The Best Islands for Kayaking in Auckland
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, 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. Nowadays, they make for great kayaking in Auckland.
Some islands can only be accessed by private boat or kayak. For the most tranquil, eco-friendly and adventurous option, 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 kayaker. Nevertheless, anyone with an eagerness to paddle can take a guided tour. Look at Okahu Bay, Mission Bay and St Heliers for kayak options near the city. Warkworth is a good starting location for the northern islands.
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. Alternatively, make your journey smooth, fun and educational with a guided tour with the Social Nature Movement – ideal for beginners and an amazing four-hour adventure with likely wildlife encounters. Find out more about the tour on socialnaturemovement.nz.
Location: Tours depart from St Heliers Beach, Auckland Central.
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 at Rangitoto Island. Try a sunset kayak tour with Auckland Sea Kayaks to experience the island at its quietest while watching the beautiful sunset – find out more on Viator and Klook. Kayaking takes about 2 hours between the mainland and Rangitoto Island.
Location: Tours depart from St Heliers Beach, Auckland Central.
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 and even 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. Allow about 3 hours to kayak from the mainland to Home Bay on Motutapu.
Location: Start from St Heliers Beach, Auckland Central.
4. Motuihe Island
A 2 hr 30 mins 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.
Location: Start from St Heliers Beach, Motutapu Island or Waiheke Island.
5. Tiritiri Matangi Island
This pest-free island is a wildlife sanctuary which rewards you with numerous walks through pristine forest. You’ll likely spot native birds like 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. Alternatively, get your ferry ticket to Tiritiri Matangi Island on Klook.
Location: Start from the Whangaparaoa or Shakespear Regional Park, Whangaparaoa, Rodney.
6. Kawau Island
Just off the coast of Warkworth, experienced kayakers can paddle from Snells Beach to Kawau Island known for its mansion house and exotic gardens which are open to the public. There are also a few short easy walks to explore the vegetated areas. See what else there is to do in the area in the 10 Best Things to Do in Warkworth.
Location: Start from Snells Beach, Warkworth, Rodney.
7. Motuora Island
Sometimes we just want to camp on a small island. That’s actually not too much to ask with Motuora Island just off the coast of the Mahurangi Regional Park. It takes about 1 hr 30 mins to kayak over from the mainland. Make use of the campsite while listening to the sounds of the North Island brown kiwi at night. And see more island sanctuaries for kiwi in our guide, Where to See Kiwi Birds in New Zealand.
Location: Start from Mahurangi Regional Park, Mahurangi West, Rodney.
8. Goat Island
Ok, so you don’t exactly need a kayak to get to this island, but kayak hire with Clearyak is available to explore further than you might go if you were just to snorkel. The Goat Island Marine Reserve is New Zealand’s original marine reserve packed with fish, stingrays and even occasional dolphins and orcas. Goat Island is part of the Matakana Coast, which has heaps of other attractions worth discovering, as listed in the 20 Best Things to Do in Matakana & the Matakana Coast. Otherwise, find out more about Goat Island in 5 Fun Things to Do at Goat Island Marine Reserve.
Location: Leigh, Matakana Coast, Rodney.
9. Waiheke Island
The most popular island on the Hauraki Gulf, Waiheke Island can certainly be kayaked to from Motutapu or Motutihe Island. As the island itself is well-inhabited, there is not only kayak hire on the island, but you can kayak there from the mainland on an overnight guided experience with the Social Nature Movement, including 2 hours paddle there; 2 hours back. Head to 10 Best Things to Do on Waiheke Island for more inspiration on what to do there.
Location: Kayak rental is available on the island. Otherwise, tours depart from Maraetai Boat Ramp, Maraetai, South Auckland.
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 tranquillity you might find in the other islands, it is still possible to kayak to and from. Also, check the 40-minute Herald Island Path walking trail while you are there.
Location: Herald Island, Hobsonville, West Auckland.
More About Kayaking in Auckland
That’s it for our guide to kayaking in Auckland, the best islands to kayak to, as well as Auckland kayak tours. For more experiences in New Zealand’s largest city, take a look at these:
- 10 Things to Do in Auckland at Night
- 10 Alternative Things to Do in Auckland
- 10 Best Kayak Tours in New Zealand