Tuhua lies 35km offshore from Tauranga and is the largest island in the Bay of Plenty covering 1277ha (13km²).
It’s one of the few places in New Zealand where obsidian is found. This black glassy rock was used by early Maori to make tools and weapons, and the name “Tuhua” is a direct reference to this treasure. The island’s English name was bestowed by Captain James Cook in recognition of the Lord Mayor’s Day due to be held in London a few days after he first saw the island in 1769.
The deeper waters surrounding Tuhua are filled with marlin, mako sharks and swordfish which have long attracted big game fishermen. But a marine reserve has now been established at the northern end of the island. Fishing is restricted within this reserve but it’s a perfect spot to enjoy snorkeling and diving with lots of subtropical species arriving on the warm ocean currents.
This island is privately-owned but the Tuhua Trust Board do allow visitors to land at South East Bay when Tuhua’s caretaker is in residence. You can book a cabin or camp sites nearby from late October until April each year and there are shower facilities and an ablution block available.
There is no electricity, shop or supplies on this island, and you’ll need to boil all water before drinking it. So make sure you come fully-prepared.
Spend your days hiking through this island’s dense pohutukawa forest and climb to the highest peak which stands 355m above sea level. Tuhua’s volcanic crater has two distinct lakes you can visit – the waters of Lake Aroarotamahine are green while Lake Te Paritu is almost black. Negotiate the ‘devil’s staircase’ to reach the crater floor, or hike around the crater rim instead. Several shorter walks are also marked out, or spend the day relaxing on the beach instead.
Tuhua is a pest-free island and home to many native birds and threatened species such as bellbirds, tui, wood pigeons, morepork, kaka (brown parrot), grey warblers, kingfishers, shining cuckoos, North Island robins, kakariki karaka (orange-fronted parakeets) and brown kiwi. Because of this, certain biosecurity rules must be followed if you’re planning to come ashore.
If you’re keen to visit, there are a number of charter operators who will either drop you off or pick you up. Or a full guided tour around Tuhua is available on selected dates only departing from Whakatane.