Grading, Safety, Kauri Dieback & FAQs

Beautiful Waiheke is hilly and very steep in places. Most walks during the Festival will have a lot of up and down and there will often be steps. Please be mindful of this when you are considering which walks you will register for.

How We Grade Our Walks

Each walk has been graded out of ten. The grading reflects the type of terrain and walking surfaces you can expect. It is easy to overestimate fitness levels, particularly if you are not used to track walking and hills. Did we mention the hills on Waiheke?

We err on the side of caution with descriptions and finishing times for walks.


  • Grade 1-2
    These walks will be short and flat, think gentle beach or footpath walking.
  • Grade 3-4
    Usually road or very well formed track, may have some narrow or muddy stretches.
  • Grade 5-6
    Off-road walking track, possibly narrow or muddy stretches and steep sections.
  • Grade 7-8
    Mostly unformed route or tracks that are tricky underfoot, prolonged steep hills – but well worth the effort.
  • Grade 9 - 10
    More of the above! Maybe a rope-assisted hill climb. Maybe some bush bashing.
Track Icons
  • Loop Walk
  • One Way Walk
  • Stairs
  • Private Land
  • Food & Wine
  • Self Drive
  • Public Bus
  • Charter Bus
  • Parking
  • Event
  • No Dogs
Keep Kauri Standing

The Waiheke Walking Festival supports ‘Keep Kauri Standing’.           

What is it?
Kauri Dieback (KDD) is a fungus-like disease that is specific to kauri and kills trees of all ages and sizes. It is spread mainly through soil movement on equipment such as footwear, machinery and mountain bikes.

The spores are truly tiny (10,000 to a pinhead by size), can remain viable for up to 10 years without a host, and anything that touches the ground can carry them. So it is critical that all equipment on each walk, including boots and walking poles are cleaned thoroughly every time they are used.

What happens to kauri?
The microscopic spores in the soil can infect kauri and damage the tissues that carry nutrients within the tree. Infected trees show a range of symptoms including yellowing of foliage, loss of leaves, dead branches and lesions that bleed gum at the base of the trunk. Infected trees may have no symptoms.

This disease is currently incurable.

Nearly all infected kauri eventually die.

Why is it so important?
Without action to control the spread of this disease, we may lose the kauri forest ecosystem for good. Kauri trees are national icons for all New Zealanders and important for our eco-tourism. They are taonga (treasure) of great significance to Māori. Entire ecosystems depend on this significant species.

Where is it?
Kauri dieback has been found around the Auckland region, on the Coromandel Peninsula and Great Barrier Island and in Northland forests. It is currently undetected on Waiheke Island, however infected kauri can remain non-symptomatic for long periods after contracting kauri dieback, so all kauri need to be treated as though they could be infected.

The Waiheke Walking Festival and our Kauri dieback prevention efforts

We urge all walkers to arrive on Waiheke, with all walking equipment completely soil free. This is how we will stop infected material coming to Waiheke from contaminated areas like the Waitakere Ranges. This material could remain viable for many years, even if it is spread to a footpath or ferry terminal etc.  In addition, our volunteers will scrub and disinfectant spray all walkers’ shoes at the start and finish of every walk during the Festival. All walking shoes & poles will be brushed, then sprayed with a solution called Sterigene. Sterigene is a non-toxic, biodegradable solution – a veterinary grade disinfectant.

What you can do to help

Please ensure your footwear, poles (and paws!) are thoroughly cleaned before arriving on Waiheke Island. There are cleaning stations at Pier 2 at the downtown wharf, and at Half Moon Bay and Wynyard Wharf.  Please support our volunteers and the Waiheke Walking Festival in our efforts to help keep Kauri dieback off our beautiful Island by helping us with the process to brush and spray your walking shoes/boots before and after each walk. Note that it is a requirement for us to do this, even if you have already cleaned your shoes prior to arriving on Waiheke.


