This article has affiliate links to products which we may make commission from at no extra cost to you.
Enjoy reading about the most beautiful islands in New Zealand and pick your favorite for a visit!
One of the best things about New Zealand that there are so many islands to visit and each one has it’s own uniqueness. Whether you are looking for a full on adrenaline fuelled adventure, a romantic break or a memorable family outing, there’s an island for every kind of holiday. Take a look at the best ones and get to know about them before you start planning your next tropical holiday.
Most Beautiful Islands In New Zealand
1. Waiheke Island
Waiheke Island, just a short ferry ride away from Auckland, is one of the most beautiful islands in all of New Zealand. The island is most well-known for the 30 boutique wineries that are scattered around its countryside and both locals and tourists make the journey across to spend a perfect day wine tasting in Waiheke’s vineyards and dining in its incredible restaurants.
Being an island there are beautiful views from Waiheke across the Hauraki Gulf and sunsets on the island are incredible, combine that with a chilled New Zealand sauvignon blanc and you have the perfect combination. Other activities will keep the visitor occupied for hours. From ziplining across the vineyards to cycling around the island and enjoying stops for wine tasting on route. For walkers there are many trails, one trail goes completely around the island but it will take more than one day to complete. And that is just the excuse needed for staying in one of the beautiful properties that are available; from vineyard lodgings to bachs on the beach there is certainly something for everyone on Waiheke Island.
By Angela Price Of “Where Angie Wanders”
2. Stewart Island
Located off the tip of the bottom of the South Island, Stewart Island is just a short ferry ride across the Fuveaux Straight from Bluff. It’s an incredibly beautiful and untamed island, that’s been left largely in its natural state. Because of this, it’s the ideal place to enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking, diving, kayaking and bird watching. In fact, as the island is predator-free, you’ll find a diverse range of birds living in the native bush and nesting around the coastline, including penguins, albatrosses, falcons and even kiwis!
The underwater world is just as exciting, and you don’t need to get wet to enjoy it. Hop on a semi-submersible vessel from the island’s main boat terminal and you can watch the marine life through large glass panels. Another unique thing about Stewart Island is that it’s a dark sky sanctuary, meaning it’s the perfect place to gaze at the stars, and perhaps even witness the Southern Lights – one of the most magical experiences you can have in New Zealand!
Visit Stewart Island in the summer months to benefit from a milder climate and more daylight hours to explore.
By Nadine Maffre Of “Le Long Weekend”
3. Great Barrier Island
Without a doubt, one of the most beautiful and interesting islands in New Zealand is Great Barrier Island in the Hauraki Gulf. It is about 100 km from Auckland and is not to be confused with the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland Australia. Great Barrier Island is a large island, ( 285 square kilometers) is nearly 45 kilometers long and is the 4th biggest island in New Zealand. It is accessible by a very scenic 30-minute flight in a small plane or a seven or eight-hour ferry ride.
Over 70% of the land on Great Barrier Island is a protected Conservation Park and the whole island is totally off-grid and depends on renewable solar power and collection of freshwater. It has a population of only around 1000 people and with virtually zero light pollution the night skies are superb. The whole island is a world-renowned Dark Sky Sanctuary.
There are beautiful white sand ocean beaches, fantastic bush walks, and a huge range of wilderness activities to enjoy. The natural Kaitoke hot springs are great for a dip or a hike up to the top of the Windy Canyon offers stunning views. There are art galleries, potteries & museums to visit and some great dining options often featuring local products.
By Maureen Spencer Of “So Many Places! So Little Time!”
4. Rangtito Island
Rangitoto Island makes a unique visit, particularly for anyone who is travelling through Auckland where Rangitoto is the largest and youngest volcano in the Auckland Volcanic Circuit. At 600 years old, Rangitoto is the baby out of the 55 dormant volcanoes in the city. When taking a ferry to Rangitoto Island, you’re reminded to take water and snacks or lunch since there are no cafes or shops on the island. It’s also important to check the last return ferry departure since it wouldn’t be a great place to get stranded! Thankfully, there is fairly good signage on Rangitoto to help you find your way around the many walking trails.
