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It’s island time: visiting Kawau Island

If you’ve got the back-behind-the-desk blues, a day trip to Kawau Island might be just the tonic you need, writes Leanne Comer.

Cloudless skies, golden sunshine, waves breaking on the beach. For many of us, the summer holidays already seem like a distant dream. While your next holiday might not be on the cards right now, there’s still plenty of golden weather left to enjoy, and a day trip is the perfect way to do it.

There’s no doubt that Aucklanders are spoiled for choice when it comes to enticing day trip destinations. The Hauraki Gulf boasts several islands that offer a great day out. Waiheke and Rangitoto are popular choices, and I’ve visited each of these islands several times. Kawau Island, one of the largest islands in the gulf, is a little further afield and perhaps that’s why I haven’t yet ventured there.

So, what does it have to offer as a day trip destination?

Getting there is half the fun

The first decision to make when planning a day trip to Kawau Island is how to get there. Kawau Cruises offers several ferry services each day from Sandspit Wharf, about an hour’s drive from Auckland, most of which will get you to the island in about an hour.

My travelling companion and I opt instead for a more leisurely alternative: the Royal Mail Run Cruise, which departs daily at 10.30 am. On a sun-drenched Sunday morning we board the ferry along with other couples young and old, families of all shapes and sizes and a large group of primary school children and their teachers, and set off for the island.

After dropping off a few passengers and some freight at Vivian Bay and the school group at North Cove, we cruise around the sparkling waters of Bon Accord Harbour, enjoying the view from our upper deck seats, and then head down to South Cove, passing the ruins of the 19th century copper mine. The ferry then cruises back to Mansion House Bay, where we disembark, ready to explore.

A glimpse of history

The Mansion House is the main tourist attraction on Kawau Island. This grand two-storey house is the former residence of Sir George Grey, who purchased the island in 1862. Grey transformed the existing house, which had been the residence of the manager of the island’s copper mine, into a large and lovely mansion before selling the island in 1888. The house has now been restored to its former glory and for a small entry fee, visitors are able to wander through its rooms and enjoy the views of the bay from the upper storey window

Grey also spent considerable time and effort developing the grounds of the Mansion House, planting gardens and introducing exotic birds and animals such as kookaburras, wallabies and peacocks, some of which can still be seen on the island today. As we sit down at a picnic table to enjoy our lunch, a curious peahen and her chicks ventures over to check us out, no doubt hoping for a bite to eat. Unfortunately for them, we’ve already seen the signs warning us not to feed them, so she ambles off, dissatisfied, her three offspring trailing behind.

Getting active

There are several walking tracks on Kawai Island and after finishing our lunch we decide to explore one of these. We stop briefly at Ladys Bay, where the small beach is crowded with swimmers, and then at the lookout to savour the spectacular view. At Dispute Cove, we give in to temptation, abandoning our walk to cool off with a refreshing dip in the tantalising green water before following the track back to Mansion House Bay.

Sprawled in the afternoon sunshine, we enjoy an ice cream from the café while we wait for the ferry back to Sandpit, wondering why we waited so long to explore this little piece of paradise.

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