The Waiheke Walking Trust takes the health and safety of Waiheke Walking Festival attendees, our guides and our volunteers very seriously. We have strict training and operational procedures in place and it is essential that you follow the instructions of your guides and volunteers at all times.

Please read carefully the requirements for each walk.

We recommend you have the following on every walk:

  • Sufficient water for the duration of the walk plus a bit extra
  • Sunhat
  • Sunscreen
  • Comfortable and practical shoes for the terrain
  • Any emergency medication you may require for pre-existing conditions
    (eg: inhalers, epi pens)

You will be required to sign our Walk Manifest on the day of the walk to show that you have read and understood our Health Safety Welfare & Environmental Declaration document prior to each walk where any relevant medical conditions must be disclosed and discussed with the lead volunteer. See below for our Health Safety Welfare & Environmental Declaration.

The Waiheke Walking Festival organisers have the right to refuse any person registered for the walk the opportunity to participate if they feel you are not suitably prepared or your health status suggests you may put yourself or the wider group at unnecessary risk. We thank you for your understanding with this.

Children must be accompanied by an adult. Participants are responsible for their own belongings and vehicles while on walks.

If you have further questions about safety and responsibility do email us on

Health Safety Welfare & Environmental Declaration
In consideration of the walks run by Waiheke Walking Festival, the participant agrees:


The participant understands and acknowledges that the Waiheke Walking Festival tours involve risks including, but not limited to, the risk of property damage, bodily injury, including but not limited to permanent disability, paralysis and possible death.  These risks may result from the use of the walking tracks or footpaths, from the act of walking, from the acts of others or the unavailability of medical care.


The participant voluntarily assumes all the risks that may result from the use of the walking tracks and or footpaths. They further confirm that they have the prerequisite skills and physical and mental capabilities to undertake and complete the tour.


To the fullest extent permissible in New Zealand Law the participant releases, waives and indemnifies Waiheke Walking Festival and all of its employees, guides and volunteers from all claims, actions, suits, liabilities, losses, demands or expenses for any property loss, personal injury, death or other loss arising from the undersigned’s use of the walking tracks and or footpaths.


The participant agrees that they shall:

  1. remain with the walking group at all times
  2. stick to the designated path or route and respect private property
  3. at all times obey any and all instructions or requests made by a Waiheke Walking Festival employee, guide or volunteer.


The Waiheke Walking Festival aims to minimise our impact on the Waiheke environment. The participant agrees to help us protect our plants, wildlife and natural heritage. Please don’t litter and remove any rubbish.


Kauri dieback is a fungus-like disease that kills New Zealand kauri trees. To help keep Waiheke’s kauri safe always the participant agrees to clean their gear e.g. shoes, equipment, before and after walking the tracks.


Any footage of the walk and walkers may be used by the Festival in any manner it chooses.


What does it cost to walk?

Most of our walks are free (over 30 of the 55 walks). Some have associated costs e.g. transport charters or wine tasting. This is clearly marked on each walk in the programme.
From 2020 we have created some premium walks. These walks most often include
private land access, food and wine bookings, and charter buses, and are
experiences only available through the Festival. We charge a $10 Premium Walk fee
per walker in addition to the third party costs for these walks. This fee goes directly
towards the costs of running the Festival.

Can I bring my dog?

We love dogs. Some of the walks are dog friendly, and dogs on leads are welcome on those walks. However many walks have the icon No Dogs, because we also love our bird life around the island, which includes vulnerable and endangered species like kororā (little blue penguins), tūturiwhatu (New Zealand dotterels), North Island kākā and migrating bar-tailed godwits.

If a walk is designated as dog friendly, of course please bring your dog(s) and enjoy the group dynamic with other dog owners and walkers who are comfortable around dogs.

We will strictly enforce the no dog rule on the No Dog walks.

What are the walks like? Are there stairs?

