Located in the Auckland region
IntroductionCrystal clear swimming, white sandy beaches, and a variety of native bush walks with the unique opportunity to see tuatara in the wild – this pest-free island has something for everyone.
Just 45 minutes from downtown Auckland, the varied history of Motuihe Island / Te Motu-a-Ihenga includes being extensively settled by Maori, and farmed by Europeans for more than a century.
It was the site of Auckland's quarantine station for 50 years, a prisoner of war camp, and a naval training base.
Find things to do and places to stay Motuihe Island
The Motuihe Trust is undertaking a restoration project in partnership with DOC and a number of rare species have been released on the island. Birds such as tieke/saddleback can be seen and heard near the campground. Kakariki/red-crowned parakeet can be seen flying above open areas. You may also encounter flocks of popokatea/whitehead on the island.
Little spotted kiwi can be heard at night in bush areas and sometimes spotted. Remember to cover your torch with red cellophane if out kiwi spotting. You may see shore skinks bathing in the sun on rocks on the eastern beaches.
Motuihe is also a popular site for shore birds including the endangered New Zealand dotterel/tūturiwhatu. The best time to see shorebirds is from mid-winter on when pairs move back to their nesting sites. Nesting usually begins in September.
Stay well away from birds during their nesting season and take care when you walk on the beach to avoid crushing their well-camouflaged eggs.
Motuihe has long been a popular destination for boaties.
Small boats can be landed at either Ocean Beach, Wharf Bay or Calypso Bay, and these spots also provide sheltered anchorages.
Larger boats can land at the wharf on the northern end of the island. However, the wharf can only be used for drop offs and pick ups; you cannot lay alongside the wharf.
You can fish off the rocks or the beach anywhere round the island’s coastline.
Motuihe is accessible to experienced kayakers. It takes about 2 hr 30 min to kayak to Wharf Bay from the mainland.
You can also kayak to Motuihe from the nearby islands of Motutapu or Waiheke, or as part of a tour of the islands of the Hauraki Gulf.
Motuihe Island/Te Motu-a-Ihenga is in the Hauraki Gulf near Motutapu and Waiheke islands.
Access is by ferry, private boat, water taxi or kayak.
Public passenger ferry and private charter
Ferry service is limited. The public passenger ferry operators that travel to this island only maintain a limited service.
If you are chartering a commercial vessel to the island, check the operator has a Pest-Free Warrant. Commercial vessels that use the wharf will also need a wharf landing permit.
Find authorised transport operators to this island.
If arriving by private boat, there are several safe anchorages including Wharf Bay, Ocean Beach and Calypso Bay. Note that the wharf is only available for dropping off and picking up passengers.
The island is accessible by experienced kayakers. It takes approximately two and a half hours to kayak to Wharf Bay. Several kayak operators offer kayak rentals and guided kayak tours.
- The historic water tower is a major hazard, and the site is fenced off. Do not enter the inside of the perimeter fence or the tower.
- Bring your own food and drink. The Motuihe Trust opens the 'kiosk' near Ocean Beach on busy weekends, selling drinks and ice creams. There are no other shops on the island.
- Wear good walking shoes.
- Bring insect repellent for sandflies.
Rules for the Hauraki Gulf Maritime Park
- Fires and portable barbeques are not allowed except on the permanent barbeque provided onsite.
- Take your rubbish with you – there are no rubbish bins.
- Some activities such as weddings need a permit.
- No camping unless at a designated campsite.
These are part of the Hauraki Gulf Maritime Park by-laws. Read the full by-laws.
Alongside its sheltered white sandy beaches, Motuihe also boasts rocky platforms, native forest and rolling pasture.
The island is free of animal pests and is home to the endangered New Zealand dotterel, saddleback, kakariki, kiwi, shore skinks, bellbirds and tuatara.
The Motuihe Trust is running a restoration project in partnership with DOC, with the aim of reforesting parts of the island, returning native birds, lizards and insects, conserving historic features and developing tracks and visitor facilities. Since 2003 volunteers have grown and planted thousands of trees on the island.
The Motuihe Trust have released a number of rare species onto the island including North Island Saddleback (tieke) in 2005 followed iby kakariki (red-crowned parakeet) in 2008 and shore skinks the following year. Little spotted kiwi were released in 2009 and 2010, and bellbirds were returned to the island in 2010. In March 2012, 60 tuatara were released onto the island, from Lady Alice island in Northland. Rare plants are also being returned to the island as part of the planting programme. These have included shore spurge (also known as euphorbia) and a rare fireweed.
The reintroduction programme will continue over the coming years. Some species may return naturally as the planting programme progresses. This is only possible because the island is free of mammalian pests. DOC eradicated Norway rats and mice in 1997 and cats and rabbits have also been removed. Visitors to the island are asked to help keep Motuihe free of pests and weeds so these species can thrive.
Motuihe's shores are also home for two threatened shorebird species, the NZ dotterel and the variable oystercatcher. Little blue penguins also breed on the island.
Motuihe Island/Te Motu-a-Ihenga has a varied history of Maori and European settlement, and was used for quarantine and military purposes. Read the history of Motuihe Island/Te Motu-a-Ihenga.