Visiting Tiritiri Matangi Open Sanctuary with 360 Discovery Cruises
One of the things I love best about living in Auckland is how accessible nature and wilderness are, and how easy it is to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life, within an hours journey time. I had already written about the wonderful parks, volcanoes and beaches one can enjoy in the city. What makes Auckland even more special is that you can catch a short ferry ride to places such as Rangitoto Island, Waiheke Island and Tiritiri Matangi Open Sanctuary – an island rich in native flora and fauna – and enjoy the beautiful outdoors. You can visit Tiritiri Matangi with 360 Discovery Cruises which leaves right from the docks in central Auckland in the morning and brings you back late afternoon – read more to find out why this place is so special!
Tiritiri Matangi Island is located 30km north-east of central Auckland and 4km from the end of the Whangaparaoa Peninsula. As such you can take 1 hour and 15 minutes 360 Discovery ferry from Auckland or just the 15 minute ferry from the Gulf Harbour. Tickets costs $70 an adult, $40 for children and $180 for family pass (2 adulkts, 2 kids.) The ferry leaves at 9am from Auckland Harbour and leaves the island at 330pm. There is no food on the island, so you have to bring a packed lunch and snacks. Once you get to the island, the ranger gives a briefing on the dos and don’ts of the island. Before getting on the ferry and after disembarking as well, they ask you to check your bags for stowaway like rodents, ants and other pests.
The journey there was quite rough the day we went last week, as there were strong winds and the sea was really choppy. I would strongly advice anyone who is prone to sea sickness to come prepared with ginger herbal medicine or even stronger anti nausea pills. Our whole family and few others on the boat felt really ill, thankfully no one in our group actually got sick. The crew was helpful and came around to everyone making sure we were all ok. They gave out paper bags in case anyone got sick but it wasn’t reassuring to know that you had to get the bags to the bins within 10 seconds of being sick!
After what felt like forever, and lots of rocking in all directions, we got to the island! It took us a good half hour to lose our sea legs and feel normal again but after a cup of tea (which you get at the visitor centre) and early lunch, we felt better and set about to explore the island. There was the option to take a guided walk with guides that help you to identify the birds and learn about other native flora and fauna, but we didn’t join and explored on our own.
A little bit of history of the island – The first settlement here was 120 years ago and intense farming had resulted in this 220 hectare island being stripped of 94% of its native bush. In the last 30 years, volunteers planted between 250,000 and 300,000 trees and now the island is 60% forested with the remaining 40% left as grassland for species that prefer open habitat. There are several tracks you can do around the island – we did the 30 minute Wattle track and saw so many bird species during the walk! I am afraid I didn’t have our proper camera with us (nor my husband photographer) and as such all the pictures of the birds are from my phone 🙁 I only show a few here but we also saw six other species for which I use images from Tiritiri Matangi website.
The sounds from the forest, the rich diversity of birdlife, the native plants here all combined to provide a glimpse into what the bush and the wildlife might have been like before people and pests came to Auckland. There was also the historical lighthouse built in 1864, and apparently it is the oldest working lighthouse in New Zealand!
After we got back to the wharf, we took a leisurely 10-minute walk to Hobbs beach, passing blue penguin nesting holes along the way. By this time late afternoon, the day became cloudy, but the sea was calmer. We got to Hobbs beach and the girls played in the water and built sand castles. The water was so clear and the sand super soft. Even though the pictures don’t show, it really was a lovely beach to laze around in after a long morning of hiking and birdwatching.
To be honest, we were dreading the ferry journey back, the feeling of being seasick was still fresh on our minds and even while we were queuing up to get on the ferry, I started feeling nauseous (talk about psychological fear!) Thankfully the ferry ride back was quite calm, none of us felt sick at all and the highlight of it all – WE SAW A BLUE PENGUIN IN THE WATER!! We also saw several gannets, shearwaters and terns, at one point we saw hundreds of seabirds in the water, the journey turned out to be much better than we had anticipated 🙂 We have done other ferry cruises with Fullers and 360 Discovery to Waiheke and Rangitoto Island and those journeys were fine, so I think it was more the weather that day. The colours of the water and views of the Hauraki Gulf were absolutely gorgeous.
One of the many things we will miss about leaving New Zealand after one year of living and travelling here! We head to Australia next in two days time, see here for our Great Australia Road Trip Itinerary 🙂
We would like to thank 360 Discovery Cruise for our complimentary ferry tickets to get to Tiritiri Matangi Island Sanctuary. As always, all opinions are our own.