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Browns Island Recreation Reserve, Hauraki Gulf

Walking the rim of Browns Island's volcanic cone. Photo: Alistair Hall
Hauraki Gulf Marine Park
Park at St Heliers Bay, Kohimarama Beach, Mission Bay or Okahu Bay (10-20min from Auckland City)
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Reaching Browns Island by kayak and enjoying a few hours exploration is achievable and makes a fantastic day out.

The most popular starting point for a paddle to the island by kayak is from St Heliers Bay, from where it takes around 35-60min. But you can also start from Okahu Bay, nearer the city, to enjoy passing several bays before crossing the channel.

After St Heliers the coastline becomes rockier but soon you will round Achilles Point, now out of sight of St Heliers Bay, and start crossing the Tamaki river mouth to the island. This can be choppy and you must be visible, as ferries and fishing boats also use this section.

A good spot to land on the island is the large beach to the south west – an easy place from which to re-launch even if the tide’s out.

Walk clockwise around the circumference of the island.

No-one lives on Motukorea and you’re not allowed to camp there. But it’s clear this place has been inhabited for most of the last 800 years. There are few trees, several pa sites and evidence of European settlement too.

The walk takes you around a cliff to the lovely Crater Bay – a fantastic place to have all to yourself (if you’re lucky). From there, a rough path takes you to the cliff top before heading south. Alternatively, when it’s not high tide and you don’t mind wading, you can clamber around the cliffs and walk along a rock ledge which continues until you reach the long sandy beaches to the south of the island.

After completing the circuit, it’s well worth heading to the summit. It’s easy to become entangled in the long, bushy grass and the walk up the hill is more difficult than it looks. Fortunately, the summit’s only 68m so it’s not long before you enjoy panoramic views of Auckland City, Rangitoto Island, Motuihe Island and the deep crater below. The last volcanic eruption here happened 10,000 years ago.

Head back to the kayak via an old dry stone wall and a beautiful little pond with a pohutukawa tree at one end.

Kayak back the same way you came.