There was once a time where Rotoroa Island was solely reserved for addicts, an isolated outpost where substance abusers were brought to detox and dry. Administered largely by the Salvation Army, the island lasted as a treatment center for nearly 100 years, but today is open to the general public as a heritage and conservation park. Board a ferry from the waterfront in Auckland and journey out to the island, stopping en route at Waiheke Island, which lies to Rotoroa’s west. Upon disembarking on Rotoroa Island, visit the jail where addicts were forced to “dry out” upon arrival, or tour the museum with relics relating to the thousands of patients who lived here. Once you’ve experienced the island’s history, go for a bushwalk along the coast and scan for island wildlife, where there’s even the chance you could spot a native, endangered takahe bird. Relax on one of Rotoroa Island’s four different sandy beaches, and admire the view looking back toward Auckland out past the Hauraki Gulf.
Most buildings and facilities on Rotoroa Island are open from 10am-5pm. There are no shops or restaurants on the island, so you’ll want to pack a picnic, some drinks, as well as snacks. BBQ grills are available by advance reservation. Because Rotoroa Island is a conservation center, all food must be in sealed containers such as lunchboxes, and open grocery bags aren’t allowed.
Ferries depart from Pier 4 in Auckland and the wharf on Waiheke Island. Service in winter is only on weekends with daily service in summer.