Between Rangitoto and Waiheke Islands, 176-hectare Motuihe (www.motuihe.org.nz) has a lovely white-sand beach and a fascinating history. There are three pā sites, last occupied by the Ngāti Pāoa tribe. The island was sold in 1840 (for a heifer, blankets, frocks, garden tools, pots and pans) and from 1872 to 1941 served as a quarantine station. During WWI the dashing swashbuckler Count von Luckner launched a daring escape from the island (where he was interned with other German and Austrian nationals), making it 1000km to the Kermadec Islands before being recaptured.
Motuihe has been rendered pest-free and is now subject to a vigorous reforestation project by enthusiastic volunteers. As a result, endangered birds have returned, including the loquacious tieke. There are no permanent residents or shops, except for a weekend kiosk in summer.