Overview

Motutapu is one of the Hauraki Gulf’s oldest islands, with 178 million years of history. Over the years, the island has been home to original Maori settlements, massive Victorian picnic parties, and a World War II military base. Now, the conservation island is perfect for spotting native birdlife and exploring the network of walking tracks.

Sitting next to the volcanic Rangitoto Island, Motutapu could not be more different than its rugged neighbour. Lush, green Motutapu is one of the oldest islands in the Hauraki Gulf, with a rich Maori and European history. Meaning “sacred island”, Motutapu has more than 300 Maori pa and archaeological sites, plus evidence that settlers witnessed Rangitoto erupting 600 years ago.

Where is it?

Located in the Hauraki Gulf, this predator-free island is a 35-minute ferry ride from the Downtown Auckland ferry terminal. You can also catch the regular ferry service to Rangitoto Island and walk across to Motutapu via the causeway.

Allow plenty of time to return to the wharf and aim to be there at least 15 minutes prior to departure.

What can I do?

Walk from Rangitoto Island – Motutapu Island is connected to Rangitoto Island by a causeway. As the Rangitoto Island ferry runs much more frequently, you’ll have the chance to walk to Motutapu outside of the days with direct sailings to Home Bay Wharf. See the walking track details here

Explore walking trails – Motutapu boasts many spectacular walking tracks. Some great options start from the Home Bay wharf, venturing to Islington Bay, Emu Point or the Wetland Track. For a full day walk, follow the Motutapu Loop Track. See the walking track map to explore the network of trails map here.

Volunteer – Motutapu Island is the largest ecological restoration conservation endeavour in New Zealand. Motutapu Restoration Trust hosts public volunteer days so you can lend a hand. Volunteer activities include tree planting, weed-busting, nursery work and more. Come as an individual, organise a school trip, or gather a corporate group for a teambuilding activity. Find out more about about volunteer days here

Home Bay – Motutapu Island ferry services arrive in and out of Home Bay wharf, where there are also campgrounds to stay the night. In the early 20th century, Home Bay was a popular visitor destination. Visitors came to the island to see a collection of exotic animals and enjoy massive picnic parties. Throughout one day in 1903, ten steamers transported 14,000 people from Auckland to Home Bay.

Reid family homestead – After centuries of Maori settlement, European farmers began establishing homesteads on the island in 1840, first at Emu Bay and at Home Bay shortly after. One of the farmhouses at Home Bay has been preserved as a reminder of the past. Visit the Reid family’s villa, built in 1901, for a glimpse into farming life of the past.

World War II military sites – Explore the remains of military barracks and underground ammunition stores. Between 1936 and 1944, Motutapu Island was fortified as a military base to defend Auckland Harbour from attack. A battery of guns, anti-aircraft, radar and searchlights once guarded the island. From the walking tracks near the island’s Northern Junction, you can still see many of the concrete emplacements and underground structures.

Beaches – Motutapu has a number of pristine beaches around its perimeter. Take a picnic and enjoy a swim at Mullet Bay on the island’s east coast, or follow the Wetland Track north to the beautiful Waikalabubu Bay.

What do I need?

  • Plenty of water, snacks and lunch, as there are no food outlets on the island.
  • Good walking shoes, sun block and a sun hat.
  • Swimming gear and a towel in the warmer months.
  • A light rain jacket, and warm layers. Temperatures can change quickly, regardless of the season.
  • There are no rubbish bins on pest-free islands. Please remember to take all your rubbish, including leftover food, off the island with you.

How long should I stay?

You’ll need a full day to visit Motutapu Island. Please note that our ferry service is limited. There are special sailings direct to Home Bay Wharf on select Sundays, in conjunction with volunteer tree planting days.

Alternatively, you can walk to Motutapu from Rangitoto in three hours, as the Rangitoto ferry runs more frequently (multiple times daily).

