Motuihe Island: Places to go in Auckland

Motuihe Island
Image: | DOC


Crystal clear swimming, white sandy beaches, and a variety of native bush walks with the unique opportunity to see tuatara in the wild – pest-free Motuihe Island has something for everyone.


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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.

No dogs allowed on Hauraki Gulf island reserves

No dogs.

To protect our native species, dogs are not allowed on island conservation reserves in the Hauraki Gulf.


Place overview


  • Bird and wildlife watching
  • Boating
  • Camping
  • Fishing
  • Kayaking and canoeing
  • Swimming


  • Picnic tables
  • Toilets
  • Pest free
    Protect our wildlife
    • Check - your gear for pests, eg. rodents, insects, skinks
    • Clean - footwear and gear, removing soil and seeds
    • Seal - ensure your gear is zipped up (no open bags)

    See island biosecurity requirements.

In this section

Find things to do Motuihe Island


Bird and wildlife watching

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.

Child/family friendly activities

With its safe beaches, easy terrain and interesting wildlife and history, Motuihe makes for a great family day out. Fullers and 360 Discovery ferries run to the island, with daily trips during the peak Christmas/New Year period. Check with each ferry company to confirm sailing times.

Make the most of the several picnic grounds at the northern end of the island, with changing sheds and toilets nearby. Gas barbeques can be brought to the island, but open fires and fireworks aren’t permitted.


You can fish off the rocks or the beach anywhere round the island’s coastline.

Heritage sightseeing

Each of Motuihe's many layers of history are still evident today. There are many archaeological sites which reflect Motuihe's pre-European past. Visitors to the island can also see the remains of the quarantine station including the great water tower (now an iconic landmark for Auckland's boating community), the historic cemetery and the military installations.


Motuihe is accessible to experienced kayakers. It takes about two and a half hours 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. Auckland Sea Kayaks rents kayaks and organises guided tours to Motutapu

Picnics, weddings and other events

Motuihe has several sites available for large group picnics.

With its great beaches and large picnic spots only a short walk from the wharf, Motuihe is an excellent place to hold a picnic event or wedding.


With two safe beaches just metres apart, Motuihe is a great place for swimming. Choose your beach depending on the wind, sandy Ocean Beach to the north or Wharf Bay on the opposite side of the isthmus. Picnic spots, toilets and changing facilities are available nearby.

Volunteer on Motuihe

The Motuihe Trust host regular planting days on Motuihe Island.

See the Motuihe Trust website for information.

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    About this place

    Getting there

    Motuihe Island/Te Motu-a-Ihenga is in the Hauraki Gulf near Motutapu and Waiheke islands.

    Access to Motuihe 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.

    Private boat

    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.


    Motuihe Island is accessible to 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 to Motuihe.

    Know before you go

    • 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.

    Hauraki Gulf Maritime Park bylaws apply. Do not light fires, or remove/disturb plants and artefacts. No bicycles or pets. Take your rubbish with you – there are no rubbish bins.

    Some activities require a permit, such as weddings and events.


    Tāmaki Makaurau / Auckland Visitor Centre
    Phone:   +64 9 3796476
    Address:   Shed 19 Princes Wharf
    137 Quay Street
    Auckland 1010
    Full office details
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