Birthday celebrations for two Whangarei 5-year-olds will be particularly memorable after they ended up stranded on an island.

It's not as dramatic as it sounds but it was an exciting day for Ella Pilkington and Robyn Blank after 11 people were stranded on Limestone Island yesterday when Robyn's dad's boat broke down while he was dropping people ashore.

"I left my phone on the island, we had an emergency phone on the boat but there was too much static. I swam to shore and the friendly Whangarei local let me use his phone and call Coastguard," the father, who did not want to be named, said.

The group had headed to Limestone Island about 11am for the celebrations.

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While the Whangarei man was on shore he was wishing he was back on the island where the food was.

"I wish I was over there. It's a nice private spot with historic sites, it's quite picturesque. And the party food is over there," he said.

A ranger from Limestone Island ferried the stranded people back to the main shore. The first lot to return included Ella, Robyn and their parents and grandparents. Robyn's grandmother joked someone should call the local paper, and laughed when she was told the Northern Advocate was there.

"We just arrived from Scotland a few days ago," she said.

"We escaped snow and got Mediterranean temperatures and a broken down boat."

The family's boat was not the only one with engine problems on the day - another man, who was waiting for his mate to go fishing, tried to help the family but the boat's motor wouldn't start. The family passed the message on to the friend waiting on the beach.

Robyn's mum said it was a good laugh and the girls weren't too worried about the stranding.

"They got to stay long and play on the island," she said.