Motutapu Island: Places to go in Auckland

Home Bay, Motutapu Island
Image: | DOC


At 178 million years old pest-free Motutapu is one of the oldest land masses in the Hauraki Gulf. The island has lived an exciting life – it was intensively settled by Maori, it hosted massive Victorian picnic parties, and was a base during WWll.


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Now, following the world's largest island pest eradication programme, it's a fine place to see native birds including the rare and beautiful tieke.

There are multiple walking tracks. If you're feeling up for an adventure, head across to neighbouring Rangitoto, thanks to the short causeway established during WWll that connects the islands.

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
  • Walking and tramping
  • 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 Motutapu Island

About track difficulties

Bird and wildlife watching

Gardiners Gap is the best place to spot shorebirds such as the New Zealand dotterel and sometimes shore plovers and Caspian terns. The best time to see these birds 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 where you walk on the beach to avoid crushing their well camouflaged eggs.

Home Bay forest is the best place for seeing forest birds on Motutapu. Birds you might be able to spot include korimako/bellbird, tui, kakariki/red-crowned parakeet, tieke/saddleback, popokatea/whitehead, Coromandel brown kiwi, spotless crake, kotare/kingfisher and kereru/wood pigeon. You may also be able to see takahe in the Home Bay area. Please do not feed the takahe or other birds.

WW II observation post, Motutapu Island.
WW II observation post, Motutapu Island


Motutapu is a popular destination for boaties. Small boats can be landed on many of the beaches around the island such as Islington Bay, Home Bay or Station Bay, and these spots also provide sheltered anchorages. Larger boats can land at the Home Bay Wharf on Motutapu or the Islington Bay Wharf on Rangitoto Island, where you can walk across the causeway to Motutapu.

Child/family friendly activities

Take the family on a picnic to Home Bay and carry on the tradition of picnicking there that started in early twentieth century. Ferries run direct to the Home Bay Wharf during the summer months, making it an easy family day out. Home Bay has a safe swimming beach and the added feature of the historic Reid Homestead, now a Visitors Centre.


You can fish off the rocks or the beach anywhere round the island’s coastline. However, fishing is discouraged in Administration Bay, adjacent to the Motutapu Outdoor Education Centre, as it is a voluntary no take fishing area.

Heritage sightseeing

During its varied past Motutapu has been intensively settled and cultivated by Maori, hosted Victoria picnic parties of over 10,000 people, and at times during WWII was a base for more than 1,000 military personnel.

Remnants of this varied history can still be seen including sites of kainga (villages), pa (earthwork fortifications), kumara storage pits, former gardens, and middens (food refuge deposits). You can also visit the Reid Homestead, one of the last of the early farmhouses on the island and now a Visitors Centre, and explore WWII sites.


Runners competing in the DUAL race, Motutapu Island.
Runners competing in the DUAL multisport event

Motutapu is accessible to experienced kayakers. It takes about three hours to kayak to Home Bay from the mainland. You can also kayak to Motutapu from the nearby islands of Motuihe 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.

Specialist activities

DUAL multisport event

The DUAL multisport event is usually held in March each year. It offers participants trail run and walk, an off-road triathlon and mountain bike options – the only time you will be able to bike on the island!

Outdoor education centre

The Motutapu Outdoor Education Camp is located in Administration Bay. It offers outdoor education programmes for school groups, as well as corporate team building events, or just a place to stay for a group of family and friends.


You can swim at one of the many beaches around the island. A popular choice is Home Bay, where you can also find the island’s only campsite, the 1901 Reid Homestead and various WWII military remains. A number of Motutapu’s walkways can also be accessed from Home Bay.

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    About this place

    Getting there

    Motutapu is directly behind Rangitoto in Auckland's Hauraki Gulf and joined to it by a causeway.

    Access to Motutapu is by public passenger ferry, charter boat, charter boat, private boat, or kayak.

    There is a wharf at Home Bay. Rangitoto's Islington Bay Wharf is also near the island's western end.

    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

    Safe anchorages for private boats include Islington Bay (Rangitoto) and Home Bay on Motutapu.


    Motutapu is accessible to very experienced kayakers. It takes approximately three hours to kayak to Home Bay from Mission Bay. Several kayak operators offer kayak rentals and guided kayak tours to Motutapu. See the Commercial Operators section.

    Know before you go

    • There is no public transport on the island.
    • There are no shops on the island. The Reid Homestead at Home Bay may open at times and has drinks and food available.
    • Take care on the beaches of Motutapu. Do not to disturb nesting birds from September to March.
    • Beware of wasps and 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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