Insiders' guide to Auckland's islands
Even though Auckland City is on the mainland, it is simply surrounded by stunning islands, big and small.
Many of these islands are very close to the city centre ferry terminal, making for easy and adventurous day tours from Auckland.
Here are four of Auckland’s most spectacular, interesting and other-worldly islands.
Only 35 minutes by ferry from Auckland’s CBD, this 93 square kilometre island is home to approximately 9,000 people. While some live and work on the island, its close proximity to the city makes it easy for many to ferry to work each day. In summer, when holidaymakers come to stay, the population can grow by as much as 5,000.
The island is known largely for two things – beaches and wine. Onetangi Beach is the largest at 2.5 kilometres long, Little Oneroa is perfect for families, and Gannet Rock is an ideal spot for bird watching with thousands of new borns each year. The wine is famous across New Zealand for its quality, with no fewer than 19 wineries dotted about the island.
For those interested in nature tours of the island, head to the Onerangi Reserve, a 50-hectare plot filled with pohutukawa, rewarewa, matai, puriri, kauri, and rimu trees. Plus, you might spot fantails, tuis, kingfishers, grey warblers, or kereru while you’re there.
Rangitoto is both an island and a dormant volcano, sitting directly on the horizon in front of Mission Bay.
The entire island is a scenic reserve with more than 200 species of native plants, which includes more than 40 species of fern. It is also home to New Zealand’s largest pohutukawa forest. Making this island extra special is the fact that it is now pest-free, meaning that our most treasured wildlife such as saddleback and takahe birds can roam the 3,900 hectare island without the threat of rats, stoats, cats and possums.
Visitors can take a ferry to the island where they can enjoy the scenic walking tracks on the island. The track from the wharf to the 259-metre-high summit takes just an hour, but there are longer routes to see more of this fascinating island. Those on bird watching holidays should keep an eye out for the black backed gulls nesting around the coastline, or the fantails, grey warblers, silvereyes and moreporks found on the island itself.
Motutapu is Rangitoto’s close neighbour and is even linked to the volcano by a causeway. The island has bright and busy history despite its serene appearance, as it was initially settled by Maori, before becoming a popular picnic spot in Victorian times for approximately 10,000 people at once. More recently, it was a base for military personnel.
Today, Motutapu is a treasured piece of New Zealand. The restoration project that saw Rangitoto declared pest free in 2011 was also implemented on Motutapu, which helped to reintroduce species such as the shore plover, saddleback, whitehead, and brown teal. The Motutapu Trust just recently also released 20 pateke – a nationally endangered duck – onto the island.
While camping and hiking are popular activities on the island, this is also one of the best spots in the country for volunteering, as there is a constant need for help with weed control, planting, nursery work and other conservation activities.
Motuihe is yet another island showing New Zealand’s dedication to conservation. It is found between Motutapu and Waiheke Islands, and despite its small size, is home to a large variety of wildlife such as bellbirds, tuatara, the New Zealand dotterel, the saddleback, the kakariki, and even the little spotted kiwi.
A Motuihe Trust operates an ongoing restoration project on the island in hopes to continue to bring native birds, insects and lizards back to the area, all the while conserving its history and developing walking tracks for visitors.
Visitors to the island can camp, but most are there to volunteer for the trust. Their work has seen thousands of new trees planted on the island since 2003, as well as hundreds of hours of weed control, nursery care, seed collection and other activities.
Tristan Cullen - Passionate Conservationist