Hauraki Gulf, Auckland
Update 24 July 2008
The ferry company operating the trip to Tiritiri Matangi has changed (and if only the name...) since I wrote my tip: It is no more the Kawau Cat Ferry but 360 Discovery - and it now costs NZ$ 66. Contact details for 360 Discovery at the end of the tip.
Only one word is good enough to describe Tiritiri Matangi: Paradise! Once this little island in the Hauraki Gulf, only 30km north of Auckland, was destroyed by extensive farming, now it is a bird paradise, run by volunteers who replanted native vegetation. They also look after many endangered and common endemic and native birds.
The stars are the takahes. Those big flightless birds have been thought to be extinct for 50 years until they were found again in 1948. On Tiritiri M. you can easily imagine how this could happen. They are absolutely fearless and do not bother your company at all, they walk and graze a metre in front of you. That is the reason why they now have to live in protected areas and on predator-free islands like Tiritiri Matangi.
Other birds enjoy such perfect conditions as well. You will see red-crowned parakeets sitting on the stakes of flax, tuis, etc. Nowhere else in New Zealand can you readily walk amongst so many species. 78 different kinds of birds have been spotted on the island.
You can walk on your own in this open sanctuary. Take the ferry from Auckland (1:15h) - departure at 9am, Wednesday to Sunday only, return at 3.30pm. (From Boxing Day - 26 December - until mid January daily.) Sailings via Gulf Harbour (9.50am - 4pm).
This service ensures that there are only 150 visitors per day on the island. After an introduction by a volunteer at the wharf you can explore the island. Buy a map in Auckland or on the ferry (1 NZ$) or download it from the Tiritiri website, take something to eat and drink with you, then keep to the left (towards Hobbs Beach) while most people walk directly up to the lighthouse and a takahe enclosure. Take your time to sit on the benches in the forests - when you are still a lot more birds will fly around you. The fantails are the exception. As you know, they try to catch the insects that flee from you... ;-) The takahes spend their day in grassland.
Allow four to five hours for the walk. There are also short guided tours on offer. Accommodation in simple bunk rooms possible - but you have to bring your own sleeping bag.
Bookings with 360 Discovery are essential.
Freephone 0800 360 3472
Phone 09 424 5510
Fax 09 424 6093
To confirm sailing on the day phone 0800 326 824) after 7am.
Motuihe Island is a small island in the Hauraki gulf that is being restored from farmland back to native bush. The island is one of Aucklands more popular recreation islands and has seen service as everything from a Maori pa site to a naval base, but there is currently no ferry service to the island, so volunteering on a planting day is a way to see somewhere that you wouldn't ordinarily get to. No experience is needed - just enthusiasm, somthing to drink and a little bit of lunch (a sausage in bread is provided for lunch!)
Plant a tree (winter) or do some nursery work (summer), look at the birdlife, or just chill out on the gorgeous beaches.
The Island we visited was Motuihe Island, one of the many islands around Gulf. As auckland is surrounded by waters , it was great opportunity to enjoy themselves on this very well organised company family day. Everyone assembled at the Subritzky cargo wharf
near the tank farm early in the morning. We were all take a slow cargo barge to the island.
There were lots of drinks and a Jazz Band to entertain us on the way to the Island and the kids were kept busy ( and quiet) by magicians, clown and face painters.
Take the ferry and spend the day here! It's a short ferry ride (half an hour or so) and once there, the views are stunning. it's a very laid back place to hang out - it's on Waiheke time! few cars, and a cluster of shops and restaurants in one main area with the rest of the island either residences, or, "bachs" which are vacation residences.
A good place to have lunch and wine is Vino Vino, which looks right over the water....
Rangitoto a famous Auckland landmark, is both the youngest and largest of the many volcanoes throughout in New Zealand. The island is symmetrical and can be seen from anywhere in the Hauraki Gulf. Its evolution was from a short intense period of volcanic activity around 500 years ago.
Motuihe Island is part of the Hauraki Gulf Maritime Park. The island is situated 16kms from downtown Auckland. It is recognisable by the distinctive row of Norfolk Pines growing along its spine. You can get to Motuihe by ferry on public holidays and weekends. There are two great sheltered sandy beaches as well as the remains of a WWI prison camp where Count Felix von Luckner was held before his daring escape in 1917. There are excellent anchorages for the weekend sailors.
Just off the coast of Auckland is this volcanic cone that erupted from the sea some 600 years ago. Its virtually completely covered in lush vegetation and the peak can be seen from virtually anywhere in Auckland. You can tramp round the island or up to the rim of the volcano itself (or you can take a special day trip including transport to the top)
Connected by a causeway is Motutapu (in the foreground of the photo) - in complete contrast this is covered by grassland and is much gentler landscape.
3 ferries a day cross to Rangitoto from Auckland (and to spend any signifiant time you would need to catch the early morning one).
Browns Island lies in the harbour just out from Ladies Bay. The island is a low volcanic hill of 60 hectares lying at the mouth of the Tamaki River. It was originally named Motukorea (island of the pied oystercatcher bird) by the Maoris. When it was originally purchased in 1840, a pg farm was established there. The island is now public domain and is popular for its swimming beaches on either side and sheltered conditions in all winds. There is limited accommodation and camping.
35 minutes by ferry from Auckland - see separate pages for Waiheke Island. But the journey across the bay is a stunning experience in itself.