The Hauraki Gulf

There are more than 50 islands in the Hauraki Gulf, the glittering expanse of water that lies on Auckland’s doorstep. Ferries from downtown Auckland spirit you off to numerous and diverse destinations, and the ferry ride itself (with stunning views of Auckland’s skyline) is well worth the trip. Three of my favourite destinations are Devonport, Rangitoto and Waiheke.

Devonport, the beautiful seaside village across the harbour from Auckland, is definitely worth a visit. Strolling along the main street, there are numerous art galleries, as well as book shops and cafes to entice the visitor in. The park and playground right by the ferry building in Devonport is a great spot to sit and have fish and chips (wrapped in newspaper) from one of the local fish and chip stores, followed by the requisite hokey-pokey ice cream from the dairy across the road!

Rangitoto Island is a volcanic island that is an iconic and widely visible landmark of Auckland, with a distinctive shape. It can be found on many postcards of Auckland, and in many local pieces of art. There are several short and long walks around the island, through volcanic lava flows, and from the summit there are magnificent views of the Hauraki Gulf, the Waitemata Harbour and Auckland city. (There is also a train that can take you around the island from the ferry terminal, if you don’t feel up for a big walk.) If you get hot from your hike to the top, you can take a dip in the sea when you get back down. Perfect!

Waiheke Island is a picturesque blend of farmland, forest, beaches, vineyards and olive groves, and is definitely worth a visit. The ferry takes about 45 minutes from Auckland. There are some lovely white-sand beaches, trendy cafes, and local artists galore. I can also highly recommend lunch and wine-tasting at one of the fabulous Waiheke vineyards, such as Cable Bay or Mudbrick.

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