While this summer like no other is still holding strong, Fullers360 Experiences and Cruises sees to it that you don’t have to travel too far to find some truly stunning local getaways while rediscovering the idea of travel as an adventure – especially those right in our backyard.
If wildlife sanctuaries celebrating our unique native birdlife, walking trails, 150-year-old lighthouses, arts and heritage and conservation efforts are high on your backyard travel bucket list, the Hauraki Gulf’s Tiritiri Matangi and Rotoroa Islands are two of the most stunning nature lover’s paradises to take advantage of this summer.
As far as wildlife sanctuaries go, Tiritiri Matangi Island is one of New Zealand’s most impressive protected havens for rare and endangered native birds, just a 75-minute ferry ride from the downtown ferry terminal with the option of catching the ferry from Gulf Harbour on the Whangaparaoa Peninsula, which is only a 20-minute journey to the island.
The predator-free island is music to your ears being the home to 71 species of birdlife including the Korora or Little Blue Penguin, Takahē, and Kōkako as well as reptiles and invertebrates. The birdwatcher’s paradise is also the focus of active forest regeneration with some 283,000 trees being planted between 1984 and 1994, comprising 60 percent of the island’s forest and boasting one of New Zealand’s oldest Pohutukawa trees, estimated to be 800 to 1,000 years old.
One of the best ways to take in the island’s beauty is by the 90-minute guided morning walk by the Supporters of Tiritiri Matangi covering the history of the island, visiting Little Blue Penguin nesting boxes, and showing where best to spot and appreciate the birdlife as well as how to identify the different species by sight and sound. The guided walk offers two main wildlife track options based on walking preference – the shorter Wattle Track taking approximately one to one-and-a-half hours or the Kawarau Track, taking up to two hours or longer depending on what is spotted along the way. The tour finishes at the visitor centre and gift shop with complimentary tea and coffee. This leaves plenty of time afterwards for a stroll to the oldest operating Tiritiri Matangi Lighthouse to explore the keepers’ houses, workshops and foghorns – a perfect spot to enjoy a picnic lunch while taking in the views back to Whangaparaoa Peninsula. Afterwards explore the rest of the island at your leisure, including the pristine Hobbs Beach, the best swimming enclave on the island.
If a day trip is not enough, you can always stay overnight at the island’s bunkhouse, which is managed by, and can be booked via, the Department of Conservation.
Nestled off Waiheke’s east coast, Rotoroa Island is yet another wildlife sanctuary gem that is home to endangered native species such as Kiwi, Tīeke, Takahē, Pāteke and skinks. This island paradise is also just a 75-minute ferry ride from the downtown ferry terminal, which can be boarded from Orapiu Wharf on Waiheke Island being a mere 20-minute journey.
A network of walking trails skirt the island’s rugged coastline, white sandy beaches and lush, regenerated native forest, can be navigated independently or as part of a guided walk by the Rotoroa Rangers. The island’s southern headland is home to a seven-metre high sculpture crafted by New Zealand artist Chris Booth, while a walk to the North or South Towers promises spectacular views of the sparkling Hauraki Gulf. A shorter walk to Ladies Bay offers a relaxing spell on the beach for a picnic or barbecue and swim.
The island’s fascinating history can be taken in at the state-of-the-art visitor centre and museum where you’ll learn its Māori and early European history and about its closing to the public for one hundred years to function as New Zealand’s first and longest-running addiction treatment centre. Its well-maintained historical buildings and exhibitions offer a glimpse into what life was once like, including a chapel, schoolhouse and jailhouse.
To get well and truly immersed in this significant wildlife sanctuary, you can stay the night at the island’s boutique backpacker-style hostel or in a vintage holiday home renovated and styled in decor reminiscent of the island’s unique history by booking via rotoroa.org.nz/accommodation. Fuller360 ferry tickets as well as gift vouchers can be purchased in advance online with adults costing $55 return or $75 return with guided walk, and children 5 to 15 years $33 return or $43 return with guided walk. A family package return for 2 adults and 2 children aged 5 to 15 years is $158. For further pricing information and to ensure you skip the on-wharf ticket queue, visit fullers.co.nz.