From downtown Auckland you can take a day trip to Motuihe Island, where there's a choice of excellent beaches and several interesting walks.
Motuihe Island, just 16 kilometres from Auckland's city centre, has some of the best beaches of the inner Hauraki Gulf islands. White sand, clear waters, sheltered anchorages and visitor facilities make it a popular destination for day visits and camping holidays. The walks around the island's coast, or across its easy-rolling pastures, offer wide views of the Hauraki Gulf and nearby islands. Some of them lead to fascinating relics of the island's history.
Motuihe was extensively settled by Maori people before being farmed by Europeans for over a century. From 1872 it was Auckland's quarantine station - the graves of scarlet fever and influenza victims provide a sad reminder of these challenging times. In 1914 the island became a prisoner of war camp. The most notorious prisoner was Count Felix Von Luckner, who escaped and was recaptured on two occasions. In the Second World War, Motuihe served as a naval training base.
In recent years, volunteers have worked with the Department of Conservation to remove all mammalian pests from the island. They have also planted more than 30,000 native trees with the aim of returning native birds, lizards and insects to the island. In 2005, 20 rare saddlebacks (birds) were released onto Motuihe Island and successful breeding began in the first year. The 10-year restoration plan includes the ancient Maori pa (fortress) sites as well as the development of new walking tracks.
You can book to camp on the island. Ferry services from the city run daily from October through April, and at limited times in winter - contact 360 Discovery for details. You can also hire a water taxi at any time of year.
Functional facts: Toilet facilities, campsites (bookings through DOC), limited ferry service.