Hauraki Maritime Park
Hauraki National Park, New Zealand’s first national park, was opened in 1967 and stretches eastwards over a vast area of water off the shores of Auckland. It also includes 47 islands. Those closest to Auckland, like Rangitoto Island and Waiheke Island in the inner Gulf and Waitemata Harbour, are ideal destinations for day-trips. These islands are suitable for hiking all year round, and in the summer months perfect for diving and snorkeling. Leigh Marine Reserve, approximately an hour’s drive north of Auckland, is an absolute must for all kinds of water-sport activities. This highly-protected marine reserve offers the visitor magnificent views of an unspoiled underwater world. As a result of commerical fishing, this opportunity has been destroyed to a very large extent elsewhere in New Zealand.
Although many of New Zealand’s forests were cut down by the Europeans to make way for farming, each island has retained its own character and charm. Alongside the relics of early Maori settlements, there are also traces of ancient pa cities (former Maori fortifications) along the splendid white sandy beaches. The ocean most likely provided the early Maori tribes with a great variety of fish and sea-food.
On no account should you leave Auckland without visiting the two islands known as Great Barrier and Little Barrier Island. Great Barrier Island, also called The Barrier is quite easy to reach. A fast ferry will get you to the island in just under two hours, covering the distance of 80 kilometers. Great Barrier, largest of the islands situated along the coast, has many splendid beaches and protected bays, as well as good hiking routes. Those wishing to unwind in peace away from civilization have an ideal opportunity to get close to nature on The Barrier. Your search for a comfortable jet-set hotel will be in vain here.
There is an extensive federal bird conservation area on the smaller Little Barrier Island. If you wish to visit this area, make sure you first apply for a permit from the Department of Conservation.
The island of Rangitoto, a volcano which became dormant 800 years ago, can be reached from Auckland in half an hour by ferryboat. The top of the volcano offers a splendid panoramic view.
The Mansion House, residence of colonial governor George Grey, is located on the island of Kawau. It still contains fine exhibits of 19th century furniture and paintings.
The island of Motuihe is also ideal for day-excursions and a popular picnic destination among Aucklander. Mountainbike are organized on the island of Motutapu by Ross Adventures with permission of the Department of Conservation.
The best time to visit Rakino Island is during the summer months, especially around Christmas time when the island is drenched in bright red blossoms from the pohutukawa trees. There are beautiful sandy beaches on Waiheke Island, especially at Oneroa Bay near Little Oneroa and at Rocky Bay in the vicinity of Omiha.