Visiting Auckland’s Treasure Islands

Auckland is so fortunate to sit on the edge of the spectacular Hauraki Gulf. This vast marine park is dotted with fascinating islands that offer sandy beaches, lush native bush and abundant wildlife.

In fact, the islands of the Hauraki Gulf make up 10% of Auckland’s total land area. There are 98 islands larger than a football field within Auckland Council’s Hauraki Gulf Controlled area.

Thanks to decades of work by the Department of Conservation (DOC), Auckland Council and other conservation groups, many of the Hauraki Gulf islands are now pest-free. Twenty-eight islands in the Gulf are free of predatory mammals, while many others only have a few pest species.

Some of the pest-free islands in the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park include Rangitoto, Motutapu, Rakino, Motuihe, Browns Island/Motukorea, Te Hauturu-o-Toi/Little Barrier Island, Tiritiri Matangi Island, and the Noises. This means native plants, reptiles, birds and other wildlife can thrive in these islands’ temperate climate. From takahē to tuatara, the locals of these islands are an intriguing bunch!

However, any intruder, from the tiniest seed to rats, mice, stoats, ants and even household pets, can pose a grave threat to the islands’ delicate ecosystems. Even contaminated soil on the bottom of someone’s shoes can carry diseases that affect plants or animals. Seeds and weeds can take over and threaten native plant life, while insects, introduced reptiles and larger predators can cause widespread harm and kill our native wildlife.

You can visit most of the islands in the Hauraki Gulf without a permit. However, to keep them pest-free, everyone needs to play their part in keeping these “treasure islands” safe for the inhabitants.

Auckland Whale & Dolphin Safari is licensed by DOC and the Auckland Council to visit pest-free conservation islands and other islands in the Hauraki Gulf. While our standard safaris don’t include an island visit, we do occasionally visit the islands for special charters and other events. And even on our usual safari trips, it’s still important to prepare properly. Pests like rats can easily swim as far as 1.5 kilometres, so even if we’re not approaching an island closely, it’s still important to follow the necessary precautions.

Here are some tips from our crew about what to do (and not to do) when visiting the Hauraki Gulf with us, whether you’re stopping off on an island or just enjoying our usual whale and dolphin watching cruise.

Preparing for your trip

Prepare for your safari by being alert for stowaways in your bags or personal items. It’s easier than you think for pests like Argentine ants, rainbow skinks, soil, seeds, mice or rats to hitch a ride!

  • Check your bags carefully when packing for your safari and make sure any food is in sealed containers. Close your bags when you’re all packed so no critters can hitch a ride while you’re not looking!
  • Make sure your shoes and gear are clean with no dirt, plant matter or seeds. Don’t forget to check your pockets too! If your clothes or shoes have been in contact with wildlife in the past three months, clean or disinfect them.

Visiting the Islands

If you are visiting the Hauraki Gulf islands with us, please respect the rules that have been put in place to protect the wildlife and help keep this region pristine. The skipper will give a biosecurity talk before we arrive at the island to make sure everyone understands what to do.

  • We’ll ask you to check your bags, gear and shoes before you come on board, and clean them if needed.
  • All plants and animals on the island are protected. You must not interfere with them in any way, including feeding animals, taking any plant or animal matter off the island. No souvenirs, sorry!
  • Everything you take onto the island must come back to the boat with you, including any rubbish.
  • Do not touch or approach any bird nests. It is best to keep a 5-metre distance as you may scare the birds away.
  • Stay on the marked walking tracks and out of any cordoned-off or signed areas.
  • Leave the island as you found it.

Taking these simple steps will help us protect the islands of the Gulf and turn them into flourishing habitats for our native taonga.