Rotoroa Island has been open to the public since 2011 and is rapidly becoming one of the gems of the Hauraki Gulf. In its former life, Rotoroa was an alcohol rehabilitation centre. "Inmates" were sent to the island for compulsory reform for periods of up to 2 years. It's hard to believe that anyone would want to escape from an island with such sandy beaches, crystal clear water and views to die for but many of the inhabitants did. The early morning wake up calls, physical labour, routine diet and lack of all temptation (including alcohol!) may have something to do with that.
Today, Rotoroa Island is operated by the Rotoroa Island Trust who are doing a wonderful job of restoring the environment to its natural state. Rotoroa is predator free (no domestic animals allowed) and a pest eradication programme is underway. Over 400 000 native trees have been planted and walkling tracks that run from one end of the island to the other are well maintained. Buildings have been restored and a new exhibition centre has been constructed where you will find audio and visual displays charting the island's history.
There are no shops on Rotoroa so you pack a picnic, pick something up on the ferry or make use of the BBQs provided free of charge at Ladies Bay, one of the most accessible beaches close to the ferry landing point.
If you intend to walk around the island (and you should), wear trainers or walking shoes (not jandals) as the tracks are loose gravel and can be slippery.
Check the ferry timetable at www.360discovery.co.nz and if you have time to spare, book online to stay overnight in one of the 4 gorgeously restored vintage houses (www.rotoroa.org.nz). It’s as close as you’ll come to having an island all to yourself.
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