The must-do trail is up to the crater itself. The hour-long summit track leads up to the 230m high summit lookout and has wonderful views over the Hauraki Gulf. I highly recommend the half-hour detour to the Lava Caves where you can experience one of the lava tunnels created here hundreds of years ago, while the island was being formed, by walking through it. Don’t forget your torch when visiting the caves!
There is also a stunning lighthouse, historic baches and WWII sites, and a shipwreck bay to spot depending on which route you choose. The shady native flora walks and saltwater pool make it a memorable day out.
By Cassie Bailey Of “Cassie The Hag”
5. Chatham Island
The Chatham Islands are home to some gorgeous natural beauty, unique varieties of flora and exotic array of wildlife. This island is inhabited by about 600 migrants. You would love exploring the famous landmark architectures such as the unusual Basalt Columns and Maunganui Stone Cottage. The Basalt columns at Ohira Bay are huge pentagonal volcanic columns that erupted on land over 80 million years ago. A walk through the JM Barker (Hapupu) National Historic Reserve takes you along a bush walk where you can see the rare Moriori tree carvings on many kopi trees. Another unmissable experience in Chatham islands is a visit to the Pitt island that is famously known to be the first inhabited place in the world to see the sunrise each day.
The Chatham islands are reachable through domestic flights services from Christchurch, Auckland and Wellington. Though the Chatham islands are off beat and located at a farther distance from both North and South islands of New Zealand, these islands are an escape for people who are looking for more unique and isolated places to explore in the country.
A fascinating culture, stone age sites, unique flora, wildlife scenes and love for gorgeous island getaways in Chatham islands would surely make for an unforgettable holiday.
6. Motutapu Island
Motutapu is one of the less visited islands in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf, and one of the oldest at 178 million years old. Over the centuries, this lush green and grassy island has played home to Maori settlements, Victorian picnic parties and a World War II military base (the remnants of military barracks can still be seen today). Now the island is a pest free Department of Conservation ‘Recreation Reserve’ and is perfect for hikers and visitors who want to spot rare and native New Zealand birds. The island has a series of easy and scenic walking tracks of varying length.
One of the shorter walking tracks will take you to a beautiful and unspoilt beach called Sandy Bay which is perfect for a picnic and swim. If you have more time, head to Billy Goat Point, the northernmost part of the island.
Motutapu island is a perfect day trip from Auckland and is easy to reach by ferry in just 35 minutes. Take good walking shoes with you, plus food and drink as there are no shops on the island.
By Caroline Keyzore Of “CK Travels”
Urupukapuka is one of the most beautiful and accessible islands in New Zealand. It’s located in the Bay of Islands in the far north of the North Island and can easily be visited on a day trip from Paihia or Russell by ferry or water taxi (which take about 40 minutes). On the island you’ll find rolling green hills, golden beaches, dramatic cliffs, and forests full of native birds including pukeko, North Island saddlebacks, tui, and fantails.
You could spend the day relaxing on the beach, renting kayaks, and visiting the cafe at Otehei Bay or choose one of the other calm bays for swimming and snorkelling. It’s also well worth exploring the hiking trails—a loop of the whole island is about 11km and takes 3-5 hours, but you can choose a shorter trail.
Summer (December to February) is the best time to visit for enjoying the beaches, but the weather is mild year-round and off-season is ideal for hiking without the crowds. This guide to visiting Urupukapuka Island has more tips.
By Erin McNeaney Of “Never Ending Voyage”
8. Adele Island, Abel Tasman National Park
Adele Island is a picture-perfect Island and bird sanctuary located off the mainland in the Abel Tasman National Park. The park is situated at the top of the South Island in the Tasman region.
A visit to Adele Island is a unique experience while exploring the Park. It is relatively small but easily accessible by boat or kayak. The main attractions include seeing the resident seal colony and lazing on one of the small golden sandy beaches as well as seeing the granite coastline. It is highly recommended to hire a kayak from Marahau either with a guided Abel Tasman kayaking trip or with a freedom rental (2 person minimum) and heading to the Island.
With a kayak, you can circumvent navigate the Island. Otherwise, grab a water taxi heading North into the park and the provider will stop at the top of Adele Island and show off the seal colony.
By Lee-Ann McKenzie Of “Be Free With Lee”
Have you visited any of these islands in New Zealand or know more that should be on this list? Let us know in the comment section below.