My first thought when putting together new experience tours is what, where, how and when! Logistics and movement of people is never a straightforward task, so making an experience feel tranquil and serene whilst I run around like a hen that has lost it's chicks, is something that I work hard to avoid.
Waiheke Island with it's unique and diverse bush and beaches, wineries, olive oil as well as a climate often a couple of degrees warmer than Auckland City, has for many a year attracted thousands of visitors from internationals and those who live in New Zealand - yes it's that good, that we residents want to go there often too!
But I knew Waiheke Island held a secret not many know about... Julie Biuso lives there!
Sssshhhh... Julie is one of New Zealand’s best known and respected food personalities, with 16 cookbooks to her name, numerous appearances at food shows, on radio and TV and more than 30 years as a popular magazine food editor and she contacted me asking if we could work together.
I was really thrilled... Julie has her Waiheke Island pad there and I just felt she could bring together the smells and tastes of the island as she lives and breathes it every day.
So I set about exploring and tasting and measuring and checking and visiting and talking and sailing and flying - you get the idea, yes?
The sun opened a glorious day of blue and as one of our Land Rovers slid quietly into the vehicle ferry, I hugged a coffee and dreamed of Waiheke Island peace for a day - leaving the city behind. No emails, no texts just hanging out with Julie for a day!
First stop - meet the bakers who work hard to produce Waiheke Island bread fresh each day. A tiny bakery with a view to die for surrounded by home grown herbs and vegetables... it was a spectacular spot feeling the sun on my face as we drank coffee and I thought how it would feel for my clients.
Then we drove around the island visiting various Waiheke wineries... Poderi Crisci was my personal favourite as I love Italy so much, but to see what Antonio has achieved building a little of Italy on Waiheke combining it with the unique Waiheke Island flavours and whose wines are made to suit his menus not to satisfy a commercial market, mean the perfect taste combination when I take my own clients there privately.
Te Motu had the nicest red I have tasted in quite some time. Vines ripened in the Waiheke sun gave this vintage the glow of red Christmases in my mouth with blackberries bursting in quick succession and a hint of a forest floor briar, before it went down a treat along with rabbit and pheasant compotes as a little nibble.
To discover olive oils grown on Waiheke Island along with edible flowers and herbs picked fresh, the island really does combine a mixture of the bohemian and contemporary all in one go - just how Auckland would have looked and felt years ago!
I don't like oysters - so maybe some of our guests won't either, but to stand in Te Matuku Bay Oyster's shop and see them shucked in front of you and presented fresh with a generous slice of lemon - well I had to try one. Delicious... tasting the sea and eating something as nature intended with no preservatives, plastic or a hint of 'un-natural' in sight. An experience worth having.
I've fallen in love with Waiheke Island and now having created the itinerary, the weather plans, the logistics of helicopters and sea planes, the taste, the smells, the people... well this is how we build the experience - by living it, breathing it and making it the best it can be.
Take a look at the finished Waiheke Island Tour page due to go live in July 2017.
All aboard the seaplanes for Waiheke Island - see you soon.