5 islands to visit in New Zealand

by By Hafiz Rasid (hrasid@sph.com.sg)
published on 21 June 2016

Need a break? Explore some of the country's beautiful offshore islands

If you are looking for a holiday to get away from it all, nothing beats an island vacation.

Not short of verdant landscapes, mountainous terrain, enchanting valleys and dramatic scenery, New Zealand’s natural attractions are great for those who are looking to escape the stress of urban life.

Go beyond the usual tourist spots in New Zealand and discover the many island gems dotting its coastlines.

1. Stewart Island

Apart from its unspoilt natural beauty, Stewart Island is a perfect spot for travellers who appreciate outdoors activities. Home to the country’s iconic flightless bird, the brown kiwi, it is also where you can spot the aurora australis.

Take a hike on one of the island’s many walking and hiking tracks. Check out the coastal scenery as you walk the three-day Rakiura Track.

Make a trip to the adjoining Ulva Island, which has a unique predator-free ecosystem, and keep a lookout for the brown kiwi and other endangered bird species.

Need a break from exploring? Be sure to tuck into the island’s seafood specialities – salmon, blue cod and Bluff oysters.

2. Waiheke Island

Although it is only half an hour away from downtown Auckland, Waiheke's atmosphere feels a world away.

A haven for oenophiles, the serene island is known for its high-quality vineyards that produce Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Chardonnay wines.

Go on one of the many gastronomy and winery tours available on the island. Savour its unique wines, dine on freshly caught seafood by the beach, and explore Ostend Market for fresh produce and lavender products. Best of all, take it easy and appreciate Waiheke’s pristine natural beauty.

3. White Island

If you are feeling adventurous, why not try walking on an active volcano?

As New Zealand’s only active marine volcano, White Island is where you can go on a guided tour to get up close to the roaring steam vents, volcanic streams and bubbling mud pools.

The island looks like a slice of the moon’s surface transplanted on an ocean of sapphire-blue water. Its barren, mountainous landscape provides a contrast to New Zealand’s otherwise lush landscape, making it a perfect setting for atmospheric photoshoots.

4. Tiritiri Matangi Island

For nature lovers, Tiritiri Matangi Island is a must-visit. Its famous wildlife sanctuary is home to some of New Zealand’s rarest wildlife.

Be serenaded by the chorus of bird songs as you make your way around the island. Go on a day excursion to learn more about the island’s reputation as one of the most successful conservation projects in the world.

At the wildlife sightseeing tour, keep an eye out for rare bird species, such as the takahe, stitchbirds and kokako.

Take this chance to visit one of New Zealand’s oldest pohutukawa trees, estimated to be around 800 to 1,000 years old.

5. Rotoroa Island

Open to the public for the first time in a century, Rotoroa Island is now known as a site for those interested in art and heritage tours.

Drop by the island for its beautiful beaches, walking trails, heritage buildings, and state-of-the-art exhibition centre that chronicles the island’s fascinating history.

Stretch your legs and take a walk down Rotoroa Island’s historical landmarks to learn about its past. Visit its old chapel, jail house and school house, or spend your day swimming by one of the island’s four sandy beaches.