Stretching between Auckland and the Coromandel Peninsula, the Hauraki Gulf is dotted with motu (islands), and is as equally stunning as Northland's Bay of Islands. Some islands are only minutes from the city and make excellent day trips. Wine-soaked Waiheke and volcanic Rangitoto really shouldn’t be missed. Great Barrier requires more effort (and cash) to get to, but provides an idyllic escape from modern life.
There are more than 50 islands in the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park, many administered by DOC. Some are good-sized islands, others are no more than rocks jutting out of the sea. They’re loosely put into two categories: recreation and conservation. The recreation islands can easily be visited and their harbours are dotted with yachts in summer. The conservation islands, however, have restricted access. Permits are required to visit some, while others are closed refuges for the preservation of rare plants and animals, especially birds.