Kawau Island, or Te Kawau Tumaro o Toi (the sentinel Cormorant of Toi), is one of the largest islands that make up the Hauraki Gulf in the northern part of New Zealand.
Where we are
Kawau Island is in the Hauraki Gulf, 8kms off the coast about 45km north of Auckland.
From Trip Advisor 21 January 2018:
A great day out and there are several options to get to Kawau Island. We went on the Mail Run which gave us about four hours on the Island. We brought our own picnic, explored the part of the Island that was open to public, and went for a little swim. There were plenty of things to do and explore for the whole family, including a mid afternoon snooze under the trees!
You can visit the Mansion House, which is now a museum for a few extra dollars ($4). There’s also a cafe and public toilets nearby. Plenty of big trees in the Park give shade for your picnic.
We didn’t see any wallabies, but we did see plenty of wekas and a grove of swan plants with monarch butterflies. Two very friendly peacocks which prefer Jazz apples over other food, we found out!
There are several tracks, but unfortunately they closed most of them and you could only do a return walk, not a loop to the copper mine. That was a bit of a shame.
Kawau Island is a popular destination for pleasure craft cruising the Hauraki Gulf; those looking for a relaxing escape in nature; and bird enthusiasts. Kawau Island is known for having no road access. Accomodation and attraction destinations are reached via sea!
The Island has a small population of permanent residents and many holiday dwellings. A permanent population of approximately 80 live on Kawau, with the main population based at South Cove, North Cove, and Bon Accord Harbour. This population swells to hundreds over weekends and at holiday time. The majority of the population is based around the water’s edge; accessed by private jetties, apart from South Cove and Schoolhouse Bay which have public jetty access and a small ribbon of roading to the various homes on the steep hill-faceabove the water.
Kawau Island is a unique community. Set off from the mainland, ring fenced by water and with barly a hint of the ordinary suburban infrastructure and amenities, we take pride in relying on our own resources and valuing our neighbours. We are an extremely cohesive community, despite the geographic and infrastructure constraints which means most social contacts are either by boat or on foot. There is an active Ratepayers Association (KIRRA) to which is allied a small committee (KIAC) which is charged with managing the crucial political interface with mainland bureaucracy at both local and central government levels.
A quarterly magazine - Kookaburra - is published for KIRRA members. The curious name is derived from that well-known Australian bird, which has flourished in a few colonies around the Island since being itroduced by Governor Grey in the 1840s. some time after the First World War an editorial committee decided that Kookaburra was an appropriate name for this New Zealand journal!
The driving culture on Kawau is one of maintaining as much independence from mainland bureaucracy as possible. Islanders are proud of their deep ecological comittment, being mindful of both the particular and challenging geography of Kawau and the beauty and importance of the sea which ring-fences us. Life on Kawau is unique - essentially no roading and other than a fragile electricity network from an underwater cable from the mainland, we are very much dependent on our own resources. Water is collected from roofs and rubbish is removed on the "pack it in, pack it out" principle. Sewerage is predominantly septic tanks, the occasional long drop and increasingly, more modern house-by-house treatment systems. The community has developed an extraordinarily sophisticated and profesisonal Emergency Response group, who manage medical, civil defence, weather and fire events. They liaise with mainland first responders through the 111 system.
Kawau is a community in good heart. We are committed and diligent custodians of our environment. We thrive on the challenges of minimal infrastructure and the sometimes exciting adventures of travelling by sea. We are here becasue we are all passionate about Kawau.
Kawau Island enjoys its own micro-climate within the sub-tropical zone of northern New Zealand. Generally we enjoy warm humid summers and mild winters. Typical summer daytime maximum air temperatures range from 22°C to 28°C, and can exceed 30°C. Winter daytime maximum air temperatures range from 12°C to 20°C. Annual sunshine hours average about 2000 and the nights are often clear, cool and starry. In recent years the prevailing wind has been from the east, which offer great shelter in the harbours, coves and bays where there are numerous settlements, and which face west towards the mainland.
The Island covers an area of approximately 5000 acres, is 8km by 5km at its longest axis, and is almost bisected by the long inlet of Bon Accord Harbour which is geologically a “drowned valley”. The Island has remained largely in private ownership except for around 10% which is owned by the Department of Conservation (DOC) and this includes the famous Mansion House in Mansion House Bay.
There are many enquiries about bringing dogs onto the Island. The Kawau Island conservation reserves managed by DOC, notably Mansion House Park and Reserve areas are closed to dogs. This is because uncontrolled dogs are known to disturb or kill flightless birds like kiwi, weka and penguin. Dogs can also attack or intimidate people. Controlling dog access also protects and respects other people's rights to use and enjoy public conservation areas.
If you are on a boat with your dog, you cannot take your dog ashore onto any DOC-managed conservation areas on Kawau Island (including the foreshore) to let it relieve itself.
From the Timbucktu Forest Dog Management plan in Northland, Kiwi in Northland have an average life expectancy of 13 years, with 65% of all adult kiwi killed by dogs. Normally, kiwi live to be 40–65 years of age. The smell of a kiwi is irresistible to dogs.
Kawau residents are reminded to keep their dogs contained.
Kawau Island is of major cultural, spiritual and historical significance to Ngati Manuhiri and has long associations with their Te Kawerau relatives. Kawau is also the boundary for Ngati Wai and Marutuahu interests.
The crystal clear waters of Kawau Bay are a paradise for fishing and sailing and there are many sheltered anchorages for boaties. The Kawau Boating Club Club provides fuel and has limited stores. Electricity, phone and all modern communications services are available on the Island and mail and other items are delivered as required. There is no reticulated water on Kawau Island so the majority of properties rely on tank water for their domestic supply and most Kawau residents have septic tanks or bio-waste systems.
There are several holiday baches and houses to let, self contained holiday flats and bed and breakfast accommodation (all meals available). Only minutes from the mainland, Kawau Island offers the ideal “away from it all” holiday venue, no roads, no cars applies to the majority of the island. See accomodation options here.
Cafés & Restaurants
There are three places to eat out on Kawau Island all serving great coffee, food and wine selections. There is also a café at Sandspit, a short ferry ride from Kawau. See dining options here.
Mansion House and The Beach House are perfect wedding venues for a Kawau Island experience on your special day. They also offer catering for conferences or other special events.
There are many native birds on the Island and as you wander around you will hear and see tuis, fantails, wood pigeons, kingfishers, silver-eyes, grey warblers, the cheeky flightless weka and also many different sea birds. Occasionally you may see and hear bright-coloured rosellas and kookaburras, native to Australia but settled on the Island. As dusk approaches the sounds of moreporks can be heard in the bush and if you are lucky you may even hear a kiwi. Learn more about our birds here.
See this short video about Kawau Island...
Video credit: Adrian Filangi