Blow out the cobwebs and enjoy a change of scenery this winter by exploring Aotearoa's off-shore islands, writes Alexia Santamaria
An island is defined as a piece of land surrounded by water, and that means a lot of good things - sea, sandy beaches, fishing, coastline vistas, sometimes even the odd palm tree. If hitting the slopes and indulging in apres-ski activity is your idea of a nightmare winter holiday (no judgment here, it's not for everyone), a visit to one of our many offshore islands may be a way to try and keep those summer vibes rolling till warmer weather comes around.
Here are some suggestions from all around Aotearoa:
Perhaps Auckland's most famous island is Waiheke, and for good reason. Hop on a ferry from the CBD, and in 40 minutes arrive at a piece of paradise with white sand beaches and beautiful clear waters - but also great restaurants and more than 30 wineries. Not too many places that can boast that kind of experience. There are walks, there's ziplining, there are shops to potter in - it's a fun day trip, even better if you choose to stay a night, or five.
In sharp contrast to Waiheke, Tiritiri Matangi - also close to Auckland - doesn't have even one cafe. Here it's all about beautiful landscapes, and birds, lots of them. From 1984 to 1994, volunteers replanted more than 280,000 trees and shrubs and now around 60 per cent of the island is now covered in regenerating forest - providing the perfect home for kōkako, kererū, takahe, tīeke, hihi, kākā, tui and so many more. Embark on one of the many tracks and explore this beautiful predator-free sanctuary.
Surfers will love this one: white sand, amazing break, lots of fun. But even if you're not planning on donning a wetsuit and grabbing your board, it's a gorgeous place for a walk and some excellent relaxation time. It's also a nesting site for a large number of seabirds, including the endangered New Zealand dotterel, and this definitely adds another layer of interest. You can visit the inner harbour side of the island on a Kewpie Tours scenic harbour cruise. It's a one-hour trip if you stay on the boat but there's also an option to be dropped off at Matakana Island and picked up on the same day. Walk the beaches, do some fishing, have a picnic, and lap up the laid-back vibe of this Bay of Plenty jewel. www.bayofplentynz.com
Fancy an interesting walk to blow out the Wellington winter blues? Wrap up warm and take the ferry from Queens Wharf or Days Bay to Matiu/Somes Island. It has a fascinating history, starting from being named in honour of one of Kupe's daughters to being the home of New Zealand's first inner harbour lighthouse, a human quarantine station, an internment camp, military defence position and an animal quarantine station. A 40-minute loop track around the island gives great views of Wellington harbour; the island has become a sanctuary for native flora and fauna including tuatara, kakariki, North Island robin, little blue penguin and weta.
D'Urville Island/Rangitoto ki te Tonga
Located in the Marlborough Sounds, this is the perfect day escape for some beach action that feels miles away from anything remotely stressful (and couldn't we all do with a bit of that right now?). You can even stay a night or two - DOC camping may be a little cold in winter but there's always the warmer option of D'Urville Island Wilderness Resort: accommodation with a bar, restaurant, walking trails and fishing charters set in over 200 hectares of regenerated bushland. The perfect getaway.
Only just an island (it's actually connected by a naturally-formed causeway) Pepin Island is pretty unique, as it's actually a working sheep station - and conveniently only a half-hour drive from Nelson City itself. It's a privately-owned farm and you can either take a guided tour to experience the views, see some farm animals and watch the very clever sheepdogs at work - or stay a couple of nights in one of their cute huts - two even have outdoor baths. The terrain is beautiful and the views magnificent, a great getaway with a difference.
Ulva Island/Te Wharawhara
If you're holidaying on stunning Stewart Island/Rakiura you may want to take a short boat ride to Ulva Island with its 11km coastline. It's predator-free, resulting in a wonderful community of birds that live in an environment dominated by rimu, southern rātā and kāmahi, with some tōtara and miro too. On the beaches, you may meet fur seals (kekeno) or sea lions (rāpoka/whakahao). Just make sure you admire them from a distance!
For more travel inspiration, go to newzealand.com/nz.
Check traffic light settings and Ministry of Health advice before travel at covid19.govt.nz