Hauraki Gulf Islands
The Hauraki Gulf, stretching between Auckland and the Coromandel Peninsula, is dotted with motu (islands) and gives the Bay of Islands stiff competition in the beauty stakes. Some islands are only minutes from the city and make excellent day trips. Wine-soaked Waiheke and volcanic Rangitoto really shouldn’t be missed.
Few stretches of sand have more personality than Karekare. Those prone to metaphysical musings inevitably settle on descriptions such as ‘spiritual’ and ‘brooding’. Perhaps history has left its imprint: in 1825 it was the site of a ruthless massacre of the local Kawerau iwi by Ngāpuhi invaders.
If you notice an Auckland surfer dude with a faraway look, chances are they’re daydreaming about Piha. This beautifully rugged, iron-sand beach has long been a favourite for Aucklanders escaping from the city’s stresses – whether for day trips, weekend teenage parties or family holidays.
Goat Island Marine Reserve
Only 3km from Leigh, this 547-hectare aquatic area was established in 1975 as the country’s first marine reserve. In less than 40 years the sea has reverted to a giant aquarium, giving an impression of what the NZ coast must have been like before humans arrived.
Tantalisingly close to Auckland and blessed with its own warm, dry microclimate, blissful Waiheke Island has long been a favourite escape for city dwellers and visitors alike. On the island’s landward side, emerald waters lap at rocky bays, while its ocean flank has some of the region’s best sandy beaches. While beaches are Waiheke’s biggest drawcard, wine is a close second.