Location: Orapiu wharf: follow Orapiu Road south at junction with Cowes Bay Road; at end turn left onto Anzac Road to jetty.
Access: Car parking beside jetty
Length: ca. 4 km
Configuration: There-and-back (though loop route may be possible via un-named gravel road that runs north-east back to Orapiu Road.
Grade: Undulating with some steep sections; gravel track and informal paths.
Status: off leash
Cafes and restaurants: none nearby
More information: http://www.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/EN/parksfacilities/walkingtracks/Pages/waihekewalkseries.aspx
The eastern half of Waiheke Island is a lovely place: largely uninhabited, rolling pasture and valleys edged with woodland, just one road that winds round in a broad semi-circle. Unfortunately, 4500 acres of it is owned by the Man-o'-War estate - people, one suspects, who used to live in a heavily fortified castle, and clearly continue to have a somewhat feudal attitude to the rest of the population. Almost every field carries a sign saying 'Trespassers will be prosecuted. No dogs. No camping. No fires. Have a nice day.' Well, the first four of those, anyway.
In the south-eastern corner of the island, however, there's a chance to escape briefly from all this paranoia and tyranny - along a small road that runs down the Orapiu peninsula. Follow this to the end, and turn left onto Anzac Road, and we come to a pleasant little bay with a small beach and a jetty. From here we can take a shortish, but pleasant walk around the coast to Pearl Bay.
According to Google, the route follows Hunterville Road all the way. But don't worry, Google isn't always right, and certainly isn't in this case. Sure enough, we start on a gravel road that runs up and over the first headland, into Pohutakawa Bay. After crossing a small stream, however, this continues as a narrower track (NB not the inviting set of steps up the steeper slope), which winds its way up to a picnic table, offering good views of the bay. Once over the headland, we drop down to a bollard, where we fork left onto a second small beach in Otahawhe Bay.
Here the path runs along the back of the beach, before climbing again and curving northwards. After a second easy rise it then descends gently into Pearl Bay. This functional-looking beach has a small jetty, fish-traps offshore, and usually, it seems, boats bobbing in the harbour. There are also lovely views across McLeods Bay to the peninsula opposite.
There's some suggestion that the path goes further, and offers the choice of a round walk, winding back via a gravel track onto Orapiu Road about 1 km up from our starting point - but I've not tried, so you're on your own on that one! In any case, it's a pleasant walk back, and as so often with there-and-back walks, the trip is shorter and the views are different on the return leg.