Sandspit & Kawau Island

Visit Kawau Island, discover historic Mansion House or take the Royal Mail Run cruise from Sandspit for a great family day out near Matakana. 

The seaside settlement of Sandspit at the mouth of the Matakana River is the gateway to the islands of Kawau Bay. The gentle harbour is a haven for seabirds including blue herons and royal spoonbills, and a peaceful spot to watch the boats come and go. Hop on a ferry to Kawau Island, or take the daily Royal Mail Run cruise for a fun day out and an easy way to discover the island’s little known bays and inlets. 

Steeped in history, Kawau Island is one of the largest islands in the Hauraki Gulf. Originally purchased from local iwi for farmland, the discovery of copper in 1844 led to the establishment of a mine on the eastern side of the island. In 1862 the island was purchased by the Governor of New Zealand Sir George Grey, who built the famous Mansion House and established a menagerie of exotic species including wallaby, zebra, antelope and kookaburra. The descendants of his peacocks still stroll through the landscaped gardens and a tour of the beautifully-restored and gracious homestead on the water’s edge is a highlight of any Kawau adventure.

Take the ten-minute stroll from Mansion House to Lady’s Bay – once a swimming spot for ladies only –  or hike across to the coppermine for a more challenging two-hour walk. The ruins of the old engine house can still be explored on foot, while the smelting house and roasting pits can be seen from the water.

To explore further, you’ll need to travel by boat or water taxi as there are no roads on Kawau Island. Hop ashore at the Bon Accord Bar & Bistro opposite Schoolhouse Bay, for a sundowner or a bite to eat (check opening times outside summer hours) or book a table at The Beach House on Vivian Bay for a date night to remember.

If you’d like a full day on the water, book a charter cruise from Sandspit and explore other offshore islands like nature reserve Motuora Island, Te Haupa (Saddle Island) or Moturekareka, where the wreck of the Rewa, the largest New Zealand-registered sailing ship, forms a breakwater popular for snorkelling and diving.   

For a little known beach gem, drive over the hill from Sandspit for breathtaking views of Kawau Bay, before the road winds down to family and dog-friendly Brick Bay. With gentle shallow swimming, shady pohutukawa trees and a wide grassy reserve, it’s the perfect tranquil spot for family and group picnics. 

Stay a while in one of the Kawau Island’s baches or resorts, or book a B & B on the mainland for easy access to Warkworth, Matakana and Mahurangi East. The Sandspit Holiday Park offers camping, motorhome parking and simple cabins perched right on the estuary’s edge, for a good old fashioned Kiwi holiday.

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Sandspit & Kawau Island