Is this the Bay of Islands' best-kept secret?

Everyone loves exploring the Bay of Islands... but is this lesser-known haven the pick of the bunch?

The white sands and sheltered beaches of Waewaetorea Island make it a popular day trip for visitors and Bay of Islands locals alike. A recreational reserve, it boasts clear waters perfect for swimming, kayaking and diving – and as one of the lesser known islands in the Bay, you’ll probably find you have the island almost to yourself.

Many Maori iwi (tribes) settled on the island before Europeans came to New Zealand, and the archaeological sites they left behind make exploring Waewaetorea a fascinating experience. There are two headland pa worth visiting, the first near the Orurua blowhole and the second to the right of Otawake Beach. The island's 115 acres offer visitors an opportunity witness breathtaking views of the bay.

Both Captain Cook and French explorer Marion du Fresne visited Waewaetorea during their exploratory voyages in the Bay of Islands. The French map “Plan du Port Marion” indicates that Waewaetorea was where the two ships Castries and Mascarin first anchored on their ill-fated visit.

In more recent history, Waewaetorea was purchased in 1967 by an American tobacco millionaire – showing just what a piece of paradise it is. He had plans to develop the island and build a resort, but luckly locals made it clear this wouldn’t be supported and in 1980 the island (still in relatively pristine condition) was sold back to the government for the princely sum of one dollar.

Today Waewaetorea is under the care of the Department of Conservation. Together with local volunteers Project Island Song, pest eradication and re-vegetation programmes have been carried out on the island, meaning that a walk on Waewaetorea will be accompanied by all kinds of birdsong, from the sweet chirp of fantails to the raucous tui.

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