Kelp forest off southeast coast of Rakitu Island
Image: Kim Westerskov ©


Rakitu Island Scenic Reserve lies off the north east coast of Great Barrier Island, in the Hauraki Gulf. It contains areas of native forest and is home to a diverse population of native birds.


Covering 329 hectares, Rakitu's sheer cliffs rise 180 meters from the sea in places, giving it an imposing fortress-like appearance. Rakitu Island became a Scenic Reserve in 1994 after being purchased by DOC, with Natural Heritage Fund assistance, from the Rope family.

The island's native flora and fauna are great attractions for day trips.

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
  • Diving and snorkelling
  • Fishing
  • Kayaking and canoeing
  • 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.

Find things to do Rakitu Island Scenic Reserve


Bird and wildlife watching

Look out for New Zealand pigeon/kererū, tui, North Island weka, bellbird/korimako, morepork/ruru and shining cuckoo/pipiwharauroa in the forest areas on the island.

You can see sea birds such as little penguin/kororā, grey-faced petrel/oi and shags around the island’s coast.


At its closest point Rakitū is only a few kilometres from Great Barrier Island Aotea, an easy boat trip. The only safe landing is Arid Cove on the north-western side of the island.

Diving and snorkelling

As with Great Barrier, there is excellent visibility for diving or snorkelling around Arid Island. The archway on the northwest side of the island is a great place to snorkel. The eastern side of the island has interesting diving. Species you can spot include snapper, blue moki, blue maomao, demoiselles, and possibly kingfish in the summer months.


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


Rakitū is an open water kayak from Whangapoua or Harataonga campsites on Great Barrier Island. It takes approximately 1.5 hours to kayak from either campsite. You can kayak around the island, with the west coast having more sheltered weather conditions for kayaking. 

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    About this place

    Nature and conservation

    Rakitu Island is naturally free of many predators and enjoys a great diversity of plant and bird life. The planned pest eradication programme aims to eliminate remaining predators from the island.

    The vegetation of Rakitu is made of retired farmland, and forest of mānuka, kānuka and coastal pōhutukawa. The flora of Rakitu features large leaved forms of rangiora and kawakawa. Like nearby Great Barrier and Little Barrier Islands, Rakitu has a remarkable diversity of lichens.

    Many native birds occupy the island’s forest and coastal areas.

    Forest areas are being fenced off to keep out farm animals and allow full regeneration of natural habitats.

    History and culture

    Rakitu is a taonga to Ngāti Rehua-Ngatiwai ki Aotea people. It is the final resting place of the founding tupuna Rehua.

    It is one of a number of sacred islands such as Mokohinau and Hauturu-o-Toi. These other islands have already been eradicated of pests, so are thriving with life and taonga species. Ngāti Rehua-Ngatiwai ki Aotea are committed to restoring the mauri of Rakitu. We want to establish a sanctuary for our seabirds and other taonga species.

    Ngāti Rehua-Ngatiwai ki cleared and cultivated the central valley. There are historic sites including a pa (earthwork fortifications) and several kainga (settlement) and whare (dwelling) sites.

    Rakitu was purchased from the Rope family in 1993. Europeans settlers grazed cattle on Rakitu for more than a century, before the Rope family stopped grazing in 2013.

    Getting there

    Rakitu Island Scenic Reserve is 2.5 kilometres off Great Barrier's eastern coast.

    You must find your own boat transport to Rakitu. The only safe landing spot is the sandy shore of Arid Cove on the north-western side of the island.

    Know before you go

    • For safety reasons make sure you let others know you're visiting the island. 
    • There are no visitor facilities on the island.
    • Tracks on the island are overgrown making access across the island difficult.
    • The island's former owners still visit on the island, so respect residential areas.

    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:   Co-located with the Auckland i-SITE
    Shed 19 Princes Wharf
    137 Quay Street
    Auckland 1010
    Full office details
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