Hauraki Gulf Islands
Hauraki Gulf © Ingolfson
The Hauraki Gulf is studded with numerous islands, some recreation retreats and others conservation islands with restricted access for the protection of rare bird, animal, and plant life. Waiheke is the most popular, with picturesque bays and white sandy beaches, rolling farmlands, and hills cloaked with vineyards and fine wineries. Uninhabited Rangitoto is a large volcanic cone with an unusual landscape of black distorted lava shapes. It is possible to hike up to the crater rim and explore the lava caves on the slopes. Each island has its own distinct character, so tourists can decide if they want to explore natural geographic features, relax on the beach, or simply wander around galleries and cafes.