Matakana Island forms one side of Tauranga Harbour’s main entrance and sits directly opposite Mauao at the tip of Mount Maunganui’s peninsular.
The island is 20km long and about 3km wide and runs all the way north to Bowentown. It’s almost entirely covered in pine trees and a small community of 250 or so people live here.
There are no public amenities, food for sale or shops but there is a glorious white sand beach which runs around the island’s entire coastline.
Matakana is a popular place to surf – a powerful north-easterly swell on a high tide produces great sand barrels along the ocean side of this island.
You can catch a barge to Matakana from Omokoroa or Sulphur Point in Tauranga, or jump on and off Kewpie Cruises’ ferry which regularly departs from a small wharf at the base of Mauao in Pilot Bay. Take your togs, towel and a picnic and enjoy a swim and a few hours lying on this quiet beach away from all the hustle and bustle before catching the ferry home again.
Be aware you’re not allowed to walk through the pine forest at any point as this is a commercial plantation where logging regularly takes place.
You’ll also need to watch out for New Zealand’s endangered dotterel bird on the surf side of the beach. These small shore birds build their nests in the sand and Matakana Island is the site of a successful Department of Conservation breeding programme. Since 1992 over 300 chicks have successfully been fledged here. Their eggs are well camouflaged in the sand so be careful to walk below the high tide mark at all times so you don’t disturb them.
If you have access to a boat or kayak, Matakana Island is a great place to drop anchor. You can get your boat close enough to shore to jump on and off easily and reach the beach.
Matakana is clearly visible across Tauranga Harbour but its inaccessibility makes this beach feel very secluded and remote. If this island’s white sand beckons you, it’s worth the extra effort to reach these shores.