New Zealand’s biggest city is blessed with a sub-tropical climate. The Hauraki Gulf Marine Park sits on Auckland’s doorstep and encompasses 1.2 million hectares of coast and sea, with more than 50 islands dotting its waters.
There are several different ways to experience these islands. You could vary your city break with a quick dash over to one of Auckland’s nearby islands – Waiheke is only half an hour on the ferry, or extend your stay for several weeks and embrace the beach-bum lifestyle, as you scour the Hauraki Gulf by boat and light aircraft for your favourite patch of white sand.
Here are the top three of Auckland’s islands.
- Waiheke Island
- Waiheke Island by Daniel Chodusov
It’s hard to believe, when standing at the ferry port in downtown central Auckland, that you are only half an hour away from a slice of sub-tropical paradise. Waiheke evokes comparisons of Mediterranean islands with its olive groves and vineyards, a pleasing contrast with its distinctly pacific feel, of palm-fringed white sand beaches.
A thriving artist community exists on the island and many studios are open for browsing. Other land activities range from hiring a scooter or bike and ex
ploring the island, to ziplining across the treetops. Water babies and water sports enthusiasts are lured into Waiheke’s warm waters to free dive, paddle-board, kayak, swim and sail.
Waiheke’s proximity to Auckland has made it a favourite with tourists and locals looking for short weekend getaways. The population of the island swells from 8,000 to 50,000 during summer. Accommodation is plentiful and varied. Our vacation rentals on Waiheke consist of rustic beach houses to modern apartments with sea views.
Completely different to Waiheke, Tiritiri Matangi is an open wildlife sanctuary. The primary aim of the sanctuary is the conservation of native New Zealand birds. Guided walks are available with 360 Discovery from the wharf up to the lighthouse – the oldest working lighthouse in New Zealand. Guides will point out native trees and identify, from birdsong, native New Zealand birds.
The visitor centre is a hive of information. Take a stop here to learn about the complex biodiversity and history of the island.
Ferries can be caught from downtown Auckland. You can make it a day trip or stay overnight at the basic bunkhouse. You will need to book ahead and bring sleeping bags. All ferries are met by Department of Conservation rangers who will brief you on arrival. Strict conditions exist for how you bring food onto the island, in a bid to avoid the introduction of rodents.
Great Barrier – Aotea
The rugged isolation of Great Barrier prompted the BBC to film the Castaway here. It is an unspoilt paradise with sweeping golden beaches, lush native forests and crystal clear waters. The topography of the island lends itself perfectly to exploration with its coves, inlets and cliffs. Grab a kayak or don the walking shoes and experience this untouched island. Well-formed walking tracks will lead you to hot springs, waterfalls and secluded swimming holes.
The island is purposefully undeveloped. There are no street lights so bring torches, though there are some pubs and cafes if the desire for civilisation strikes.
The Department of Conservation takes care of more than half of the island and provides campgrounds and backcountry huts for island explorers. AlwaysOnVacation also has a beautiful range of holiday homes, beach houses and cottages, where you can drink in the sunset and revel in the remoteness of this island splendour.