Island escapes off New Zealand's North Island

New Zealand's never-ending coastline has an island escape for every truly private holiday experience.

New Zealand’s coastline, the ninth longest in the world, is home to many secluded offshore islands. These are some of New Zealand's most beautiful wilderness locations, a variety of unique environments that will inspire real-life Robinson Crusoe experiences.

Each island comes with its own charm, some with basic setups, others boasting luxury accommodation. An island getaway in New Zealand is the way to encounter some of the country’s rarest wildlife, taste the best wine and escape the hustle and bustle of the mainland.

Roberton Island – Bay of Islands

The Bay of Islands is exactly as it is described, a myriad of islands on the northeastern coast of New Zealand and only a 45-minute flight from Auckland.

One of 144 islands that make up 'the bay of islands', is Roberton Island also known as Motuarohia Island. The small island is a quick 20-minute boat ride from Paihia or Russell yet, once there, visitors will feel a million miles away. 

Roberton Island is home to the luxury Cook’s Cove retreat, one of only five houses on the island and a superior eco-friendly, self-sustaining getaway. Guests enjoy a private beach with jetty access, their own helipad and island activities such as walks, diving, kayaking and snorkelling.

The island has a significant Maori history and offers a range of recreation activities, including a walking track to an important Maori village site, and an educational underwater trail for snorkelers. It is also home to two crystal clear lagoons – one the most photographed scenes in the Bay.

Travel Tips

Air New Zealand flies four times a day from Auckland International Airport to Kerikeri Airport. The flight takes 45 minutes. Driving to the Bay of Islands takes around 4 hours from Auckland International Airport.

Urupukapuka – Bay of Islands

The largest island in the Bay of Islands, idyllic Urupukapuka is a natural gem with three campsites. 

Cable Bay, Sunset Bay and Urupukapuka Bay campsites are simple and offer a true camping experience. The sites are run by the Department of Conservation (DOC) and while only basic, these beachfront sites are the perfect spots for swimming, fishing and all water sports. 

The pest-free island is a breeding area for brown teal  / pāteke ducks and NZ dotterel making it ideal for birdwatchers.

The white sand beaches are great places to relax and visitors can explore ancient Māori pa sites. Not to be missed is the Urupukapuka Island ‘Archaeological Walk which follows the outer edge of the island and is suitable for people of all ages and fitness levels. 

Travel tips

Access to the island is only available by boat. Regular ferry services operate during the summer months and water taxis can be hired year-round. Book online on the DOC website. 

Great Barrier Island - Auckland

Aotea, or Great Barrier Island, is the fourth largest island in New Zealand’s main chain. 

Just a 30-minute flight from Auckland Airport takes you to an isolated playground waiting to be explored. With a population of just over 900, Great Barrier Island is a place of rugged beauty and untouched wilderness. 

Amazing fishing, incredible walks and inviting natural hot springs are just some of the island's many secrets. Some of the best waves New Zealand has to offer crash into Great Barrier Island’s deserted beaches making it a destination of choice for surfers. The Glenfern Bird Sanctuary offers tours in a predator controlled area on the island where threatened and endangered species are able to thrive.

There are a number of accommodation options on the island ranging from campsites, backpacker hostels to private cottages like the award winning Oruawharo Cottage designed by world renowned architects Fearon Hay.

Earthsong Lodge, a member of the Luxury Lodges of New Zealand, is a stylish eco-retreat in native forest surrounded by ocean views.

Travel Tips

Great Barrier Airlines flies from Auckland International Airport three times a day. Sealink operates a passenger and vehicle ferry service. Visit their website to check sailing times.

Waiheke Island – Auckland

Wine, artisan food, and adventure wait on Auckland’s famous Waiheke Island.

Only a short 30-minute ferry ride from downtown Auckland, Waiheke is easily accessible and a popular destination for tourists and locals alike. Some of New Zealand’s best wines are made on the island and the many wineries produce award winning red and white wines.

In between sipping wine and eating world-class food, visitors to Waiheke can zipline over the grape vines with Eco Zip Adventures which offers adventure tourism for all ages.

Accommodation on the island is plentiful and there are a number of styles available. The luxurious Boatshed nestled above beautiful Oneroa Beach offers five guest suites, and two cottages. Guests can enjoy a relaxed pace and get lost in a good book, or stroll to the beach for a kayaking or paddle boarding experience. 

The Oyster Inn is a quirky seafood restaurant where visitors can shop and stay all in one place. The three guest rooms are simple yet elegant and the on-site restaurant offers a tantalising selection of freshly caught seafood with the top local produce.

Waiheke Island is the second largest island in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf and the most densely populated with over 8,000 permanent residents.

Travel Tips

Several ferry companies offer regular crossings to Waiheke from downtown Auckland with extra sailings early morning and in the evening.

Kapiti Island – Wellington

Kapiti Island is a wildlife sanctuary that lies north of Wellington off the Kapiti Coast.

A predator-free haven for birds, the island is home to the takahe, white faced heron and kaka, among other rare avian species. Perhaps the island’s most famous resident is the little spotted kiwi, the smallest species of kiwi. Two thirds of the estimated 1500 birds live on Kapiti Island. There are believed to be none on mainland New Zealand. 

To visit Kapiti Island Nature Reserve, you need transport and a permit which can only be booked through one of three approved tourism providers.

Overnight stays - including a glamping package - can be booked through Kapiti Island Nature Tours, a family-run company and the only commercial operation on the island. Visitors can enjoy bird and history tours, and other activities like traditional harakeke-flax weaving weekends, seal watching, and seafood gathering. The company’s work is uniquely connected to the taonga (treasures) of Kapiti Island.

Travel Tips

Approved tourism operators’ boats depart from the Kapiti Boating Club, an hour drive north of Wellington. Trips to the island are weather dependent. Contact the tourism provider on the morning of your trip for a weather check and to confirm the departure time.