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Day trips

Auckland day trip to Motuihe Island: what to do and see

  • 4 minutes

North Island, New Zealand

Quarantine stations, prisoner of war camp and now glorious family friendly beaches

Auckland skyline and Hauraki Gulf are the backdrop to safe sandy beaches and interesting walks through regenerating bush. From downtown Auckland you can take a day trip to Motuihe Island, where there’s a choice of superb beaches and several easy coastal walks. A great day trip from Auckland. Visitors will enjoy a Fullers Ferry water trip with the Auckland skyline receding into the distance.

For other trips and holiday inspiration check out Auckland Road Trips.

Motuihe Island, New Zealand @motuihe
@Motuihe Island

Motuihe Island highlights

  • Five sandy, safe beaches
  • Walks suitable for kids and all fitness levels
  • Camping overnight option (DOC standard site)
  • Identify native birds, geckos, skinks and tuataras

Motuihe walking tracks are mainly gentle grass tracks and some hard surface tracks which provide access to a range of diverse and interesting areas and destinations. Some unmarked no exit tracks provide access to areas where tree planting and invasive weed control is ongoing. The main walking tracks are colour coded and signposted.

Motuihe trust description of walks

Headland Heritage Track

This track starts and finishes at the isthmus which is located between Wharf Bay and Ocean Beach.

The headland area was at various times the site of two Maori Pas, first NZ olive groves, early settler quarantine station, shipping gun emplacement, WW1 Internment and POW camp, 1919 influenza grave site, children’s health camp, NZ Navy training station from 1942 to 1963.

  • Fitness Level: Easy gradient
Motuihe Island @Motuihe Island
@Motuihe Island

Eastern Beaches

This loop track starts and finishes 200m south of the Ranger’s residence.

It connects with the Woolshed, the start of the Tieke Track, Calypso Bay, Snapper Bay, Ocean Beach East.

There are link tracks for those who wish to shorten their route.

  • Fitness Level: Mostly easy gradient
Tieke Saddleback on Tiritiri Matangi island, New Zealand
Tieke Saddleback, NZ

Tieke Track

Tieke Track is accessed from Eastern Beaches track and is less than 200 metres from the woolshed. It starts through trees planted in 2003 and passes under ancient pohutukawa trees which are home to a wide variety of birds including the very rare tieke. There is a seat overlooking Wharf Bay, Rangitoto and Auckland City. The layered limestone rocks occur below this point. Kereru may be seen feasting on berries and tuis have been seen drinking the nectar from a wide range of trees. Other birds will be chirping and tweeting and singing all around. The Tieke Track emerges from the bush on the ridge where  wide views of Hauraki Gulf may be seen.

  • Fitness Level: Easy gradient

Southeast Beach/Bald Knob Track

The Southeast Beach/Bald Knob loop track starts at the end of the metal road and follows the blue track to the far southernmost end of the Island and returns via a long slow climb back up to the ridge and past the trig station providing a 360 degree view of the Hauraki Gulf.

This is a pleasant walk through recently planted trees and around the side of Bald Knob and down to the small sandy Southeast Beach.

  • Fitness Level: Medium fitness required
Hauraki Gulf islands, Auckland, New Zealand
Hauraki Gulf islands, NZ

The Motuihe Trust is running a restoration project in partnership with DOC, with the aim of reforesting parts of the island, returning native birds, lizards and insects, conserving historic features and developing tracks and visitor facilities. Since 2003 volunteers have grown and planted thousands of trees on the island.

Motuihe’s shores are also home for two threatened shorebird species, the NZ dotterel and the variable oystercatcher. Little blue penguins also breed on the island.


Getting to Motuihe Island

The red boats operates on a scheduled timetable. Ferry service is limited. If you are chartering a commercial vessel to the island, check the operator has a Pest-Free Warrant. Commercial vessels that use the wharf will also need a wharf landing permit. Find authorised transport operators to this island.

Private boat

If arriving by private boat, there are several safe anchorages including Wharf Bay, Ocean Beach and Calypso Bay. Note that the wharf is only available for dropping off and picking up passengers.

Kayaking is several hours from Auckland CBD district. Sea kayaking in the Hauraki Gulf is for experienced kayakers only. There are several tour operators offering guided kayaking tours including Motuihe Island.

Useful facts about Motuihe Island

  • The historic water tower is a major hazard, and the site is fenced off. Do not enter the inside of the perimeter fence or the tower.
  • Carry food and water supplies. There are no shops. In the peak summer season The Motuihe Trust opens the ‘kiosk’ near Ocean Beach on busy weekends, selling drinks and ice creams.
  • Wear closed walking shoes
  • Carry insect repellent for sandflies
Historic water tower on Motuihe Island, Hauraki Gulf, Auckland, New Zealand
Historic water tower on Motuihe Island, NZ

Maori Occupation

Motuihe Island was extensively settled by pre-European Maori with two significant pa sites. Two pa were constructed on the island’s headlands, with one – Mangoparerua – noted as an important battle site. Maru Iwi was the first tribe in the area before the island was conquered by Te Arawa in the 14th century. Later, Ngati Paoa held  the island and it was this iwi that was recognised by the Crown as the owners once European visitation began.

Quarantine station

In 1872 a ship brought small-pox into Auckland harbour and Motuihe Island/Te Motu-a-Ihenga became a quarantine station. In 1918 with influenza epidemic swept New Zealand the island was revitalised as a quarantine station. The island was host to an animal quarantine station until 1930 when the role was moved to Wellington’s Matiu/Somes Island. The small graveyard is a poignant reminder with faded markers describing scarlet fever and influenza victims.

Motuihe Island cemetery
Motuihe Cemetery @Jontynz


Motuihe Island Cemetery, Auckland, contains the official war grave of 1 man who served in the New Zealand forces during the First World War.

This is Private Frederick Donovan Bradbury who died of influenza and pneumonia on 12 November 1918.

The cemetery is located at Cemetery Point, at the north end of the island.

World War I prisoner of war camp.

Count Felix Von Luckner, escaped and was recaptured on two occasions.

World War II

A naval training base was established

1945 – 1963

Hmnzs tamaki naval training base

HMNZS Tamaki, a naval training base and part of the coastal defence network. It continued in peacetime to be used for basic training in seamanship, fitness and discipline before moving to the North Shore in 1963.


Motuihe Island Camping

Department of Conservation

Camp on the headland near a sandy, sheltered beach and explore the island by foot. Good boat anchorage. Home to kiwi, kākāriki, saddleback and shore skink.

Category: Standard booking

Bookings: Bookings required


  • Toilets – non-flush
  • Water from tap – not treated, boil before use
  • 48 non-powered/tent sites

Seasonal restrictions: Fires are not permitted at any time. Dog access No dogs.

See Travel Pack Section for map of camping grounds.

Travel pack information


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