Auckland is the largest city in New Zealand with the most diversity, making it one of the most visited places in New Zealand. The South Island city provides adventures for the most extreme adrenaline junkies from the Sky Tower to Harbour Bridge, adventure lovers will enjoy bungy jumping, hiking through volcanoes, rock climbing, mountain biking, and other extreme sports. One of the most exciting activities travelers to Auckland should consider is escaping their resorts and visiting the Hauraki Gulf and these 7 Auckland islands.
1. Waiheke Island
Known as the Island of Wine, Waiheke Island is full of olive grove, vineyards, and pristine beaches. Traveling to the award-winning island from Auckland only takes forty minutes by ferry. Touring the wineries and having lunch in a vineyard is the perfect way to spend an afternoon on Waiheke Island. Oneroa Village has many popular local restaurants and Oneroa Beach feature pristine white sand beaches. Adventurers can enjoy many outdoor sports and enjoy the cultural districts that are full of art galleries and the famous sculpture park.
2. Great-Barrier Island
Nature lovers will love exploring the native bush along the Aotea Track, a trail that visitors can spend a few hours or a few days trekking. The Kaitoke Hot Springs are only an hour walk down the track and are open for public swimming. The forests are protected, and conservation efforts have been underway, but visitors can still enjoy snorkeling, chartered fishing, kayaking, and participate in sky gazing opportunities that are unrivaled. Great-Barrier Island is one of only three dark sky sanctuaries in the world. A 35-minute plane ride or 4-hour ferry trip will get visitors to Great Barrier Island; however, because the Great Barrier Reef is a protected area, there are limitations in what can be brought onto the island. The beaches do not have lifeguards on duty and there are no ATMs or financial institutions on the island.
3. Rangitoto Island and Motutapu Island
Just twenty-five minutes by ferry from Auckland, Rangitoto Island features a summit track through old lava fields from Auckland’s youngest volcano. Trekkers can explore caves and lava tunnels but should be sure to be sufficient lighting such as flashlights or torches. For visitors that cannot climb the summit or have children, a guided train tour is available to the top. Motutapu Island is connected to Rangitoto Island by a causeway. Where the landscapes of Rangitoto are rugged and dramatic, Motutapu Island is covered by meadows and pastures. Visitors to Motutapu can explore World War II bunkers and guided tours are offered of the Ngai Tai Tribes with tribal guides.
4. Kawau Island
The Kawau Island is one of the largest islands amongst the dozens in Hauraki Harbor, but it is one of the most remote and quiet. There are no roads on the island with the main attraction being the Sir George Grey Mansion House. Kawau Island was purchased by Grey in 1862 to use as a private residence. The home is fully restored to its 19th-century glory and visitors are welcomed to tour the historical house and tropical gardens. The Mansion is still full of artifacts from Grey’s travels around the world and exploring the grounds will delight visitors with sights of wallabies and peacocks. Miners Tracks are available on the wharf where visitors can tour an abandoned copper mine. Dolphin sightings while sailing or cruising the coast is also common.
5. Tiritiri Matangi Island
Tiritiri Matangi Island is a wildlife sanctuary that operates as one of the most successful conservations efforts globally. Ferries are available from downtown Auckland and guided tours are available that educate visitors about the diverse wildlife on the island. Hobbs beach is home to nesting penguins with picnicking and swimming available for visitors. There is a visitor’s center with several walking tracks available for visitors to explore at their own pace. The one hour walk along the Kawaura Track allows visitors to see coastal forests with trees that are nearly 1,000 years old. One of the most popular attractions on Tiritiri Matangi Island is the historic lighthouse constructed in 1864 and is the oldest lighthouse that is still in operation in New Zealand. None of the beaches on the islands have lifeguards or patrols so visitors should swim at their own risk.
6. Rotoroa Island
Rotoroa Island recently reopened to the public for the first time in over 100 years. The island is home to a collection of old buildings that visitors can explore including a jail, schoolhouse, and chapel. There is also a brand-new museum with modern art exhibitions and tell the story of Rotoroa Island as a past rehabilitation retreat operated by the Salvation Army. There are four sandy beaches on the island that are open to the public for swimming and picnicking. Barbeques are also available along the beaches. A historic cemetery can be found on the island and visitors that venture to the southern headland can view the Chris Booth sculpture.
7. The Hauraki Gulf and Islands
These are engulfed by more than one million hectares of clear, sparkling ocean waters. Lonely Planet named the islands as the best experience in New Zealand and island hopping is a common way to enjoy the water on yachts or sailboats. The Hauraki Gulf Marine Park is the largest marine reserve in New Zealand. The marine reserve offers whale and dolphin watching and protects the marine life and ecosystems off the coast.
Whether you’re visiting the islands for adventure or just want to sit on a beach and see the most amazing night sky you’ve ever seen, the islands near Auckland should be on your bucket list.