Cruising to Kawau


You could be forgiven for thinking that time stands still when you visit Kawau Island, one of the many islands scattered around Auckland, or at least it’s having a snooze.

Kawau is the largest island within easy striking distance of Auckland city but it’s surprisingly quiet and un-developed. The resident population is small (although it swells with visitors at holiday time) and there are few roads and even fewer vehicles. Everything from building materials to crates of beer, the daily newspapers and of course the mail is delivered to Kawau by boat and the Royal Mail Run, a daily delivery service, is a critical lifeline to the mainland even though most residents have some sort of boat moored at the bottom of their property .

The skipper of the Royal Mail Run expertly manoeuvres his boat alongside any one of the island’s 85 wharfs to let a crew member jump off with the mail while entertaining his passengers and pointing out important landmarks because the Royal Mail Run also carries day-trippers, like me and my family, and we want to hear stories of the island and its inhabitants.

We didn’t book lunch on the Mail Run (they do an on-board BBQ) because we had packed a picnic and, after the mail round was done for the day, we unpacked our sandwiches under the trees in Mansion House Bay. We were entertained by cheeky North Island weka, noisy flightless birds with more than a passing resemblance to Kiwi except they are very lively during daylight hours. They scuttle about looking for shiny things and carelessly dropped picnic food. They’re not shy, poking their long beaks into unsecured bags and dashing back into the undergrowth with their treasures.

The Mansion House is a stately home which was once the private residence of Sir George Grey, one of the first governors of New Zealand and now opens its doors to visitors for a small entrance fee. Sir George liked to experiment so he planted a garden of tropical plants and imported exotic animals from all over the world to see which would survive. The monkeys and zebras didn’t but there are still plenty of peacocks strutting their stuff. There’s a small cafe in Mansion House Bay and a walking track to the ruins of a mine where copper was mined from 1844 to 1852; it takes about 2.5 hours and the views are worth the toil.

The water at Kawau Island sparkles green and blue and swimming and fishing are popular. There is always a sheltered bay to be found so they fill up with boaties on sunny weekends and public holidays.  Rumour has it that at busy times (New Year’s Eve for example), yachts and powerboats lie deck to deck and it’s possible to walk from one side of Mansion House Bay to the other without getting wet feet.

Catch a boat to Kawau Island from Sandpit.

The Royal Mail Run and water taxis leave daily from Sandspit which is about one hour’s drive from Auckland. There is accommodation for all budgets on Kawau Island and many homes (bachs) can be rented. Book ahead as there aren’t enough for all the people who want to let time slow down and enjoy a slice of life on Kawau.


Categories: New Zealand

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