceful, relaxing and an overall pleasant experience. I was a huge fan of the aviation themed wine and the story behind its namesake. ($8pp)
Virtually next door lies Abbey Cellars Winery aka my childhood home. Oh, the nostalgia! We (my family) used to breed horses here but over time all the surrounding properties turned from farm land to vineyards – eventually my family did the same. This place is my favourite for lazy Sunday afternoons, as its picnic areas (and reasonably priced pizza + platters) are excellent and there is usually live music as entertainment. It is also great for the lads too; the Fat Monkey Brewing Co onsite means that beer tasting options are available – and are darn tasty! ($15 for 4 tastings of beer or wine)
On yer bikes now for a bit of a cycle. Along Maraekakaho Road towards the aerodrome and a sharp left onto Ngatarawa Road, Oak Estate is about a 20-minute cycle from Abbey. This is by far the biggest cycle of the day. Again, a lovely outdoor seating area makes this stop a sweet one, although it is a bit smaller than some of the others. I am less attached to Oak Estate so if you are going to drop one I would suggest that this is possibly the one to miss. ($5)
Te Awa Estate is my favourite place for learning about the wine as everyone there seems particularly informed. A pleasant interior for tasting, Te Awa is owned by the outfit behind Kidnapper Cliffs and Left Field, which explains why the quality of their wine is so outstanding. It is just down the road from On Yer Bikes so it is a convenient way to start winding up the day (if you need to return your bicycle).
Last but not least, Trinity Hill. Definitely the most family friendly of any of the above-mentioned wineries; it has a massive lawn which lends itself to some terrific games of backyard cricket and giant jenga. In summer, food trucks and live music are usually present, making it a common one-stop shop for those wanting a relaxed afternoon spot, or for those who have been cycling up a storm, a great spot to take a well-deserved rest.
All in all, a great day out! Shuttles can be organised in advance if you don’t have a sober drive. I haven’t included every single winery in this list, rather just a few of my favourites!
*Part of the hire fee for On Yer Bike supposedly goes towards a permit they have to enable biking over private land. When we brought our own bikes, they (quite rudely) charged us $10. Although the path across the private land was undeniably beautiful, next time I would definitely opt to be dropped off at Sileni (or the first winery) with my bike and just pocket the cash!