Hauraki Gulf Islands
Hauraki Gulf © Ingolfson
The Hauraki Gulf is studded with numerous islands such as Rangitoto, Waiheke, and Great Barrier Island and those close to the mainland make a good day trip. Some are recreation retreats and others are conservation islands with restricted access for the protection of rare bird, animal, and plant life. Waiheke is the most popular of the gulf islands, with picturesque bays and white sandy beaches, rolling farmlands, and hills cloaked with vineyards and fine wineries. The town enjoys the slow and relaxed pace of island life, along with chic little restaurants and cafes, and is home to many art galleries and craft shops.
The nearest island to the city is the uninhabited Rangitoto, a large volcanic cone with an unusual landscape of black distorted lava shapes that governs the view over the harbour. It is possible to hike up to the crater rim and explore the lava caves on the slopes. Each island has a different character with different things to do, whether it is to explore natural geological features or to enjoy the isolation, relax on white beaches, or wander about the galleries and cafes. Some visitors prefer simply to sail around the islands on a yacht or ferry cruise and enjoy the scenery from on board.