Located off the coast of Auckland, Hauraki Gulf’s 16 beautiful islands are ideal for outdoor activities like walking, horse riding, swimming, and dolphin- and whale-watching. From the vineyards of Waiheke to the hiking trails of Rangitoto, the birdwatching of Tiritiri Matangi to the secluded hot springs of Great Barrier, each of the islands offers something special.
Some of the islands make for great multi-day getaways, as they offer a range of accommodations. Others are uninhabited, and better visited as day trips from Auckland. They’re especially popular in the summer months, when Aucklanders flock to them to enjoy the beaches and sea. Some have well-established tourism facilities and convenient transportation options, while others take a bit more effort to get to and offer a more back-to-basics experience. Various tours focus on whale- or bird-watching, vineyards, diving, snorkeling, kayaking, or local history.
Things to Know Before You Go
The 16 islands are Waiheke, Rangitoto, Great Barrier, Kawau, Tiritiri Matangi, Motuihe, Rotoroa, Motutapu, Rakino, Ponui, Pakatoa, Browns, Tarahiki, Whanganui, Kaikoura, and Moturekareka.
Several of the islands have a strong Department of Conservation. Information on hiking trails, campsites, and local flora and fauna can be found on the DOC website.
You don’t have to set foot on an island to enjoy them. Take a cruise in the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park to spot dolphins and whales.
How to Get There
Ferries to some of the more popular islands run from downtown Auckland or Devonport, including car ferries. Some islands have airstrips, so it’s possible to charter a small plane to make the trip or to take a scheduled flight with Great Barrier Airways. Organized tours make reaching the islands easy, as private boats or ferry connections are usually arranged.
When to Get There
The Hauraki Gulf Islands are at their best in the summer (December–February), when the weather is warm and conditions are perfect for beach and outdoor activities. The spring (September–November) and fall (March–May) are also decent times to visit the islands. Winter (June-August) often brings rain and wind.
New Zealand’s Youngest Volcano
The distinctive, forest-clad, gently sloping mountain in the Gulf that’s visible throughout Auckland can be found on Rangitoto Island. New Zealand’s youngest volcano, it emerged out of the sea just 600 years ago (barely a blink of an eye in geological time). Rangitoto’s also home to the world’s largest forest of pohutukawa, a tree native to New Zealand, and the island also offers great hiking and kayaking.