1. Kapiti Island
This huge island off the Kapiti Coast is a wildlife hot spot. The emblematic kaka parrotÂ is playful and will not hesitate to steal your lunch, while the rare spotted kiwi can be seen at night in the wild if you know where to look. Organise your trip there by taking a ferry from Paraparaumu or with Kapiti Eco or Kapiti Nature Tours.
Location:Â Kapiti, Wellington, North Island
2. Stewart Island
“New Zealand’s thirdÂ island”, as Stewart IslandÂ is often referred to,Â is an underrated spot for backpackers in New Zealand. The island is 80% national park and home to one of the Great Walks, the Rakiura Track. Stewart Island is one ofÂ the best places in the country to spot a famous kiwi bird in the wild.
3. White island
The huge active marine volcano is an iconic sight in New Zealand. Visitors are taken by helicopter or boat to explore the crater, the remains of its sulfur factory, and its prehistoric history. It is also a popular dive location too. The island is definitelyÂ a must-do when visiting or working in Whakatane or Bay of Plenty area.
Location:Â Off the coast of Whakatane, Bay of Plenty, North Island.
4. Great Barrier Island
One of the jewels of the Auckland Hauraki Gulf, Great Barrier Island featuresÂ golden sand beaches, natural hot pools, rugged peaks, thick forest and a variety of wildlife. The island has become more popular each year amongst travellers, especially because you can see most ofÂ the island’s highlights on the multi-day Aotea Track.
Location:Â Auckland Hauraki Gulf, Auckland, North Island
5. Ulva Island
ThisÂ island, just off the coast of Stewart Island, showsÂ what is possible without predators. The result isÂ an abundance of native New Zealand species no longer hunted by introduced predators. See the likes ofÂ weka, kaka, kakariki, tui, bellbirds, wood pigeons, fantail, saddleback, rifleman, Stewart Island robin and more! There may be even a chance to glimpse the Stewart Island brown kiwi.
Location:Â Access via water taxi fromÂ Halfmoon Bay or Golden Bay, Stewart Island. Alternatively, transport and guided walks are available.
6. Poor Knights Islands
Located on the Tutukaka Coast, the Poor Knights Islands are world-renowned for its diving options. The most popular one is aÂ shipwreck dive where you can exploreÂ two sunk navy ships, the Waikato and the Tui. When diving to and through the wrecks you will be able to explore the guns, the control areas, the engine room and much more.
Location:Â Off the Tutukaka Coast, Northland, North Island. Access is by boat from many different ports in Northland and the Bay of Islands, including Leigh, Whangarei and Tutukaka. Book your dive from Tutukaka here.
7. D’Urville Island
Lodged in the quiet Marlborough Sounds, D’Urville Island (or Rangitoto ki te Tonga in Maori) is a slice of heaven. Featuring campsites, resorts, hiking trails, mountain biking tracks and fishing opportunities, it is the best place to unwind and reflect on your New Zealand gap year. Look for WWOOFing opportunities on the island to stay at low cost. Learn more about visiting D’Urville Island in our French Pass and D’Urville Island – Guide for Backpackers.
Location: Marlborough Sounds, off the north coast of the South Island.
8. Rangitoto Island
Auckland’s most popular volcano is an island of its own. Lava fields, lava caves, a crater, wildlife and stunning 360-degree views of the Hauraki Gulf can all be experienced on a day hike. Catch the ferry fromÂ Auckland CentralÂ early morning to save money, pack some food and water, thenÂ enjoy this volcanic island. You will not regret it! Check out our full guide to Rangitoto Island.
Location:Â Access is aÂ 25-minute ferry from downtown Auckland, North Island. Alternatively, guided kayaking trips to Rangitoto Island are available.
9. Chatham islands
We challenge you toÂ make it thisÂ far off the beaten track! Located about 800km from New Zealand’s main islands, the Chatham Islands are known as New Zealand’s fourth populated island. The islands are home to only 600 New Zealanders but compensate with a huge wildlife population of seals, dolphins and many bird species. Also, check out its famous basalt columns and tree carvings.
Location:Â 800km east of New Zealand between Wellington, North Island, and Christchurch, South Island.
10. Urupukapuka Island
The island is the largest of the 144 islands that make up the Bay of Islands. As it is one of the most popular islands too, it features three equipped camping grounds so you can extend your stay in paradise. Three things to do here: kayak on crystal clear waters, swim in Otehei Bay and walk the archaeological track.