Historic Kawau Island
Kawau Island is a sub-tropical island, 8 km off the coast, about 45 km north of Auckland. It’s one of the larger islands in the Hauraki Gulf and a favourite haunt of boaties who either sail out for the day or anchor for a holiday in one of the sheltered beaches. It is a place where people can get away from it all and still enjoy a water taxi to the mainland. As a strategic point for a number of Maori tribes, many battles were fought here over access to the nearby shark fishing grounds. Human bones have been found at Bostanquet Bay on the southern coast. The island was first settled by Europeans in 1838 and was mined for copper and manganese for years. It was purchased by the Governor of New Zealand, Sir George Grey in 1862 – for a meagre sum of £3700. He made it his home until 1888. Grey’s builders created what is now known as the Mansion House in Mansion House Bay and his team of gardeners created the exotic gardens full of Brazilian palms, Indian rhododendrons, deodars, Australian blue gums, Mediterranean olives, oleanders, agaves as well as English oaks, elms and fruit trees, which still exist today. The island has remained largely in private ownership apart from small areas. About 10 percent is now a publicly owned historic reserve, managed by the Department of Conservation. There are only 413 properties on the island and owners tend to hang on to them for enjoyment which explains a recent rise of 84 percent in capital value. Access to the island is by boat or helicopter. Ferries and water taxis travel to Kawau Island daily from Sandspit Wharf near Warkworth, about one and a half hour’s drive north of Auckland. Many of the private properties around the coast have access to jetties. Private boats have a choice of safe anchorages in and close to Mansion House Bay.