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Kawau Island, Auckland Overview

Kawau Island located in Auckland is one of the largest islands that form the Hauraki Gulf. The island got its name from the Kawau Paka which is a tiny shag cormorant found on the island. Rich in biodiversity, Kawau Island is a paradise where flora and fauna peacefully co-exist. The island proudly hosts copper and manganese mines, forests and windswept beaches. Kawau Island offers exhilarating water sports that will surely blow your mind. With so much to explore, Kawau Island is a must-visit.

Kawai Islands attracted Ngatitai and Ngatiwai as the early settlers in the area owing to its strategic location of being near water that would facilitate easy passing of vehicles. In 1831, owner of the vessel Sucidan, Mr Wheelan struck an agreement with the ones who exercised power here to transfer Kawau to him in exchange of a befitting consideration. Subsequently, he found copper and manganese mines here. In 1841, James Forbes Beattie acquired the Maori land with the intent to improve agriculture and grazing here. In 1855 the mining operations stopped and the land came under Sir George Grey in the year 1862. Under his private ownership, he created Mansion Bay House.

The Kawau Island Historic Reserve was created to protect Sir George’s historic home. Soon in 1867, he left the ownership and after that, it changed many hands. In 1912 Andrew Farmer converted the island into a resort. After this, it went under a string of changes and additions to make it what it is today.

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8 km off the coast, Kawau Island is a part of the Hauraki Gulf which is nearly 45 km North of Auckland.

Things to Do

  • The Mansion House stands in its own right majestically reflecting its historic significance and natural beauty. The House has gardens that are open to the public where they enjoy a stroll with peacocks. Some people explore the Mansion House by having a look at the artefacts that are on display in the Mansion House collected by the previous owner’s travels. There are lush walking tracks that take you through forests, beaches, Maori Pa sites and old copper mine. The other walk takes you to through redwood trees. At the mighty Mansion House, one can find cafes and restaurants too where you can enjoy some great food with a picturesque view. 
  • Discover manganese and copper mines when you plan your trip to Kawau Island. You can opt for Charter Boats to reach the mine or follow Miners Track.
  • Fun water activities like boating, fishing, swimming and kayaking that you can enjoy.
  • Royal Mail Run Cruise beautifully describes the history and beauty of the island bays, historic landmarks and yes! Do make sure to enjoy the jolly penguins and dolphins. The cruise departs from Sandspit daily at 10:30 AM.
  • The Mansion House Cruise is a great option for a one day trip that takes you through the Mansion House, copper mine, subtropical gardens, walks, beaches and cafes. The cruise departs Sandspit daily at 10.30am (and 2.30pm during summer season). Please ensure that you have the cruise booked in advance.
  • Norma Jean Charters is a cruise perfect for half-day or maximum one day. Like other cruising options, it takes you across Kawau Island and also makes you explore the Kawau Yacht Club where you can stop by to have a yummy lunch, kayaking around old Copper mine, fishing etc. You can also charter it overnight and reach Little Barrier and Tiritiri Matangi.
  • Take to the walking tracks that take you for a tranquil experience. Opt for Ladys Bay which is a ten-minute one-way walk from the Mansion House. The Two House Bay is a steep track which is fifteen minutes (one way) away from the Mansion House. The Redwood Track should take you approximately forty-five minutes (one way). The Dispute Cove Track to Coppermine takes fifty minutes one way. Lady's Bay to Momona Point, one way takes twenty minutes. Mansion House to Lookout is only twenty-five minutes one way. 
  • Stop at Kawau Boating Club for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Enjoy drinks in the evening with a spectacular view. It is located at the centre of Bon Accord Harbour, opposite Schoolhouse Bay. It is open from the month of October to June, seven days a week from 9:00 AM.
  • The Beach House restaurant at the Vivian Bay is known for the typical New Zealand food that it serves. All preparations are done with fresh local produce adhering to high-quality standards. Savour a pint of beer and relish the delicacies on the menu that keeps changing. You can come here for breakfast, lunch and dinner but booking is a must.
  • Cafe Sandspit has some amazing meat preparations and seafood. The vegetarian tidbits too are to die for. The cafe is open seven days a week in summer from 9:00 AM to 5:30 PM.
Please Note - Dogs are not allowed at Kawau Island.

What to See

  • While at Kawau Island, you may find Gannets in the water looking for food.
  • Catch a glimpse of the beautiful Caspian Tern, Gulls, Oyster Catchers with orange beaks, North Island Weka
  • Cormorants or Shags (especially Black Shags)
Kiwis - The national symbol of New Zealand, it represents its unique identity and ecological heritage.

Flora - Kawau Island is home to indigenous and rare varieties of flora.
  • The most popular ones being Kanuka (meaning kind) and Manuka (meaning mean). They also support the prized variety of Auckland - the Kauri trees along with Puriri, Tawa and Tairaire.
  • It has a number of fern varieties like Mamaku (which is a tree fern), kidney fern, umbrella fern, spongy mosses and small trees like Mingimingi, Five Finger, Tree Daisy, Lush Kawakawa, and Red Matipo.
  • Furthermore, there are seasonal variants too.
  • During autumn see Coral Fungi, Deadmans Fingers, Earth Stars, Birdnest Fungi, and Purple Russula grow.
  • In December Pohutukawa, Cabbage Trees, Flaxes and Zantedeschia or arum lily usher in the Kawau Island.
  • Five species of wallaby were introduced to the island initially out of which four can still be found thriving at the Kawau Island. These are Dama Wallaby, Parma or White-throated wallaby, Brush-tailed rock wallaby and Swamp wallaby.
  • Apart from this, Kawau Island also fosters marine life that is native to the area.

How To Reach Kawau Island

There is no direct way to reach Kawau island. It doesn’t have its own airport too. Hence you should consider the following routes:
  • The most common way to reach Kawau Island is through Sandspit where travellers reach by car and park it here. Sandspit is the route to enter Kawau Bay and Hauraki Gulf. From here you go to Snells Beach. Next, you undertake a sea journey to reach the Kawau Island.
  • You can also hire ferry and water taxis to reach Kawau Island. However, the bookings have to be made at least two hours before departure. Refer to their timetables for further details. Fullers360 Ferry operator conducts daily trips to Kawau Island
  • Royal Mail Run Cruise leaves Sandspit every day at 10:30 AM for Kawau Island. This is highly recommended as it takes you back in time and highlights the history and scenic beauty of the island.
  • You can also opt for the Hauraki Express offering water taxi service to the Hauraki Gulf. Choose between Midnight Express and Midnight special.
  • Another option is the seaplane. There is no airport at the Kawau island but the seaplanes fly to and fro from Viaduct quarter.

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