Motutapu Island

Motutapu Island, Auckland Overview

Motutapu Island is one of New Zealand’s oldest islands and was one of the first to be formed amongst the Auckland Volcanic Field. It was inhabited first by early Maori and Polynesian settlers, and then eventually European immigrants as well. A volcanic eruption that resulted in the formation of the nearby, but much younger, Rangitoto Island, destroyed most traces of civilisation and vegetation on the island. Motutapu island has now become a haven for trekkers looking for a day-trip away from Auckland and is a bushwalker’s paradise.

Motutapu Island is one of the oldest islands in the Hauraki Gulf and dates back to 178 million years. New Zealand’s history as a nation runs parallel to that of the island. The island has also recently become home to conservation efforts by the New Zealand government which has resulted in endangered species of flora and fauna being translocated there.

Motutapu island and rangitoto island

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Things to Do

Walking Trails

Home Bay Motutapu island

As a result of the volcanic explosion and the fertile soil that comes with it, Motutapu is a wonderfully rich, lush, and green island. Many walking trails that lead through Motutapu offer the perfect way to see the island. Keep a copy of the maps of the walking trails to help guide you on your walk across the island.

Abandoned Military Sites

After the Second World War ended, the military structures and barracks were abandoned, and the remains are still there for visitors to go and see. A battalion of disused military embankments can be seen from many parts of the island.



Motutapu has numerous pristine white-sand beaches that encircle the island. Many trails on the island lead to these beaches, so be sure to pack some swimwear if you intend to take a dip.


There are also camping sites that are available on request on Motutapu for visitors that intend on spending the night at the island.

Volunteering for Conservation Efforts

The thriving ecological conditions of Motutapu island made it an ideal candidate for the translocation of rare and indigenous species of birds such as the North Island Kiwi. The lack of pests and predators ensure that these translocated species have the best chance of surviving. The Motutapu Restoration Trust conducts regular volunteer visits, where volunteers aid in reforestation efforts by planting trees and more.


Motutapu island cliff

After the Maori and Polynesian settlements were wiped out by the volcanic explosion, European settlers began to buy land from the native Ngati Tai community. The island increasingly became a weekend destination because of its proximity to Auckland. Motutapu even became a counter-bombardment shelter during the Second World War and served as protection against naval attacks against Auckland. The island has recently become home to New Zealand’s largest ecological restoration program.


The island has no open and close times, but visitors should ensure that they reach the ferry boarding time in advance before the last ferry departs or risk being stranded on the island for the night.

Tips for Visitors

  • Carry sufficient amounts of water and food as there are no water dispensing facilities or eateries on the island.
  • Ensure that food is stored in sealed plastic hard-cases or bags.
  • As the island is a pest and predator-free environment, visitors should make sure that their shoes are clean and rid of any foreign soil contaminants.
  • Book your ferry tickets in advance and reach the ferry boarding point at least half an hour before the stated departure time.

How To Reach Motutapu Island

Ferries regularly leave from Auckland Harbour to Rangitoto Island, and it is a 35-minute ferry ride. Visitors can then walk to Motutapu island through the artificial causeway built to connect the two islands. Ferries to Motutapu island operate but are less frequent than the ones that go to Rangitoto island.


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