Located just 20 minutes via ferry from the Gulf Harbour of Auckland, New Zealand, Tiritiri Matangi is an open sanctuary for bird species that are no longer found on mainland New Zealand, as well as native plants and the occasional tuatara.
Some of the rare bird species that you may see on the island are: yellowhammer, hihi (stitchbird), tieke (saddleback), korimako (bellbird) tui, kokako,piwakawaka (fantail), popokatea (whitehead), kotare (kingfisher), kakariki (red-crowned parakeet), kereru (NZ pigeon), torea (oystercatcher), brown quail, pukeko, and the takahe. If you venture out at night time, and are very lucky, you may even get to see a kiwi – the symbol of New Zealand, a tuatara (an endemic reptile that is sometimes referred to as a “living fossil”) or a maybe even a weta (a large endemic insect that looks similar to a cricket, or grasshopper).
Most of the forest on Tiritiri Matangi was planted in the 1970s, and some of the bird species had to be introduced to the island, such as the tieke, which was successfully introduced in 1984. Pests such as rats, mice, and possums have been eradicated from the island, as they can be harmful to the native forests and animals. The only native mammal in New Zealand – the bat, has not yet been introduced to the island, nor have the giant weta.
Tiritiri Matangi is not only known for its vast number of native New Zealand birds, but also due to its significance to New Zealand history. The island was originally settled by an iwi (Māori tribe) from the north, called the Kawerau iwi. There were some battles fought for ownership of the island between iwis, up until the European settlers claimed the island for themselves in the 1800s, and the island was later given to the government. There are still some Māori pa sites and shell middens located on the island. The well-known lighthouse was constructed on the island in 1864, when people realised how dangerous it was for ships to navigate that part of the gulf, following several shipwrecks and near misses. The lighthouse was first lit on January 1, 1865, and is the oldest lighthouse in New Zealand that is still in operation. It originally had a lighthouse keeper, but is now fully automated. The last lighthouse keeper stayed on the island until 2006 with his wife working as rangers for the Department of Conservation. A military building was also located on the island for some time, but has since been removed.
Tiritiri Matangi is a great island to visit for a day trip, or to stay overnight. Although, there is no food available on the island, so visitors must provide their own. There is however, a gift store that stocks heaps of beautiful (and slightly expensive) items available for purchase. All the gift store income is used to help maintain the island.
I would suggest that you bring your favourite analogue camera, heaps of film, lunch, and some good walking shoes.