Kawau Island is one of the larger islands in the Hauraki Gulf and has a rich history. The island was once a busy mining settlement until in 1862 it was purchased by Sir George Grey, the Governor of New Zealand, who made it his home until 1888. He developed the stately Mansion House and imported plants and animals from around the world for its exotic gardens which still exist today. The house and the historic copper mine are now popular visitor attractions.

Walks on Kawau Island range in length from half an hour to several hours' duration, and are mostly easy walking. Many of the routes follow old nineteenth century paths originating from Mansion House Valley. About 10 percent of Kawau Island is protected as publicly owned reserves managed by the Department of Conservation. The remainder of the island is privately owned with a small resident population.

Ferries travel to Kawau Island daily from Sandspit Wharf, about one and a half hour's drive north of Auckland. Ferries also depart from Downtown Auckland. Kawau Island is also a favorite destination for private boats and there is a choice of safe anchorages in and close to Mansion House Bay.