Auckland is blessed with many beautiful islands, most within an hour of the city. They all have their own character but stunning views, pristine waters and good walking tracks come as standard. I’ve been to most of them now…
Rangitoto The most visible island. From much of Auckland it’s familiar shape graces the horizon, looking pretty much exactly the same from any angle, rare in a volcanic cone. Only 25 mins by ferry from the CBD, it is home to the largest pohutukawa forest in the world, 360 degree views of Auckland and the Hauraki Gulf from the summit, proper old school kiwi baches and lava caves. Best visited on a clear day in spring or autumn as its always a few degrees warmer than the mainland so gets pretty toasty in summer.
Motatapu Rangitoto’s neighbour and my favourite island (along with Great Barrier) in the Hauraki Gulf. Even better views than Rangitoto, loads of good walking tracks, huge historic gun emplacements, beautiful beaches and hardly any people (though that’s fairly standard on most of the islands). The signage isn’t always the best though, I nearly missed the only ferry home, little bit stressful!
Waiheke The best known island (along with Rangitoto) and home to the largest population (over 7,500 people). Full of wineries, baches, sandy beaches, views and day trippers / tourists. Great place to cycle around and a lovely weekend getaway. Does sometimes feel bit too much like another suburb of Auckland though…
Great Barrier Island The largest and furthest out island, reached by 30 mins flight or a 2 to 4 & 1/2 hour ferry ride (depending on the ferry). Home to about 800 people it has a distinctive character and plenty of history, including kauri logging and whaling. Geologically it’s an extension of the Coromandel and offers many of the same attractions but with far fewer people.
Tiritiri Matangi According to TripAdvisor this is the number one attraction in Auckland. Perhaps if you’re a big bird fan, but its still well worth a visit. Recommend joining one of the guided tours run by knowledgeable volunteers. They’ll explain the decades long work to remove pests from the island and repopulate it with native plants and birdlife. There’s an impressive lighthouse which makes a great spot at which to eat your lunch before afternoon unguided exploration.
Rotoroa The newest addition in terms of regular ferry services, the island was formerly home to a Salvation Army site for recovering addicts. Thanks to some generous benefactors they’ve managed to achieve in a few years what took Tiritiri Matangi decades of volunteer work, removing pests and reintroducing plants and birds. Very well set up in terms of facilities and signage but pretty small place (0.8 hectares) so can be a long day (ferry gives you 10-5 on the island).
Motuihe Everyone going to Waiheke has been past this island but suspect few have visited. It’s a popular spot for boaties, with a lovely long sheltered beach, and has camping facilities.
Browns Island Even less visited than Motuihe despite it being one of the closest islands to shore (just past St. Heliers) due to the only transport options being your own boat or taking a kayak. Distinctively grassy, hope to visit someday.
Herald Island The only island you can drive to, sitting between Hobsonville, Greenhithe, Whenuapai and Paremoremo. Not much there other than a bunch of houses and a jetty at the far end but pleasant out of the way spot.