Kawau Island was originally settled by early migrations of Maori people. From time to time tribes contested the right to live on the island, which was eventually abandoned in the 1820s after a particularly bloody skirmish during the musket wars.
A manganese mine was established on the island in the 1840s; shortly after, copper was discovered by accident. Fascinating ruins of the underground seashore copper mine, a pumping engine house and a small smelter remain today.
In 1862 the island was purchased by one of New Zealand's first governors, Sir George Grey, as a private residence. He employed architects to significantly extend the mine manager's house to create the stately mansion that still stands today, fully restored in its sheltered, sunny bay. In the valley behind the house, the governor created an extensive garden containing plants and animals from all over the world. The magnificent house and park-like gardens are open to visitors, and colourful peacocks still strut the lawns.
Scenic hiking trails on the island range in length from half an hour to several hours duration, and are mostly easy walking. Many of the routes follow old tracks originating from Mansion House valley.
Ferries and water taxis travel to Kawau Island daily from Sandspit Wharf near Warkworth, about one and a half hour's drive north of Auckland. Click here to find out about timetable information. (opens in new window)