Head down to the old ferry building on Quay Street and most of Auckland’s stunning Hauraki Gulf Islands are just a short ferry ride away. It’s a unique chance to experience native flora and fauna, magnificent coastal walkways, remote beauty spots, idyllic sandy beaches and award-winning wineries – all just a jump from the bustle of Auckland’s CBD. Rangitoto – the city’s landmark volcanic peak – is a great spot for a walk, and the bush-clad summit offers 360 degree views of the Auckland harbour and city skyline. On beautiful Waiheke Island, there are coastal walkways, World War II tunnels, sandy beaches, great cafés and some of the city’s best known wineries. Hire a scooter or kayak and go exploring under your own steam, or join a wine trail or art and craft tour.
Tiritiri Matangi is the place for nature lovers and birdwatchers, and a guided tour will get you up close to threatened native species in the wild, including the saddleback, stitchbird, takahe and kokako. Scenic Kawau Island is famous for its historic mansion house, secluded coves, peaceful bushwalks and old copper mine ruins. Further afield, rugged, bush-clad Great Barrier Island is a nature lover’s paradise, with hiking trails, hot springs, stunning beaches and historic kauri dams tucked away in the bush. Other islands in the Hauraki Gulf include Motuihe – a favourite with boaties for its sandy beaches and lovely picnic spots.
Three marine reserves also protect the Gulf's rich marine life. Visitors can snorkel or dive among the diverse fish species that flourish in these protected waters, take a glass bottom boat tour at Goat Island Marine Reserve, and join a whale and dolphin safari to view marinelife of the Hauraki Gulf Maritime Park.
The Auckland icon is known for its unique scoria landscape and the world's largest pohutukawa forest. The island has well-formed tracks (many built by convict labour) and boardwalks lead into the bush-clad exterior and up to the summit (about an hour's walk). The summit (259 metres) provides stunning 360 degree views of the harbour and city skyline, and there are tractor-drawn train tours if you don't fancy the walk.
A popular holiday resort and beauty spot with sandy beaches, bush-clad hills and charming village centres. The island is renowned for its arts and crafts scene, and its many boutique vineyards. Island Explorer tour buses meet the ferry and provide sightseeing tours of the vineyards, beaches and art centres.
Planted in more than 3 million native trees, this open bird sanctuary is home to threatened native species including the saddleback, stitchbird, takahe and kokako. Tiritiri Matangi has the oldest lighthouse in the Hauraki Gulf and is managed by the Department of Conservation.
This scenic island has a range of walking tracks leading to Maori Pa sites, sheltered swimming beaches and the ruins of the old copper mines. Visitors can pay a small entrance fee to walk around the elegant Mansion House, the stately residence of NZ's former Governor, Sir George Grey.
Great Barrier Island
Several hours by ferry from Auckland, rugged and remote Great Barrier offers beautiful surf beaches, lush native bush, fantastic hiking and birdlife, and natural hot pools. The island is home to the historic remains of copper and silver mines, shipwrecks, a whaling station, timber mills and kauri dams. You can also fly across to the Barrier.