Mention Auckland and island-hopping might be the last thing that comes to mind. However, the Hauraki Gulf, stretching between Auckland and the Coromandel Peninsula, offers a rich swathe of pristine waters dotted with islands that are as beautiful as they are varied. Whether you're scaling the 600-year-old volcano at Rangitoto Island or coming face-to-face with native Takahe birds on Tiritiri Matangi Island, you'll find plenty of activities for both the young and the young at heart. Island life in the Hauraki Gulf isn't just about tramping around in boots or going all Bear Grylls in the untouched wilderness. There are award-winning wineries to discover (Waiheke Island is the place to be for this) and plenty of water sports in tow to work up a good sweat. Keen to explore the islands here? You'll do best to charter a yacht. However, many of the islands are accessible by ferry from downtown Auckland, making it easy for anyone to visit. Below, four islands you should include in your itinerary.
It's hard to believe that a 35-minute ferry ride from downtown Auckland is all it takes to transport one to an island dotted with wineries and vineyards. For vinophiles, Waiheke Island stands out as one of four wine regions surrounding Auckland. Embark on a wine tour to taste the lay of the land, a journey paired with delicious food and backdropped with gorgeous scenery. For the adventure buffs, strapping into the flying fox zipline lets you take flight across the towering tree tops, while those seeking a languid stroll along the beach have numerous white-sand beaches (locals recommend Oneroa and Onetangi) to choose from. A lively art scene means there's plenty of inspiring creations to behold across a growing network of galleries and studios.
An island with a fiery past, Rangitoto Island is home to Auckland's youngest volcano of the same name. The 600-year-old volcano may lie dormant today, but its beauty continues to draw an active flow of visitors. Getting to the island is easy. A 30-minute ferry ride from downtown Auckland takes you to one of the region's most iconic natural landmarks. Have an hour to spare? Consider embarking on the one-hour Summit Track which takes you to the peak of Rangitoto Island. From here, the panoramic views are nothing short of stunning. Don't forget to pack a torchlight with you. The lava tunnels and caves on the island are unique sights to behold and worth heading down under for.
Tiritiri Matangi Island
If naturalist David Attenborough arrived on Tiritiri Matangi Island, he would have plenty of flora and fauna to behold. Regarded by locals as one of Auckland's 'Treasure Islands', the lush territory is a wildlife sanctuary bounded only by its shores. A haven for native and endangered species, visitors curious to learn more about the vast wildlife on the island need only to join a guided walk. Hobbs Beach is where you'll find the nesting boxes of little blue penguins while the hour-long Kawaura Track takes you beneath towering pohutukawa trees that have watched over the island for the past 800 years. If you're lucky, you might also spot the Takahe, a large, flightless bird — thought to have been extinct in 1930 — which calls Tiritiri Matangi Island home.
Great Barrier Island
Few places on earth are as untouched as Auckland's Great Barrier Island. Azure waters, ancient native forests, and golden beaches are but a few of the island's top draws. While over sixty per cent of the island is protected, you'll find plenty of hiking trails that let you go into the wild. Think tranquil rivers, magnificent canyons, and verdant greens. Taking a dip in natural hot pools at the island's Kaitoke Hot Springs serve as a great way for hikers to rest their weary legs. Into water sports? Some of the best surfing (Medlands Beach comes up tops) and boogie boarding strips can be found here. For an unforgettable dining experience, charter a fishing boat to catch your dinner before settling down for a seafood feast.
How to get there
Singapore Airlines flies directly into Auckland in under 9 hours and 35 minutes. Fly in comfort by booking yourself into Premium Economy Class, where the 19.5-inch-wide seats translate into more wiggle-room and the freedom to truly kick back and relax. Sleep will come easy too with a seat that reclines up to eight inches and comes fitted with a calf-rest and foot-rest. Before you fly, don't forget to take advantage of the airline's 'Book the Cook' option, which lets you select your main course from a delectable array of meals. Meanwhile, a 13.3-inch HD enabled touchscreen monitor means you can fully immerse yourself in the extensive entertainment options on KrisWorld. The kicker? Noise-cancelling headphones. Perfect for tuning out your surroundings.