Just 30 kilometres from central Auckland, you'll find the island of Tiritiri Matangi.
"Tiri" as it's know by locals, is one of the most successful conservation projects in the country.
Working with the Department of Conservation(opens in new window), volunteers successfully eradicated all introduced pests from the island.
Between 1984 and 1994, thousands of volunteers (many of them school children) planted around 300,000 native trees. Gradually, 11 species of threatened native birds have been released onto this restored island sanctuary, to join scores of more common varieties.
As you explore the island, native bellbirds (korimako) perch and sing mere metres away. Once thought to be extinct, large flightless takahē meander near humans. Tiny native stitchbirds, blissfully unaware of their perilously low numbers, flit from branch to branch along the edge of the tracks. Other rare species include the kōkako, brown teal and little spotted kiwi.
A modern, fast ferry (and guided walking tour of the island) is operated by Fullers 360 to Tiritiri Matangi leaves from downtown Auckland, calling in to Gulf Harbour marina (a half hour drive north) on the way. Sailings operate every day during December and January, and five times per week during the rest of the year. Click here to find out about timetable information and bookings(opens in new window).
The romantic 1864 lighthouse and the old keeper's house mark the highest point on the island. This is a great place to pause for a snack while you soak up the view.
The well maintained tracks pass through forested areas and along wave-pounded cliffs to quiet sheltered beaches. Nesting boxes mark the homes of the little blue penguins that breed in the rushes at the top of the beach.
The visitor centre on the island provides tea and coffee only, so pack plenty of food. And bring a camera, because you'll seldom get this close to endangered birds in the wild. Binoculars and good walking shoes are also recommended.
Functional facts: No population, good ferry service, toilet facilities available.