When one thinks of New Zealand it is usually the North and South Islands that come to mind. And quite naturally so; they are the two main and the two biggest islands. But the archipelago is also made of numerous hidden islands that are equally gorgeous, if not more. Besides the relatively untouched beauty of these locations, they are also off the beaten path. This means you will encounter fewer crowds when you go island hopping in New Zealand.
Pack your swimsuit, sunglasses and sunblock, and get ready for an awesome time on this trip.
Imagine an island that is mostly a national park. Stewart Island lies about 30km south of the South Island and it offers you 2,000 square kilometres of untamed wilderness, 85% of which is part of Rakiura National Park.
What can you expect in your time here? The silence of the night is punctuated by the calls of nocturnal birds like the ruru, weka and kiwis. Daytime will bring the sweet melodies of red-crowned parakeets, robins and bush parrots.
Stewart Island is a haven for hikers. The island is laid with 245km of walking tracks that one can access from the town of Oban. If you are feeling really adventurous, do check out the three-day Great Walks trek. For those of you who are outdoorsy types but wish to enjoy the island at a leisurely pace, then you can take short walks through Horseshoe Point, Fern Gully or Moturau Moana.
While on the island, don’t miss a trip to Ulva Island, home to Te Wharawhara Marine Reserve. Take diving trips and kayak safaris to explore the mind boggling variety of marine life including sea cucumbers, star fish, kina and kelp, besides schools of fish.
Getting there: You can hop aboard the Stewart Island Experience Ferry at Bluff, South Island, from 8:00 daily.
Do something exclusive on your New Zealand island hopping tour. Head to Kapiti Island, known for being home to some of New Zealand's most endangered birds, including the kiwi, kokako, weka, takah, morepork, royal spoonbills and blue penguins. This 2,000-hectare nature reserve and its surrounding protected waters are just 50kms from Wellington and make for a memorable visit. What makes it exclusive, you ask? Only 100 visitors are allowed to visit the island each day, which means no jostling crowds and a peaceful time.
The kiwi today is considered to be an endangered species in New Zealand and it is great to spot this local bird in its natural habitat here, on Kapiti Island, since sadly; they are extinct on the mainland.
If bird watching isn’t your cup of tea, you can go looking for more adventure. Try your hand at kayaking and snorkelling, and if you wish, you can even trek up one of the few walking trails to reach Rangatira Landing, the highest point on the island.
Getting there: The island is a 15-minute ferry ride from Paraparaumu Beach.
If you want a taste of Māori culture and history, may we recommend Kawau Island? This was home to early migrations of Māori people and it was later purchased as a private residence by Sir George Grey, one of New Zealand's first governors. Besides its unusual history, you can also enjoy various activities such as fishing, swimming and boating here.
The biggest attraction of the island is the ancient Mansion House. This stately structure stands proud, overlooking a secluded sunny bay. The villa is surrounded by an extensive garden that is home to exotic plants and animals from all over the world. As you stroll along, you will spot wallabies and peacocks lounging in the sun, making you wish you could do the same..
Once you have your fill of the mansion, you can walk along ancient walking tracks that will take you through the native forest to beautiful beaches, old copper mines and Māori ‘Pa’ sites.
Getting there: The island is about one and a half hour’s drive from Auckland, and then a ferry ride from Sandspit.
Take your taste buds on a culinary journey when you travel to Waiheke Island. This is just a 40-minute ferry ride from Auckland, and amidst the local food scene you can also relax on white sandy beaches and enjoy art galleries. If you wish to spend more than a day there are several boutique accommodations to choose from as well.
Do you love wine? Then you absolutely must make time to visit the island's wineries. Some of the world’s most unique and high quality wines are made here. Do sample local wines that are inspired by Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and Chardonnay.
Some of the notable vineyards include the Mudbrick Vineyard with its hand-picked fruits and classic French wines. There’s also the Stonyridge Vineyard nestled in a valley of olive trees, replete with the aromas of the south of France and café dining. Lastly, don’t miss the spectacular Te Whau Vineyard that offers the best of Waiheke’s wines.
Getting there: 35 minutes by ferry trip from Auckland, or 45 minutes from Half Moon Bay by car and passenger ferry.
Looking for some thrill and adventure? Hop aboard New Zealand's only active marine volcano, White Island. This giant occupies a massive area, barren and with streaks of reds, whites and yellows. Stark and beautiful, thrilling and attractive, this island is about 48km from Whakatane and 100km from Rotorua.
Getting there: Ask for the White Island Tours that operates tours specifically to White Island. Depending on weather conditions, the journey could take 80 minutes or more. If you don’t wish to rough it out in the open sea, you can also fly with White Island Flights. Your short and thrilling journey will take you over farmland and startling white sand beaches, and set you down at the rim of the volcano.
Want to get away from people and the world? Welcome to Motiti Island. This island has great fishing, diving, swimming and snorkelling opportunities. But that’s not the clincher. The island has a population of just 40 people, making it the perfect destination for an idyllic vacation.
You can treat yourself to a fancy seafood dinner made from fresh catch like crayfish, scallops, kingfish, snapper, tarakihi and blue maomao; cooked right on the beach.
The sheltered hidden coves and sandy beaches are just the place to take someone special for a quiet after-dinner walk.
Getting there: Take a ride on a boat charter from Tauranga. Or you can even take a ten-minute flight from Tauranga.
If you love beaches and water activities (and who doesn’t!) then the Bay of Islands is just the place to be in. The Bay of Islands is made of 144 islands, including the Purerua Peninsula, Cape Brett, Moturua Island and towns such as Paihia, Opua, Russell and Kerikeri.
There is just so much to do here. You could go sand dune surfing, go on a cruise to the famous 'Hole in the Rock', spend all day at the beach or take a boat ride to spot amazing marine life like wild dolphins, whales and marlin.
Getting there: You can reach the Bay of Islands by taking a 35-minute flight from Auckland or by driving down for three hours.
We hope we’ve rekindled your wanderlust and given you #travelgoals.