Sir John Kirwin's top picks

“Kawau Island’s Mansion House is always interesting, a real look into history in such beautiful surroundings – look out for dolphins on the ferry ride from Sandspit.”

Sir John Kirwan

Mansion House on Kawau Island

Most people don't think of Kawau Island as a fine dining destination, but The Beach House at Vivian Bay is a first-class experience. For smaller budgets, grab a meal at the café next to Mansion House, overlooking the tropical gardens and peacocks.

Discover a ‘new’ island

Rotoroa Island used to be a rehabilitation centre closed to the public; now you can walk around the old jail house, school house and chapel, and find out all about the island’s history in the exhibition centre. There are some great walking tracks and beautiful white-sand beaches for picnics and swimming, and you can even stay a weekend in one of the cool holiday homes.

Waiheke Island wineries

Waiheke is a great escape from the city for a few hours, a night, or a whole weekend. There are lots of great wineries but my favourite would have to be Poderi Crisci – it feels like I’m back in Italy – and Cable Bay for the views. Best Waiheke beach is probably Man O’ War Bay, at the other end of the island from the ferry, and Man O’ War Vineyard is right there too.

Walk to the top of Rangitoto Island

Most people forget we have a massive volcano right in our harbour! Rangitoto Island is only 25 minutes by ferry and it’s so unique with its lava fields and caves. It’s only an hour’s walk to the summit and the views from the top are just incredible. Pack your lunch, some water and some sunscreen and do it!

A weekend at Great Barrier Island

Make it a long weekend and stay a few nights at Great Barrier Island. You’ve got amazing beaches, great fishing, surfing, snorkelling and some really beautiful walking tracks through the native forest. It feels so remote, but it’s actually 35 minutes by light plane or four and a half by car ferry.

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