Waiheke is hilly and very steep in places. Most walks during the Festival will have a lot of up and down and there will often be steps. We have added a ‘stairs’ icon in the walk information where relevant to the walk.
Each walk has also been graded out of ten. The grading reflects the type of terrain and walking surfaces you can expect.
There is more information in the grading and safety section on this page (see above this section).

How do you grade the walks?

We err on the side of caution with description and finishing times for walks.

See the grading section above for more detailed information on what kind of walk you can expect for each grade.

When can I book?

Bookings open to the public on 1 October. You can book up to 6 walk spots.
You could become a Friend of the Festival for $100 which gives you access to bookings from September 17th, as well as access to book up to 10 walk spots. To become a Friend, click on the Become a Friend page, purchase the Friend membership, and then you will automatically have access to walk bookings using the same email address.

I’m a Friend of the Festival, how do I book?

It’s easy! Choose the first walk you wish to book and click on the ‘book now’ button. This will bring up an order page asking for the name/s of the people walking. Enter your details as Walker 1, and use the email address associated with your Friend membership. Once you have entered your email, our system will recognise you.

I want to book a walk for me and bring a friend - can I book without their details?

You will need to enter your friend's email address and ask them to fill out the Health and Safety declaration before the walk. If you’re booking for a friend or a group, it’s a good idea to get them to check the walk details – especially grading, distance and time estimate before you confirm.

Our health and safety procedures require all walkers to sign a declaration form prior to each walk that confirms you have no medical issues that would place you or the group at an unreasonable level of risk during the walk.

Will you send me a reminder for the walks I book?

Yes, we will be in touch a few days out from each walk you have booked, with a reminder email that includes information important for your walk.

What if it's raining? Are the walks cancelled?

While we endeavour to let all walks go ahead if at all possible, we also need to ensure the safety of our walkers, volunteers and guides. If weather conditions are dangerous (for example, strong winds, or extreme rainfall with potential for slips), we will cancel walks. In this case, we will notify all walkers by email by 7am on the morning of the walk at the latest, so please do check your email before leaving home if the weather (or short term forecast) looks to be inclement. [We have only had to this for one day in nine previous festivals!]

Can I cancel a booking?

Yes, of course. In fact many of our walks are over-subscribed. If you need to change or cancel your booking at any time, please login to MY WALKS and cancel, so we can allow others to take your place. Please read our terms and conditions page for details about refunds.

Do I get a refund if I cancel?

If you have cancelled, but had paid associated costs e.g. transport charters or wine tasting. Purchases of products may be refunded (less booking fee) up to 10 working days prior to the commencement of the Waiheke Walking Festival. No refunds will be given for cancellations after this time. Requests for refunds must be emailed to Please note any refund requests during the Festival will be processed after the Festival.

What is a Premium walk fee?

From 2020 we have created some premium walks. These walks most often include
private land access, food and wine bookings, and charter buses, and are
experiences only available through the Festival. We charge a $10 Premium Walk fee
per walker in addition to the third party costs for these walks. This fee goes directly
towards the costs of running the Festival.

What about Covid-19?

While we've always had a focus on health and safety, this year, we’ve also had to take into account keeping people – our volunteers and our walkers - safe during a pandemic, and responding to Covid-19 Alert Levels. We're implementing some extra safety precautions, and doing our best to plan a Festival that can go ahead, if we're in a lower level of COVID Alert.
These precautions include extra training for volunteers, limiting walker numbers on each walk more than we have in previous years, having hand sanitiser available, and working with our restaurant partners on appropriate seating plans.
We'll have specifics for you closer to the Festival start date. You can be assured your safety and that of our volunteers is our priority - and we will always err on the side of safety.

Our Sponsors

We couldn’t run this festival without the support of our Sponsors, Funders and Supporters. The Waiheke Walking Festival would like to the thank you all. Support our supporters to show your thanks too.

Presenting Partner
Principal Funders
Major Sponsors