Palm Beach

White sands lead down to calm and inviting waters flanked by native bush on this quiet island beach.

Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf is home to several inviting islands. Waiheke Island, accessible by ferry from downtown Auckland, is home to about 9,000 permanent residents, as well as olive farms, vineyards and art galleries. Palm Beach, with its white sand and calm waters, is the island’s main attraction. During holiday seasons around Easter, June/July and December, the island swells with tens of thousands of visitors.

You can take a car onto the ferry from Auckland, which takes just under an hour to reach the island. A passenger-only ferry can get you there in 40 minutes, making this a great spot for a day trip.

Buses run to the beautiful Palm Beach on the protected north side of Waiheke Island from the ferry stop at Matiatia Bay. Native bush surrounds the white sands of this beach, where the curving green headlands that provide protection from the winds seem to rise out of the water. A protected bay at the western end of Palm Beach is an unofficial nudist beach.

There are restrooms, barbecue facilities and a playground in the reserve that backs onto Palm Beach. A general store stocks basic supplies and snacks.

There’s accommodation for those wanting to base themselves near Palm Beach, with everything from modern apartments and waterfront cottages to larger houses that accommodate eight or more. There is also some very luxurious accommodation to be found in this area. Splash out on a five-star room, and you can enjoy poolside cocktails at dusk with a view over the ocean.

Walking trails through nature reserves behind the beach are a peaceful way to while away the hours not spent swimming and sunbathing. Take the hike along the coastline from Palm Beach to Little Oneroa Beach. Orca whales can be seen swimming along this strip of coastline, where they feed on stingrays.

The ocean is safe for swimming at any time of the year, but it’s freezing cold from around May through September.

Three ferry services run back and forth from the island several times a day.