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Why You Should Visit Offbeat Rakino Island in New Zealand

If you are visiting Auckland and want to have a fun day out to a very off-the-beaten-path island then I have the perfect destination for you: Rakino Island.

Rakino Island is located in Hauraki Gulf and is one of more than 50 subtropical islands that dot this picturesque body of water. Some of the islands, like Waiheke Island, are popular with daytrippers and have multiple ferries connecting them to Auckland City every day, and some are private or can only be reached by private boat.

Rakino Island is somewhere in between. This tiny 1.5 sqm island can be visited by ferry but there are no regular ferry services. There is a small population of people living on the island year-round, and more that have summer homes here, but it is off the grid and there are no stores, no town center, and only a couple of gravel roads.

Beach scene on Rakino Island

So why visit Rakino Island you may ask? Because of its remoteness, its beauty, and to have a unique Auckland experience.

I love to visit offbeat islands, and I really enjoyed my day out on Rakino Island. If you want to visit somewhere that most Aucklanders haven’t even been to, then Rakino Island is perfect.

A Day Out To Rakino Island From Auckland City

Taking the Ferry To Rakino Island

I caught the ferry on a sunny Sunday morning in January. The 50-minute journey was worth the trip in itself. Standing on deck, the views over the fried egg-shaped volcanic island of Rangitoto, and the connected Motutapu Island were gorgeous.

As we got closer to Rakino Island, I saw three different clusters of Little Penguins floating on the water a few meters from the ferry! One of the guys on the ferry said that they nest on Rakino Island.

Coastline on Rakino Island

I was surprised by how many people were waiting for the ferry when we pulled up, I’m guessing they were Aucklanders who have baches (holiday homes) there.

Exploring Rakino Island

As soon as we docked, I set off on the main road that traverses the island. My destination: Woody Bay. As the island is small, it is only a 30-minute walk to Woody Bay from where the ferry docks at Sandy Bay.

Along the way, you will see some old abandoned vehicles on the side of the road that have been claimed by the vines and weeds. It would be expensive to take an old and unfixable vehicle off the island so here they remain, slowly being claimed by the island.

Overgrown car on Rakino Island

There were lots of tūī, one of my favorite New Zealand birds because of their beautiful birdsong, and kererū, native wood pigeons. I imagine there are other native birds here too because it is a pest-free island.

Maori Garden Bay

Along the way to Woody Bay, I saw the beginning of a short and slightly overgrown walking trail, Ivan’s Track, that leads to Maori Garden Bay on the island’s East Coast.

Maori Garden Bay on Rakino Island

It only took around ten minutes of walking to reach the rugged and rocky beach. I walked along the beach for a bit and admired the unique red-tinged sand before taking the trail back up to the road.

Woody Bay and Woody Island

I reached Woody Bay, home to the most beautiful beach on the island. This is where I spent the majority of my time on the island.

The calm cove beach has clean white/grey sand and super clear blue water, perfect for swimming. I walked further around to the right and over some rocks to a second, smaller beach with no one on it.

Woody Bay on Rakino Island

From here, I swam out the short distance to the tiny, rocky Woody Island. I clambered carefully onto the sharp rocks and up to a grassy spot for a lovely view back to the beach.

I made my way back to the main beach and found a shady spot to read, taking a dip in the tranquil water when I got too hot. The perfect way to spend a sunny summer’s day in New Zealand.

Woody Bay on Rakino Island

Sandy Bay

As it got closer to my ferry departure time, I slowly made my way back up to the road for the walk back to Sandy Bay.

Sandy Bay may not be as pretty as Woody Bay but it’s still a lovely beach and a great spot to relax and swim. There are lots of big trees for shade too, which is very important on a sunny day in New Zealand.

Bay on Rakino Island

With the ferry trip back to downtown Auckland, my Rakino Island adventure was over. It was a relaxed day of leisurely walks and beaches on a little island that felt a world away from the city. It was everything I needed it to be.

How To Visit Rakino Island on a Day Trip

The hardest part of planning your Rakino Island adventure is timing. There are only one or two days a week in summer when you can visit by ferry on a day trip so plan accordingly and book in advance.

Belaire Ferries are the only operator that services Rakino Island from the ferry terminal in downtown Auckland and they depart from Pier 6 to the right of the main ferry building. Make sure to arrive 15-20 minutes before departure for the 50-minute ferry ride.

View over the coast

Make sure to keep an eye on the time when you are on the island and arrive back at the ferry dock 15-20 minutes before the departure time back to Auckland. You don’t want to be stuck on the island!

Rakino Island is a pest-free island so make sure to read up on the biosecurity rules and regulations to ensure you aren’t taking any banned items onto the island.

Make sure to pack all the water and food you need because there are no businesses on the island. Also pack plenty of sunscreen and a hat, the New Zealand sun is very harsh and no joke.

Trail to Maori Garden Bay

Where To Stay in Auckland

There are no hotels or campgrounds on Rakino Island, and very limited vacation homes. If you did want to stay on the island, you would need to book it well in advance and the best place to look would be Book a Bach. Keep in mind that as there are no stores on Rakino Island, you would need to bring absolutely all the food and other items you need with you.

Staying in Auckland City and visiting on a day trip is much easier to plan. Here are the best places to stay in Auckland City.

Auckland city view

If you are on a backpacker budget, Verandahs Backpackers Lodge in Ponsonby is an excellent choice. It’s within walking distance of the city and K Road, and offers comfortable dorm and private rooms. In the city center, Lylo Auckland is a great choice.

For solid mid-range hotels in Auckland, I would recommend The Convent Hotel, a unique boutique hotel in Grey Lynn that is housed in a former nunnery, Nesuto Stadium which has sleek apartments in the heart of Auckland City, and Auckland Rose Park Hotel across from the rose gardens in Parnell.

If you are looking for luxury, there are fantastic options in Auckland too. Stay at The Hotel Britomart near the Viaduct, the stylish boutique Hotel De Brett, or The Grand by SkyCity, a classy hotel in the SkyCity complex downtown.

Auckland at night

For vacation rentals, Auckland has a lot of choices. Here are the best picks for affordable, centrally-located, and highly-rated vacation rentals in Auckland:

The Best Insurance For Your Auckland Trip

Make sure you get travel and health insurance before your trip. Safety Wing is my go-to and they are cheap and easy to claim with – it auto-renews every month unless you turn it off so you don’t have to think about it for longer trips

Safety Wing also allows you to sign up when you are already traveling, unlike a lot of other travel insurance providers.

If you liked this post, check out some more of my Auckland and North Island content:


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