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10 Islands to Kayak to From Auckland

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Paddle to these island sanctuaries!

Little pieces of what looks like the original New Zealand are dotted around the Hauraki Gulf, just a kayak trip away from Auckland. More than 50 islands are scattered across this body of water just off the coast of the Auckland region. Many of which have become sanctuaries for native wildlife and vegetation, preserved or restored to show what much of New Zealand would have looked like just a few hundred years ago.

Some islands can only be accessed by private boat or kayak. Because us backpackers are not likely to fit “boat hire” into our budget, we have listed the Hauraki Gulf islands you can kayak to from the mainland. A number of kayak hires are on the Auckland coastline, so see them about hiring a kayak for your self-guided tour if you are an experienced kayakers. Nevertheless, anyone with an eagerness to paddle can take a guided tour of the Hauraki Gulf. Look at Okahu Bay, Mission Bay and St Heiliers for kayak options near the city. Warkworth is a good starting location for the northern islands.

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1. Browns Island / Motukorea

As there is no ferry access to this small island, Browns Island / Motukorea is well and truly off the beaten track. It also holds one of the best preserved volcanic cones in Auckland, especially as it is thought to have erupted 10-20,000 years ago. A good landing spot is Crater Bay, as the rest of the island is tidal and rocky.

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2. Rangitoto Island

This 600-year-old volcano is awash with native bush and birdlife. Hike through lava fields to get to the summit with some awesome views of the city skyline and Hauraki Gulf. You can even delve into some lava caves. Try a sunset kayak tour to experience the island at it’s quietest while watching the beautiful sunset. Kayaking takes about 2 hours between the mainland and Rangitoto Island.

Check out our complete guide to Rangitoto Island.
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3. Motutapu Island

Connecting to Rangitoto Island, Motutapu Island is a complete contrast to Rangitoto with its own gems to explore. Hike around the island for incredible coastal views. Allow about 3 hours to kayak from the mainland to Home Bay on Motutapu. Turn your trip into an overnight stay by making use of the campsite. There’s nothing like waking up to the sound of the sea gently rolling into shore.

Check out or complete guide to Motutapu Island.
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4. Motuihe Island

A 2h30min kayaking journey can bring you to Motuihe Island. Land on Wharf Bay and begin exploring! Go swimming or relax on one of the beautiful beaches, or even camp the night at the DoC campsite. Listen out for the native bird species, which have been released onto the island as part of a conservation project.

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5. Tiritiri Matangi Island

This pest-free island is a wildlife sanctuary, which rewards you with numerous walks through pristine forest. Keep an eye out for tui, saddleback and bellbird. If you are lucky, you can even see little blue penguins and takahe. For experienced kayakers or those with a guide, start from Whangaparaoa Peninsula for this 1-hour trip over to Tiritiri Matangi. A good landing beach is Hobbs Beach.

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6. Kawau Island

Just off the coast of the Warkworth area, experienced kayakers can paddle from Snells Beach to Kawau Island known for it’s mansion house and exotic gardens, which are open to the public. There are also a few short easy walks to explore the vegetated areas.

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7. Moturoa Island

Sometimes we just want to camp on a small island. That’s actually not too much to ask with Moturoa Island just off the coast of Mahurangi. It takes about 1h30mins to kayak over from the mainland. Make use of the campsite while listening to the sounds of the North Island brown kiwi at night.

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8. Goat Island

Ok, so you don’t exactly need a kayak to get to this island, but kayak hire is available to explore further than you might go if you were just to snorkel. Goat Island Marine Reserve is New Zealand’s original marine reserve packed with fish, and even attracts a few dolphins and orcas. Goat Island is part of the Matakana Coast, which has heaps of other attractions worth discovering as we show in our article.

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9. Waiheke Island

The most popular island on the Hauraki Gulf, Waiheke Island can certainly be kayaked to from Motutapu Island and Motutihe Island. As the island itself is well-inhabited, it has kayak hire on the island, so you can even start your water exploration from there.

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10. Herald Island

This isn’t exactly a difficult one to get to. In fact, you can get there by car. Herald Island is a small inhabited island near Hobsonville. Although it’s not quite the tranquility you might find in the other islands, it is still possible to kayak to and from.

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