Exploring Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf

Explore the Hauraki Gulf from the ferry terminal.

As New Zealand's largest city, Auckland is well known for its busy roads, high-rise buildings and multicultural population. However, its natural beauty is what is often highlighted on the postcards –  the beautiful beaches, regional parks and (dormant) volcanoes all feature, but the Hauraki Gulf is at the top of the list.

Incorporating an area of 4,000 square kilometres, the Hauraki Gulf stretches from Great Barrier Island in the north to the Coromandel Peninsula in the south. Of course, Auckland is at the heart of the gulf and is the base for many explorations out to the countless islands.

So, if you are thinking about having a day off from your books at Auckland Institute of Studies, head downtown and catch a ferry out to some of the many Hauraki Gulf destinations!

1) Rangitoto Island

As the focal point of Auckland's harbour, the impressive Rangitoto Island is certainly a must-visit. It has been at least 600 years since Rangitoto rose from the sea – making it the youngest Auckland volcano. Don't worry though, Rangitoto is a perfectly safe dormant volcano!

From the ferry terminal, it is an easy 25-minute journey to the island where you can start your walk to the top. The well-marked Summit Track takes around an hour to complete and the exercise will be greatly rewarded at the top. Experience 360-degree views of every corner of Auckland including the Bombay Hills and Waitakere Ranges on a clear day.

Of course, there are also multiple other tracks around Rangitoto Island to enjoy the white sand beaches, forests, historic cottages and lava caves. Camping is not permitted on the island so remember to catch the last ferry back to Auckland if you want to avoid staying the night.

2) Waiheke Island

Waiheke is the second largest island in the Hauraki Gulf with more than 8,000 permanent residents, swelling to tens of thousands during the summer. From the same ferry terminal, Waiheke is just 35 minutes away from Auckland and is home to many award-winning wineries and restaurants. Should you want to stay longer than a day, The island boasts a considerable range of accommodation options.

Lonely Planet named Waiheke Island as one of the world's top regions to visit in 2016.

One of the great elements of Waiheke Island is its climate. As a result of geographic positioning and shape, the island enjoys lower rainfall and humidity than Auckland while experiencing higher temperatures – meaning it is a great trip regardless of the season.

In fact, Lonely Planet named Waiheke Island as one of the world's top regions to visit in 2016, putting its beauty on the international scene.

Whether you want a relaxing stroll around an art gallery, or to enjoy some fine dining and a quiet walk on the beach, Waiheke Island is the place to be!

3) Tiritiri Matangi Island

New Zealand is home to many native birds, but because of introduced predators, there is a real focus on protecting these populations. To ensure that native species such as stitchbirds, bellbirds and North Island robins continue to strive, open wildlife sanctuaries like Tiritiri Matangi are critical. The island is accessible via ferry from the downtown terminal with the journey taking 75 minutes.

Tiritiri Matangi is perfect for those with a love for nature. With multiple tracks covering the island, you can enjoy the sweet sounds of birdlife as you walk through the pest-free forests. In addition to the birds in the trees, Tiritiri Matangi is also home to little blue penguins who nest around Hobbs Beach. Depending on the time of the year, it is possible to see these cute birds enjoying the safe beach environment.

If you want to stay on the island, bookings can be made for a well equipped bunkhouse. However, you will need to organise this early with the Department of Conservation to ensure you don't miss out.

The Hauraki Gulf is Auckland's playground so make sure you get out on the water and experience these destinations for yourself!