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Weekend escape to your private island, Rotoroa Island, Hauraki Gulf

Auckland where to go and what to do

Hauraki Gulf is a world away from the urban bustle of Auckland. Combined with the spectacular predator free sanctuary of Rotoroa Island visitors are immersed in a New Zealand natural environment where nature is in charge. Rotoroa Island, a treasure in the Hauraki Gulf is a short ferry ride away from New Zealand’s largest city. For other trips and holiday inspiration check out Auckland Road Trips.

Trip Overview

If you had only one island to visit, where would you go?

Rotoroa Island highlights

  • Birds, regenerating forest and wetlands
  • History of settlement dating back 900 years
  • Swim in secluded bays
  • Ranger guided tour

Duration: 2 days
Start Auckland Ferry Terminal
Finish Auckland Ferry Terminal

As the Fullers Ferry pulls away from the Auckland Harbour wharf your weekend starts with a sense of letting go of the anchors of urban life. Urban routines slip quietly, without protest into the waters of the Hauraki Gulf. The ferry passengers’ palpable sense of excitement is scattered smiles and a rush to view the disappearing city as the ferry moves into the harbour. Backpacks, cycles (for visitors going to Waiheke Island) and the gear of holidays is haphazardly piled among the passengers. The ferry has a stop at Waiheke Island as part of its Hauraki Gulf circuit.

The Island has no shops, no cafe and is predator free from those pesky animals that munch on flightless birds and the like. There is a controlled number of visitors per day. Rotoroa is a magical place where visitors can experience Island lie cocooned in the comfort of contemporary accommodation. Electricity and excellent internet service are guaranteed on your Island getaway. Natural spa living, island style.

Best time to visit

Year round

A New Zealand Dotterel on the sand dunes of Mangawhai Beach, New Zealand
A New Zealand Dotterel, NZ

Things to do on Rotoroa Island include observing endangered bird and animal species who are free to wander throughout the Island. It is the visitors who are managed where they go and told how to behave. The local inhabitants set the pace, wekas are known to cheekly invite themselves into your accommodation to see what you are doing. There is a heritage trail, complete with a museum to wander through. Hiking, swimming and volunteering are encouraged and, for fishing enthusiasts, great spots to try your hand at catching your evening meal.

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Saturday morning
Rotoroa views, New Zealand
Rotoroa views, NZ

Getting to Rotoroa is an adventure in itself as you let go of city living. The scheduled Fullers Ferry departing early in the morning. There is one scheduled sailing a day to the Island during summer. Effectively Island visitors are limited by the transport options to the Island.

For those whose budget is flexible there are options of sea planes and chartered boats. As always check transport operators for up to date information.

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Ladies Beach, Rotoroa Island, New Zealand
Rotoroa Island, NZ

Landed and ready to check into your accommodation.

Rotoroa Island is a trust whereby all land accommodation is managed by the park guardians with a resident ranger as the manager of facilities, services, guided tours and visitor encounters. Rotoroa Accommodation ranges from comfortably refurbished 1970’s homes to bunk style rooms with space for 18 people. The Superintendent’s House on Rotoroa Island was the former home of the island’s most senior Salvation Army staff member, the Superintendent.

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Settling in with a guided tour
Tieke Saddleback on Tiritiri Matangi island, New Zealand
Tieke Saddleback, NZ

You are ready to explore the Island. A must do experience is a guided ranger tour. Invaluable Island tips how to get around, the narrative of the Island and details about flora and fauna is part of the walking tour. Visitors meet at the Island’s information centre for an introduction, collection of brochures and to assist with any queries that might have arisen during your check in process. The tour starts with the heritage buildings and the story of the Salvation Army alcohol recovery programmes.

TIP: Book Island guided tour before your arrival.

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Walking tracks

Chris Booth Sculpture, Rotoroa Island, New Zealand
Chris Booth Sculpture, Rotoroa Island, NZ

The walking tracks range from easy to medium grade walks. There are relatively few steps however there are hill climbs which offer the walker sweeping panoramic views of the Hauraki Gulf with Auckland, as a speck on the distant horizon. Your walks are vistas from small coves where you view boats at anchor to a wider sight of the Gulf ferries busy transporting passengers around the Islands. The City of Sails is an apt description of Auckland when you are perched on an Island promontory watching the billowing sails of the yachts.

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Departure mid afternoon
Tui perched on Kowhai tree, Auckland, North Island, New Zealand. September.
Tui perched on Kowhai tree, NZ

Reluctantly you pack your bags, you check that you are carrying all your rubbish back with you, any food scraps or plastic containers. Then you take a moment to sit outside in the warmth of the spring weather to listen to the bird song. The tui decides you need a farewell and starts up a chorus which continues as the tui’s girlfriend takes an interest in the entertainment. You are close enough to the tui to witness the bird’s throat vibrating with the power of song. The Island sings as you savour your final weekend moments on Rotoroa.

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