Important pest-free island info

  • Please check your bags for stowaways, such as mice, rats, Argentine ants and Rainbow Skinks to name a few.
  • Ensure your footwear, clothing and bags are clean and free of soil and seeds.
  • Your lunch must be packed in a rodent-proof/ sealed container e.g. hard plastic.
  • No open bags or boxes will be allowed on-board. Everything you bring must be sealed or zipped closed.

Read more before you visit a pest-free island here.

What you need to know FAQs

  • How far in advance do I need to arrive for my ferry?

    Bookings are essential for Motutapu Island ferry services. For all ferry services, we recommend arriving at the ferry terminal at least 30 minutes prior to ferry departure.

  • How long should I stay on the island?

    Visiting Motutapu Island is a full day activity, due to the limited ferry timetable. Ferries travel to and from the neighbouring Rangitoto Island frequently, but please allow plenty of time to walk between the two islands, as it takes roughly three hours to walk between Rangitoto Wharf and Home Bay. 

  • Is there a cafe on the island?

    There are no food outlets on the island so please bring your own food and water. There are cafés on board most of our ferries, so you can purchase food before you get off, but all food must be packed in a rodent-proof, sealed container (e.g. hard plastic).

  • What do I need to bring?

    • Good walking shoes, sun block and a sun hat. The heat reflecting off the volcanic rock can be intense.
    • Swimming gear and a towel during summer.
    • Plenty of water, snacks and lunch in sealed, rodent-proof containers. There is no food for sale on the island! If staying overnight it is wise to bring enough food for an extra day in case the boat is cancelled due to bad weather.
    • A rain jacket, depending on the time of year and conditions.

    There are no rubbish bins on pest-free islands. Please remember to take all your rubbish, including leftover food, off the island with you. Read more about visiting a pest-free island here.

  • What do I need to do when visiting a pest free island?

    • Please check your bags for stowaways, such as mice, rats, Argentine Ants and Rainbow Skinks to name a few.
    • Ensure your footwear, clothing and bags are clean and free of soil and seeds.
    • Your lunch must be packed in a rodent-proof, sealed container (e.g. hard plastic).
    • No open bags or boxes will be allowed on-board. Everything you bring must be sealed or zipped closed.

    There are no rubbish bins on pest-free islands. Please remember to take all your rubbish, including leftover food, off the island with you. Read more about visiting a pest-free island here.

  • Can I bring a children's stroller?

    We don’t recommend you take strollers or push chairs to the island. If you have small children and want to walk to the summit, we recommend you use a baby carrier/backpack instead.

  • Is this destination suitable for children?

    Yes, Motutapu Island is great place to visit with children, as there are plenty of short walks and beaches. However, the terrain is not suitable for strollers.

  • Is the island wheelchair friendly?

    Unfortunately the wharf at Home Bay is not wheelchair accessible, nor are the Rangitoto Island wharves.

  • Can I bring a bicycle, scooter, and skateboard to the island?

    No. These items aren’t permitted on the island.

  • Can I take my dog to the island?

    Dogs are not permitted on Motutapu Island. You can take a disability assist dog into controlled dog areas without the need for a permit if it is kept under control at all times.

  • Are there toilets on the island?

    Yes, toilets are located at Home Bay.

  • Is there cellphone coverage on the island?

    Yes, mobile coverage is available on Motutapu Island.

  • Is my ticket valid for future dates, or only the day/time specified on the ticket?

    Bookings for a specific date and time are essential for all departures to Motutapu Island and Rangitoto Island.

  • Can I stay on the island overnight?

    Yes, there is a DOC campsite at Home Bay. Bookings are essential. For more information, see the Motutapu Island Stay the Night page.

  • Can I participate in volunteer activities on the island?

    Yes, there are opportunities to volunteer with Motutapu Restoration Trust. Public volunteer days are held throughout the year on select Sundays. For more information, see the Motutapu Volunteer page.

Discover Rangitoto Island

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