A short 8km boat ride across Kawau Bay from Sandspit, Warkworth will transport you to the beautiful Kawau Island. There are ferries and water taxis that leave from Sandspit daily, or take your own boat out for a spin. The island has three harbours: Bon Accord Harbour, North Cove, and South Cove. Most residents rely on direct waterfront access and have private wharves for entrance to their homes. Other residents choose to live on their boats anchored in one of the harbours.
Kawau Island is mostly privately owned except for around 10% which is owned by the Department of Conservation (DOC) – including the historic Mansion House, in Mansion House Bay.
The residents tell a tale of the Maori history of the island. During the 18th century, a tribe of Maoris who lived like pirates would attack other Maoris who came near the island. This behaviour was not forgiven and the other Maori tribes banded together and came to Kawau Island and massacred the Kawau Maoris. A tapu was then put on the island, which is still in effect, that deems it a place that Maoris should not go to.
Copper and magnese were discovered on the island in the early 1800s and a copper mine and smelter was built on the island to process the ore. It became too difficult to continue operations and the mines and smelting works were abandoned, leaving ruins for us to explore today.
We stayed in the amazing Kawau Lodge for a few days on our visit, and enjoyed the peaceful solitude of the beautiful North Cove.
As there are no roads on the North part of the island, all you can hear are the dulcet sounds of nature – lapping water and birdsong. We even heard the penguins in the evening as they made their way up to the shores around the lodge.
In 1862, one of New Zealand’s first Governors purchased the island as a private residence. He established his residence, now known as Mansion House, and surrounded it with a beautiful garden containing plants and animals from all over the world. There is a gazebo in the garden that shows the history of the property and the fate of the animals that were introduced by the Governor. A friendly peacock and peahen roam the gardens, as well as other birds such as wekas and ducks. The Mansion House is now an historic museum and entry is available to the public for $4 admission fee. Forest walks are accessible from the Mansion House Grounds and extend through the public reserve.
Here’s a link to a map of the walks. Mansion House Walking Tracks
Typical activities on Kawau Island
Fishing, Sailing, Swimming, Kayaking & Paddle Boarding, Forest Walks, and visits to the historic sites of Mansion House and ruins of an old copper mine and smelting works.
Where to eat
Kawau Boating Club – located in Bon Accord Harbour, the boating club has family atmosphere such as can only exist in a small community. The food is great, and there are gluten free options available. Grab a glass of wine in the evening and relax by the water’s edge for a few hours. Opening hours change with the seasons, so check their website for details before you go.
The Beach House – located on Vivian Bay, this beach front restaurant specialises in quality food prepared from free range and fresh local produce. Bookings required to avoid disappointment.
Mansion House Café – located in Mansion House Bay. Open during the summer months, this café can be found in the grounds of the Mansion House estate.
Places to stay
The Beach House – Located on Vivian Bay, The Beach House has accommodation on their beach front property as well as the restaurant.
Kawau Lodge – This deluxe 8 Bedroom Villa is perfect for corporate retreats or family event getaways. Large wrap around balconies on three different levels all provide panoramic views of the North Cove harbour. The Lodge has a deep water jetty which means you have access at any time or tide.
Kawau Island Holiday Home – Beautiful 5 bedroom holiday home rental – rent the entire property for your stay. Located in the south of the island, with beautiful amenities.
When will you visit Kawau Island and experience a slice of island life?