KIWI: Island’s in the GulfThe jewels in the crown of Auckland lie only a short distance from the heart of downtown out in the Hauraki Gulf. Take a day out on the water and discover some of the most beautiful islands in the whole of New Zealand
AUTHOR and PHOTOGRAPHER: ©Shane Boocock 2013
Motutapu Island – Recreation, Solitude and Tranquil
This weekend destination is well known to Aucklanders and a great bonus for gulf island visitors this summer. The island is home to farmland, World War II gun emplacements, a network of scenic walking tracks linking historic and natural places of interest on Motutapu that also connect via a causeway to additional tracks on Rangitoto with spectacular views of the Hauraki Gulf.
Motutapu, which means ‘sacred island,’ is part of the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park, a recreation reserve administered by the Department of Conservation. The island is one of the earliest known Maori settlement sites in the Auckland region, and before the eruption of Rangitoto, Motutapu (Te Motutapu a Taikehu) had been the home of Maori for several generations.
There are plenty of reasons to visit this little gem of an island out in the gulf including the old historic Reid Homestead that has been restored and turned into a visitor centre. There’s an old WWll gun emplacement site as well as 300 or more Maori archaeological sites, including one where the footprints of humans and a dog have been preserved in a layer of volcanic ash.
For visitors wishing to stay overnight on the island there is a DOC campsite at Home Bay. The ferry service departs every second Sunday from the Auckland Downtown Ferry Terminal to Home Bay on Motutapu Island. Departures: Auckland 9.15am, Devonport 9.25am, Returns 3.30pm.
Rangitoto Island – Majestic, Treasured and Stunning
Sitting majestically just off the Auckland’s coast, this 600 year old volcano boasts a unique landscape of rugged lava crops, lush native bush and sandy coves. Walk to the top for spectacular 360-degree views of Auckland and the Hauraki Gulf islands, or hop on board their Volcanic Explorer road train tour for a guided island experience.
The recommended walk to the summit takes about an hour at an easy pace. Lookouts along the way provide some stunning views as you climb, and you can do a detour to explore the lava caves. Other tracks that skirt the coastline are sign-posted from the wharf. These walks vary in length and difficulty, so plan your visit in advance and make sure you leave enough time to return to the ferry wharf.
Length of ferry journey is approx 25 minutes from the Auckland Downtown Ferry Terminal. Allow at least 4-5 hours.
Waiheke Island – Wine, Dine and Wander
This stunning island just off the Auckland coast boasts 92 square kilometers of beautiful beaches, vineyards, olive groves, native bush and laid back seaside villages. It’s a great day out from Auckland as well as a superb holiday destination or a weekend getaway.
A good way to make the most of a day trip is to combine your ferry ticket with a number of great value island tours from wine tasting to sculpture and artist gallery visits.
With over 30 vineyards on the island, Waiheke offers visitors excellent opportunities for wine tasting (as well as first class vineyard restaurants). Most vineyard tours visit the leading vineyards on the island and sometimes include return ferry travel.
Waiheke has several beautiful beaches, but the best ones for swimming are at Oneroa or at Onetangi, which is a 20-minute bus ride away. Buses meet all ferries and Fullers offer an All Day Bus Pass, which is a cost effective way to get around.
Waiheke's coastline boasts many beautiful walks with stunning views of the surrounding islands and the Coromandel. Discover sandy beaches, native bush and historic sites along the many scenic walkways. Two walks start right at the ferry terminal - just follow the coast left or right as you leave the wharf and follow the yellow and green signs.
The journey from Auckland to Matiatia Bay is approximately 40 minutes (some ferries go via Devonport which makes the journey slightly longer).
Sealink Ferries also offer daily passenger and car ferry service from Halfmoon Bay to Kennedy Point that on average takes about one hour each way. They also offer a Friday only service from Auckland’s Wynyard Wharf to Kennedy Point that takes about 45 minutes.
Allow at least a full day to explore the island. For more information about the walkways, art galleries, restaurants and vineyards pick up a leaflet at i-Sites or the Waiheke Ferry Terminal.
Rotoroa Island – An Arts, Heritage And Conservation Park
For over 100 years, Rotoroa Island has been an island apart, off-limits to all but a few souls isolated there for alcohol and drug rehabilitation in the care of the Salvation Army. Today, Rotoroa is accessible to everyone as the Hauraki Gulf's newest conservation estate. And a new partnership with Auckland Zoo announced in December 2012, means that Rotoroa is now set to continue its legacy of recovery and renewal, by establishing a wildlife sanctuary on the island.
Explore the heart of the island's old community, including the jail, chapel and cemetery. Visit the island's award-winning museum and exhibition centre and its display on Rotoroa's fascinating history. Swim or picnic at one of four beautiful sandy beaches, explore walking trails among regenerating bush or stroll to the Chris Booth sculpture on the island's southern headland. There are also three holiday homes for rent and shared hostel accommodation.
Rotoroa Island is just over an hour from downtown Auckland. Sailings with 360 Discovery Cruises operate Friday night, Saturday and Sunday sailings. Summer mid-week sailings recommence mid-October.
Great Barrier Island – Remote, Tranquil and Untouched
Situated in the Hauraki Gulf about 4.5 hours car-ferry ride from Auckland, Great Barrier Island is one of New Zealand's best kept secrets. Sparsely populated with large areas of rugged, unspoilt natural beauty, it's a place to really get away from it all.
Activities: Hiking, mountain biking, diving, surfing and fishing are all popular adventure activities on the island. Beautiful walking tracks through native forests lead to secluded natural hot springs and pristine white sandy beaches. The more enthusiastic trampers can head for the beckoning summit of Hirakimata (Mount Hobson) rising 627 metres above the sea, with its spectacular 360-degree views.
Fullers Ferry services to the Great Barrier Island are seasonal and are usually scheduled over holiday periods: Labour Weekend (end of October), Christmas, New Year, early January and during the Easter holidays. The services run to and from the two main port of Tryphena. Sealink Ferries also offer passenger and car ferry services year-round. Two airlines service Great Barrier Island as well from Auckland Airport and Auckland’s North Shore. Advance reservations are necessary.
Allow at least a few days and up to a week to visit Great Barrier Island to enjoy the maximum benefits this outstanding location offers.
With the exception of Waiheke and Great Barrier (which have range of campgrounds, backpackers, motels and lodges to suit all budgets) most islands have no facilities so take plenty of water, a hat, sunscreen, togs/bathers, snacks/lunch/dinner and sturdy walking shoes as certain tracks are quite rugged. A torch may also be useful if you are planning a camping vacation. The last opportunity to buy food or drink is usually on the ferry services.
For information on other island’s in the gulf such as Motuihe Island, Brown’s Island, Tiritiri Matangi Island, Moturoa and Kawaui Islands visit: http://www.aucklandnz.com/about/online-resources/hauraki-gulf-and-island-visitor-guide
Visit the following websites for further departure information, timetables and prices:
Fullers Ferries: www.fullers.co.nz
Sealink Ferries: www.sealink.co.nz
360 Discovery Cruises: www.360discovery.co.nz
Explore Group Ferries: www.exploregroup.co.nz
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