1. Rakino Island
Rakino is a beautiful, pest-free island with just 3km of road. On the island you’ll find beautiful beaches, rocky coves and plenty of peace and quiet. There’s a permanent population of around 20, but with around 80 dwellings throughout the island there’s usually an opportunity to rent out a bach for a weekend. In the summer, the regular Belaire ferry is timed for a morning trip over and an afternoon return. Be sure to bring a packed lunch and a picnic blanket to make a full day of it.
2. Kawau Island
Kawau Island is one of the largest islands in the Hauraki Gulf, it’s also a quiet haven – in fact it has no roads! It’s a popular destination for those looking for a getaway in beautiful nature, or those wanting to experience some history. To get here, catch one of Kawau Cruises ferries or water taxis from Sandspit Wharf, near Warkworth; or take a scenic seaplane from Auckland’s city centre. Swim, walk, explore the old mining settlement and either stay for the day, or several nights – there’s plenty of accommodation options on offer.
3. Tiritiri Matangi
Tiritiri Matangi is a wildlife sanctuary and has become an internationally recognised conservation success story. It has been cleared of introduced predators and planted with more than 300,000 native trees. Visitors can see threatened, native bird species (including the extremely rare takahē) and the iconic tuatara. Tiritiri Matangi is located 30km northeast of central Auckland – just a one-hour ferry ride from downtown Auckland.
4. Aotea Great Barrier Island
This is an island perfect for nature lovers. Not only does it have an abundance of great walking tracks with spectacular landscapes and breathtaking views, but the beaches are aplenty and include a mix of sandy shores and secluded coves. There are even hot springs to soak in on those cooler days! When the day fades, look up. The dazzling night sky is arguably the best in the world – it’s the only island on the planet to receive the Dark Sky Sanctuary status, making it a dream for astro enthusiasts. Getting there is all part of the adventure and the transport options are by sea or air.
5. Rangitoto Island
Rangitoto is Auckland’s most iconic island, with its distinctive symmetrical cone and superb location. Emerging unexpectedly from the sea some 600 years ago, it is the youngest and largest volcano in the Auckland volcanic field. Just a short scenic ferry ride across the harbour from downtown Auckland, the island is a favourite destination for hikers and day-trippers. Walk up to the summit for epic views (approx. 2-hour return) or take a guided tour option on the 4WD road train. Water lovers can take a guided sea kayaking trip out to the island for sunset and travel back under the stars.
6. Waiheke Island
World-class wines, pristine beaches, olive groves, walking tracks and art galleries, it’s easy to see why Waiheke is considered the jewel in the Hauraki Gulf’s crown. Although just a 40-minute ferry ride from Auckland, you’ll feel like you’re a world away - come for a day or stay longer with accommodation to suit all budgets. Glide over native bush on a zipline, play archery and laser clay bird shooting, walk along coastal clifftop tracks, laze on the beach, sip wine, or eat your way around many of the award-winning restaurants, Waiheke is the dream!
7. Rotoroa Island
Rotoroa Island is a unique arts, heritage and conservation island, nestled along a chain of islets off Waiheke’s east coast and a 75-minute ferry ride from downtown Auckland. See endangered species in their natural habitat and learn about the ongoing efforts to protect them, visit the award-winning museum and exhibition, explore the island’s network of trails and lookout points, or simply relax with a swim at one of four beautiful beaches. There’s also a range of volunteering opportunities for those interested in helping ensure the island’s wildlife continues to thrive.
8. Motuihe Island
Motuihe is a popular day trip or overnighter and it’s easy to see why - with regular ferries and a beautiful DOC campsite, Motiuhe makes the perfect getaway and it’s just 45 minutes from downtown Auckland. The beaches are picture-perfect and you may even spot a kiwi or tuatara on a native bush walk. The island is pest-free, thanks to the Motuihe Island Restoration Trust restoring the land after decades of use as a farm, quarantine station, prisoner-of-war camp and naval training base. At certain times of the year, you can also book a guided walking tour or opt to plant trees.