Subantarctic Stewart Island, 30 km south of the South Island, has a land area of nearly 2,000 sq km, 85 per cent of which is within the boundaries of Rakiura National Park. Highlights include nocturnal bird life - listen out for the calls of ruru, weka and kiwis by night and red-crowned parakeets, bush parrots and Stewart Island robins by day. A paradise for hikers, there are 245 km of walking tracks can all be accessed from the town of Oban. Participate in short walks through Fern Gully, Horseshoe Point or Moturau Moana and for the adventurous, a three day 'Great Walks' hike.
Just off the west coast of Stewart Island is Ulva Island, the home to Te Wharawhara Marine Reserve, where you'll find explore 56 species of marine fish including kina, sea cucumber, starfish, kelp species and brachiopods with diving trips and sea kayak safaris.
Hosting some of New Zealand’s most endangered birds including the kiwi, Kapiti is a 2,000 hectare nature reserve and its protected waters are home to an abundance of marine life. 50 km north of Wellington on the western coast, to get here you need to take a 15-minute ferry ride which from Paraparaumu Beach. Only 100 visitors are allowed to visit each day. Kapiti Island is the best place to spot a kiwi bird in its natural environment: these brids extinct on the mainland, but there are around 1,200 little spotted kiwis to see here. You will also see other endangered New Zealand birds such as Takahē, Kokako, Weka, Morepork, Blue Penguins and Royal Spoonbills. For those who want a little more adventure, kayaking, snorkelling and walking trails to the highest point, Rangatira Landing, are also available.
Originally settled by early migrations of Maori people and then purchased as a private residence by Sir George Grey, one of New Zealand’s first governors, Kawau Island is now a must-visit island offering unusual history, fishing, swimming and boating. An hour and a half from Auckland in the North Island, visitors can take ferries or water taxis from Sandspit Wharf near Warkworth. A major feature of the island is the historical stately, Mansion House, which stands alone in a secluded sunny bay with an extensive garden with exotic plants and animals from all over the world such as wallabies and peacocks. From the mansion, you can head to the walking tracks leading through the regenerating native forest to beaches, Maori pa sites and old copper mines.
Located just a 40-minute ferry ride from Auckland, Waiheke Island is the Hamptons of the city with countless stunning wineries, a growing local food scene, stunning white sandy beaches, an eclectic arts scene, galleries and studios and a growing crop of uber cool boutique properties. Those with a passion for wine can enjoy the island’swineries that produce unique, high quality wines based on Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc and the recent move into Chardonnay grape varieties. At Mudbrick Vineyard, hand-picked fruit is nurtured from vine to bottle and the wines are carefully selected from classic French varieties. Stonyridge Vineyard is nestled in a valley of olive trees, colourful vines and the aromas of the south of France and offers wine tastin gs and café dining. Te Whau Vineyard is described as one of the most achingly beautiful and dramatic places a vineyard has ever taken root and grows five star Chardonnay and Cabernet Savignon/Merlot, the best of Waiheke wine.
New Zealand’s only active marine volcano, White Island is a giant, barren moonscape streaked with iron oxide reds and vivid sulphur whites and yellows, 48 km off the shores of Whakatane in the Eastern Bay of Plenty. For those who want to arrive in style, take a flight with White Island Flights (www.whiteislandflights.co.nz). For the truly adventurous, a 90-minute boat cruise arrives g 50 kilometres offshore to the island and then you take an unforgettable two-hour walking tour past steaming cracks in the ground, bubbling pools and roaring gas fumaroles. The cliffs rise vertically to over 300 metres high and the crater lake, a huge expanse of steaming water, is a must- see.
Known for its beauty and history, the Bay of Islands is paradise for those who love beaches and water activities. A three-hour drive or 35-minute flight north of Auckland, the Bay of Islands consists of 144 islands including Cape Brett, the Purerua Peninsula, Moturua Island and towns such as Opua, Paihia, Russell and Kerikeri. Whether it’s sand dune surfing in Cape Reinga, a cruise to the famous “Hole in the Rock”, a day at the beach in Paihia or a boat ridearound Tapeka Point to spot wild dolphins, whales and marlin, the Bay of Islands has something for everyone.
For the more adventurous, head to Urupukapuka Island and spend the day exploring the wonderful walks (this is perfect for those in need of hard-core walking tracks). You can even set up camp here at one of the secluded campsites. Take The Hole in the Rock cruise to get here and play with the dolphins in Oke Bay on the way.
- Arapawa is a small island in the Marlborough Sounds with a smattering of places to stay. Perfect for anyone in need of really getting away from it all, the island's terrain is great for mountain biking and hiking, fishing, horse riding and sailing and even whale watching.