Kawau Island, aptly named The ‘Jewel of Hauraki’, is found 8 km off the coast about 45 km north of Auckland. It is actually one of the largest islands (5,000 acres) in the Hauraki Gulf and is a great place to visit for a day trip or longer.

We’ve put together this (hopefully helpful) little guide with everything you need to know about visiting and experiencing this popular destination with a great list of things to do on Kawau Island on your next adventure.

Fun Fact – Kawau Island is the 21st largest island in New Zealand covering a total of 19 square kilometres. Compare that to the largest island, the South Island which is 150,437 square kilometres. The total population is listed as 81.


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About Kawau Island

Kawau Island has a fascinating history that dates back to the first Maori settlers who cherished the island for its idyllic surrounding waters. In the 1840s, Europeans purchased the island and discovered the presence of copper and a mining facility was quickly established. After some brief success, flooding and shipping issues caused mining to stop. Fascinating ruins of the underground seashore copper mine, a pumping engine house and a small smelter remain today.

In the 1860s Sir George Grey (Governor-General of New Zealand) purchased the island, building Mansion House with its own botanical and zoological park that can still be seen today.

Nowadays around 90% of the island is in the private ownership of about 80 locals who welcome visitors for a range of holiday activities every year. The rest of the island is under the management of the Department of Conservation.

Things to see on Kawau Island

The natural beauty of Kawau Island means there’s a lot to see and appreciate during your visit.

Most of this is done on foot as it’s an island that has no roads besides the ones servicing the settlements at Schoolhouse Bay and South Cove. Because of this, most of the properties on Kawau Island can only be reached via the sea.

Scenic hiking trails on the island range in length from half an hour to several hours duration, and are mostly easy walking. Many of the routes follow old tracks originating from Mansion House valley.

The island is mostly dense native bush which is populated by numerous New Zealand rare and endangered birds. The crystal clear waters the early Maori so admired are still astonishing in their tranquil shades of blue and green.

As well as its natural beauty, you also have some great historical sites to visit and take in.


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Things to do on Kawau Island

There’s a great range of things to do on Kawau Island including all of the following and more!

Mansion House

The magnificent and fully restored Mansion House is a great place to visit and a definite must-see for the island. The building is a visually striking statement from the Victorian era. There are tours that you can enjoy for a small fee as well as interesting exhibitions that take place as well. The gardens are very nicely landscaped and you may even see a peacock or two roaming around alongside you.

The Copper Mine

In its heyday, the copper mine boosted the settlement’s population to over 300 and the remnants of that are still there to be seen. This includes the pumping engine and smelting house. It was actually one of the first copper mines in New Zealand and can be reached via a walk from Mansion House in a 2 – 2 ½ hour roundtrip.

Walking Tracks

Kawau Island is a great place to go for a stroll and there are over half a dozen walking tracks to choose from on the island. The bush walks take you through lush native forest (which include a few imported giant Redwood) with birdsongs from a huge variety of native and many endangered birds. The dawn chorus of these birds, which include some ex-pat Australians such as Kookaburras and Rosellas, is a rare symphony that you will not find anywhere else in the world.

Water Activities

The waters that surround this sub-tropical paradise make it an awesome place for diving, snorkelling, fishing, kayaking or yoga on a jetty!


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Kawau Island Accommodation

Although Kawau Island makes for a great day trip from Auckland, there are a number of accommodation options on the island for those who fancy making a weekend of it. Our top 3 suggestions for accommodation are as follows:

The Beach House

For the 5 star experience, you can’t go past the Beach House on Kawau Island. With all the trimmings that come with boutique luxury (including beachfront suites), you’ll feel completely pampered and relaxed staying here!

The Kawau Lodge

The Kawau Lodge is another fantastic retreat with exquisite suites and rooms to enjoy. The lodge looks out over the water with fantastic sea views and it also has great facilities like its own gym and a Cabana Bar!

Camp Bentzon

For a more rustic experience, you can also try camping at Camp Bentzon. It’s situated in a lovely secluded spot in North Cove and is a great place to explore the nature around. It’s frequently used by schools but they also facilitate group bookings as well.


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Getting to Kawau Island

Unless you’ve rented a car with a flotation device (we don’t provide those yet sorry) you’ll need to get to Kawau Island by other means which will likely include the following:

Kawau Island Ferry

Kawau Cruises has a shuttle service that departs from Sandspit Wharf from 8:00am daily. Tickets need to be booked 2 hours in advance so it’s important to bear that in mind. They also operate a water taxi service which can be booked in advance if you’ve requirements outside the timetabled service.

Royal Mail Run Cruise

A quaint and unique way to get there is to go on the Royal Mail Run Cruise that departs Sandspit Wharf daily from 10:30 am on what’s actually the largest mail run by water in the Southern Hemisphere.

The run includes stops at 75 wharves in total and is a great chance to see the Island’s great scenery, the locals and bird and wildlife too.


Another option to consider is a flight by seaplane. This exciting choice, offered by Auckland Seaplanes, leaves from the Auckland Viaduct and will give you the added benefit of glorious views from high above.


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Kawau Island – The NZ gem you need to discover!

So there it is! Our in-depth guide to visiting Kawau Island that’ll make for a unique and memorable trip. Get it in your calendar today!

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Updated: 3 May 2021