When you hear "escape to the islands" we bet your mind goes straight to the Pacific Islands - Rarotonga, Fiji, Niue, Samoa etc. But, before you fly for hours across the South Pacific, why not look to your own backyard? As an island nation, New Zealand is surrounded by many smaller islands that provide serious rest and relaxation without requiring a plane ride. Keep reading to discover our top seven island escapes!
Need a car to reach the ferry terminal or explore these remote islands? Yourdrive has hundreds of privately-owned vehicles available to rent from kiwis all over New Zealand. You'll find a wide range of great-value vehicles in handy pickup locations across the country. Don't forget to check your vehicle for stowaways as a number of these vehicles are pest free and home to many native, endangered creatures. Read on to get a sweet $20 discount on a Yourdrive rental!.
1. Waiheke Island
Waiheke Island feels a million miles from the city but, in reality, it’s just a short ferry ride from central Auckland. The Island is well known for its award-winning vineyards which offer great wine, seasonal dishes, and breathtaking views over vines out to sea. If wining and dining isn’t your thing, head to one of the many beaches for a day of relaxing on the white sands. Our favourite beach is Onetangi as there are a couple of great cafes just a stone's throw away from the shore.
2. Great Barrier Island
While Great Barrier Island is New Zealand’s fourth largest land mass, it has a permanent population of less than one thousand making it the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of mainland life. Enjoy uninterrupted rest and relaxation or get adventurous with bushwalks and tramping, fishing and diving, mountain biking, horse trekking, paddleboarding, and kayaking. The island has no reticulated electricity supply, no supermarkets, and no banks or ATMs, it's truly off the grid. Find out more about what to expect here.
Get there: A three to four-hour boat ride or a 30-minute scenic flight will take you from Auckland City to the remote island.
3. Rangitoto & Motutapu Islands
It’s likely you’ve visited Rangitoto to do the summit walk but, have you stayed the night? A longer stay will allow you to explore more of Auckland's largest, and youngest, volcano. Venture off the beaten track to check out the black lava caves and adventure through the largest pōhutukawa forest in the world. You can't skip a walk across the causeway from Rangitoto Island to Motutapu Island for a relaxing day swimming and picnicking at Home Bay.
Get there: Hop on the Fullers ferry from downtown Auckland (or Devonport) and cruise across the harbour to Rangitoto while enjoying views of the city skyline.
Accommodation: There are only a handful of residences on the islands, a couple of which available to rent short-term on Book A Bach. There is also a Department of Conservation campsite in Home Bay on Motutapu Island.
4. Rotoroa Island
Closed to the public for nearly 100 years, Rotoroa Island was once a place of sanctuary for people recovering from alcohol or drug addiction. After extensive redevelopment and revegetation efforts, the island was opened to the public again in 2011. This 80-hectare island, located just off Waiheke Island's east coast, combines arts, heritage and conservation to educate and entertain visitors. Bring your walking shoes to explore the island’s network of trails, your togs to swim at one of four beautiful beaches, and your camera to snap pictures of heritage sites and stunning views.
Get there: A ferry service from downtown Auckland to Rotoroa Island is offered by Fullers. The ferries run on a regular but seasonal basis: more frequently in summer, only weekends in winter. The trip takes just over an hour, with a stop-off at Waiheke's Orapiu wharf on the way. You can also get to Rotoroa Island by ferry from Coromandel.
- The Superintendent's House - This newly renovated lodge is simple but stylish. Book a bed in a dormitory, a series of beds, or the whole house to stay and enjoy the large communal areas.
- Oranga Holiday Home - A charming renovated cottage that sleeps six and offers views towards Ponui Island and the Coromandel Peninsula.
- Mahoe Holiday Home - Decorated in warm vintage 1970's style, this house has four generous bedrooms and an open plan living area with large windows offering 360-degree views of the gulf.
- Serenity Holiday Home - This modern holiday home sleeps eight in the main house with a separate bunkhouse available to sleep an additional five. Rest and relax with views to picturesque Ladies Bay.
5. Slipper Island
Located 3 kilometres to the east of the Coromandel Peninsula and 8 kilometres southeast of the town of Pauanui, Slipper Island is 224 hectares of private paradise. Enjoy sheltered white sand beaches for swimming, sunbathing, or building sandcastles as well as wide expanses to play sports or park up for a picnic. If you're keen on adventure, Slipper Island Resort has many activities, including fishing charters, ATV tours, kayaking, and snorkelling, on offer.
Get there: There aren't any regular commercial services but you can easily arrange a water taxi to collect you from the Tairua Marina and deliver you to the resort jetty.
Accommodation: There are a couple of chalets, a handful of glamping tents, and a lodge provided by Slipper Island Resort.
6. Kawau Island
Kawau is one of the largest islands that make up the Hauraki Gulf. This island, located off the coast of Warkworth, is a popular destination for people seeking serenity. The crystal clear surrounding waters are paradise for anyone into fishing, sailing, or other water activities. Charter a boat and skipper through Norma Jean to enjoy a scenic tour of the island as well as an overview of Kawau’s history. After checking out island from the sea, explore it by foot with one of many short walks (map here).
Getting there: Kawau Cruises provides water taxi transfers from nearby Sandspit.
Accommodation: A handful of options for places to stay on this remote
- Kawau Lodge is large modern house located on the cliffs of North Cove with incredible views over the Bay below. Rent a room in the lodge, the entire house, or one of the three smaller chalets.
- Lidgard House is a refurbished historic beach house owned by the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron. Rent the whole house which is just metres from the water of Bon Accord Harbour.
- The Beach House offers 11 spacious suites just a stone’s throw from the sandy shores of Vivian Bay.
- There are many more private houses available to rent via Book A Bach.
7. Tiritiri Matangi Island
Tiritiri Matangi Island is a wildlife sanctuary located 30km northeast of central Auckland and just 4km from the end of the Whangaparaoa Peninsula. As soon as you step off the ferry, you’ll hear loud birdsong coming from the bush. This predator-free island is home to an estimated 71 species of birdlife, many of which are rare, endangered, and native. Spend your getaway exploring the walking tracks and relaxing on the untouched beaches!
Getting there: 360 Discovery provides a ferry with two collection points. The journey from downtown Auckland takes 75 minutes, and from Gulf Harbour it takes 20 minutes.
Accommodation: The only accommodation on the island is a Department of Conservation bunkhouse. It’s located at the top of the hill near the lighthouse and Visitor Centre, about a 40-minute walk from the wharf where the ferry lands. The facilities are basic but there is a fully equipped kitchen, hot showers, and flushing toilets. The maximum occupancy is 15 people so bookings are essential!
Rent the perfect car for your next adventure for less, directly from locals with Yourdrive.
Sign up to Yourdrive with the promo code ADVENTURE20 to get $20 off your first Yourdrive rental.