Auckland’s greatest asset is the island-studded Hauraki Gulf, a 70km-square patch of ocean to the northeast of the city. In Maori, Hauraki means “wind from the north” – though the gulf is somewhat sheltered from the prevailing winds and ocean swells by Great Barrier Island, creating benign conditions for Auckland’s legions of yachties. Most just sail or fish, but those who wish to strike land can visit some of the 47 islands, administered by the Department of Conservation, designated either for recreational use with full access, or as sanctuaries for endangered wildlife, requiring permits.

Auckland’s nearest island neighbour is Rangitoto, a flat cone of gnarled and twisted lava that dominates the harbourscape. The most populous of the gulf islands is Waiheke, increasingly a commuter suburb of Auckland, with sandy beaches and some quality wineries. Wine was definitely verboten at nearby Rotoroa Island, once a Salvation Army de-tox centre and now open for day visits.

Waiheke’s sophistication is a far cry from laidback Great Barrier Island, the largest hereabouts, with its sandy surf beaches, hilly tramping tracks and exceptional fishing. The Department of Conservation’s policy of allowing access to wildlife sanctuaries is wonderfully demonstrated at Tiritiri Matangi, where a day-trip gives visitors an unsurpassed opportunity to see some of the world’s rarest birds.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

New Zealand features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

How to find the right New Zealand for you

How to find the right New Zealand for you

While it may not loom large on the world map, New Zealand feels incredibly vast and imposing on the ground, especially to those who try to visit the North and S…

23 May 2016 • Eric Grossman insert_drive_file Article
Everything you need to know about backpacking New Zealand

Everything you need to know about backpacking New Zealand

New Zealand’s craggy coastline and beautiful national parks are dotted with wildlife and beg to be explored. The scenery gets more spectacular around every co…

07 Mar 2016 • Rachel Mills insert_drive_file Article
Video: the world's friendliest cities

Video: the world's friendliest cities

Which cities are going to welcome you with open arms? Where will the locals be likely to buy you a beer, and who's going to invite you in for tea when it's cold…

10 Oct 2014 • Rough Guides Editors videocam Video
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month