12 magical things to do on the island of Rotoroa
If you haven’t heard of the island of Rotoroa then you had better make it up, stat, because you’re definitely missing out on something. The newest Hauraki Gulf Wildlife Sanctuary promises island-worthy vibes, minus the long roadie and with plenty of native wildlife.
The Fullers 360 ferry drops you off in the morning and picks you up in the early evening so you have a full day to revel in the 82.5 acres of lush island life. Alternatively, you can rent a place to stay and make it an entire weekend. Dreamer.
Here are the best things to do on the island of Rotoroa.
Drink in the harbor view
So technically it’s not on the island of Rotoroa but the trip is so beautiful it deserves a mention. The 75-minute ferry ride will give you stunning views of the eastern beaches of Tāmaki Makaurau, such as Mission Bay, summer’s favorite, as well as Mellon Bay, Duder Regional Park, Brown Island , Waiheke and the sparkling blue waters of the Hauraki Gulf.
Jump from beach to beach
Although it may be small, the island of Rotoroa is home to five stunning beaches: Ladies’ Bay, Men’s Bay, Home Bay, Mai Mai Bay and Cable Bay, each their own slice of paradise. Unroll your towel, put on your kit, apply sunscreen and enjoy, or snorkel in the water for an underwater experience.
Refresh your story
Owned by the Salvation Army, Rotoroa Island has been operated for 108 years as a rehabilitation center, the first and oldest of its kind in New Zealand. Plot ? There are a number of historic buildings on site and the fairground is home to a small, award-winning museum that paints a living picture of the island’s history. We especially love Ann Shelton’s ROOM ROOM photography.
Relax in a sound bath
Indulge in the sounds of nature as you relax under the pohutukawa trees to the buzz of bees, or stretch out on the grass amid a symphony of birdsong. This is self-care at its best.
Stay the night in accommodation on the island of Rotoroa
Although there are no campsites on the island of Rotoroa, there are four restored buildings in which you can sleep six to eighteen people. Explore the island on your own, once the ferry leaves for the evening, find the perfect vantage point to watch the sunset and contemplate the Rotoroa night sky, sights few can experience.
Picnic like never before
Aucklanders are becoming especially good at hosting picnics, and Rotoroa Island is the perfect way to take your picnic game to the next level. With an abundance of perfect picnic areas and several free electric barbecues dotted around the island, you’re all set. Just be sure to bring all your food in sealed containers to avoid the clandestine skinks and take all your trash home with you.
Go to the coast
Are you looking for something a little out of the ordinary? Going around the coast of the island might be the ideal solution, provided you are prepared to climb, climb and wade. Allow about four and a half hours to complete the loop, ideally starting two hours before low tide.
Put on your Shinrin-Yoku
Shinrin-yoku is all about connecting to the atmosphere of a forest that has been shown to reduce stress levels. Rotoroa Island boasts over 350,000 native New Zealand trees, including over 25 different species, making it the perfect place to relax with these forest vibes. Fun fact: This large volume of trees removes twice the carbon emitted on Rotoroa, making it a carbon neutral island.
Trek from round to round
A great way to see the whole island is to hike from the North Tower to the South Tower. This walk combines two loop circuits and is filled with breathtaking views and chance encounters with native birds and flora. The South Tower Loop also features an atmospheric sculpture called “Kaitiaki” or “Guardian of the Island” by sculptor Chris Booth.
Make feathered friends
On the island of Rotoroa you can walk alongside some of Aotearoa’s most endangered species and isn’t that a total honor? The island is a nursery site for Coromandel Brown Kiwi, duck pāteke – the rarest waterfowl on the mainland – and takahē. It is also home to other native birds, such as the tīeke (pictured) and the weka.
Make common stock exchange
If you have a green thumb and are inspired by the incredible work the Rotoroa Island Trust is doing, you can lend a helping hand. Become a regular volunteer specializing in visitor experience, trail maintenance and development or biosecurity or sign up for a unique volunteer day.
Green your “gram”
Cut through the sea of Instagram selfies and instead cultivate a digital sanctuary with photoshoots held on the island. From wedding photography to website assets with a lasting feel, the island is a setting like no other.
More in the mood for Waiheke? Here are 15 epic things to do there without drinking wine.
Image credit: Rotoroa Island NZ, Alice Rich, Carlo Domingo, Rotoroa Island NZ.