Tiritiri Matangi Island is one of the truly special places to visit in Auckland. A hugely successful conservation project, the Tiritiri Matangi birds are flourishing.
Bird lovers around the world know Tiritiri Matangi Island, an open bird sanctuary that’s just a 80-minute ferry ride from Auckland New Zealand. Here, you can discover some very rare birds, including critically endangered takahe and many other threatened and endemic species.
There are few other spots in New Zealand that offer such a wide range of rare sightings. It’s a protected island paradise thought to be one of the world’s most successful conservation projects.
Historically, farming dominated the island, stripping it of the vast majority of native bush. A huge 10-year conservation effort from 1984 to 1994 saw volunteers plant between 250,000 and 300,000 trees. It included the eradication of all mammals, as they are non-native and hold a threat to birdlife. As a result, native birds returned, while an additional 12 species were transmigrated to the island.
About Tiritiri Matangi Island
The island is an open bird sanctuary and scientific reserve. It is predator-free and maintained by the Department of Conservation along with a fantastic team of community volunteers. Today, the 220-hectare island is about 60% forested and 40% grassland.
An easy day trip from Auckland, Tiritiri is a magical paradise that is not just for bird lovers. I have visited many times, always returning home full of new stories and exciting photographs. What could be better than an afternoon that begins and ends on a boat, and is filled with hiking trails, birdlife, nature, and impressive 360° views of the surrounding Haruaki Gulf islands?
Tiritiri Matangi Birds
Be prepared to see many endemic and native birds including shorebirds on Tiritiri Matangi Island. Some have arrived on their own, like the bellbird, gray warbler, fantail, kaka, kingfisher, pukeko, and tui. In addition, 12 endemic species, including the flightless takahe and kiwi birds, have been translocated to the island. (If you want to see kiwi birds foraging around in the scrub, check out the video on this article on Stewart Island.)
The birds are all wild and free. Many have bands for scientific study. Water troughs are stationed near many of the trails, making it easy for visitors to both observe and photograph the wild birds.
Red Crowned Parakeet
- Maori name: kākāriki
- Conservation status: At-risk – relict
- New Zealand Mainland Status: Rare on both North and South Island
- Maori name: tūī
- Conservation status: Endemic. Not threatened
- New Zealand Mainland Status: Common throughout NZ
- Maori name: takahē
- Conservation status: Endemic. Nationally critically endangered
- Only about 200 remain throughout New Zealand.
- Although Takahē were declared extinct in 1898, they were rediscovered in the Murchison Mountains (Fiordland) on the South Island in 1948.
We also saw Takahe at Zealandia in Wellington (North Island), and at Orokonui Ecosanctuary in Dunedin (South Island), and our daughter found Takahe tracks at Tawharanui Regional Park while camping with friends.
- Maori name: hihi
- Conservation status: Endemic. Threatened, nationally vulnerable
- New Zealand Mainland Status: Extinct, but re-introduced to a few protected mainland sites including Tiritiri Matangi
- Maori name: korimako
- Conservation status: Endemic. Not threatened
- New Zealand Mainland Status: Common throughout NZ south of Waikato
New Zealand pigeon
This New Zealand pigeon often referred to as a wood pigeon, is the world’s fifth-largest pigeon, and is the largest in NZ.
- Maori name: kererū
- Conservation status: Endemic. Not threatened
- New Zealand Mainland Status: Widespread and locally common
Other things to see on Tiritiri Matangi Island
While bird watchers flock to the island, there is actually more than just our feathered friends to discover. Don’t forget to look down and around, and you might spot some fascinating insects like the weta, gossamer damselfly, yellow-spotted chafer beetle, copper butterfly, or a wetapunga.
Tuatara, several different species of skink, and geckos can also be spotted. However, to date, I have only photographed the Tiritiri Matangi birds.
The walking trails are well marked, with hikes/walks ranging from a 10-minute walk from the dock to the beach, to all-day options. One of my favourite hikes, the Kawaura Track, passes through an 800-year-old pohutukawa forest.
Where is Tiritiri Matangi?
The island of Tiritiri Matangi sits 30km northeast of Auckland CBD and about 4km from the end of the Whangaparaoa Peninsula. It is one of many islands in the Hauraki Gulf that allow visitors.
How to get to Tiritiri Matangi
The Tiritiri Matangi Island ferry from Auckland or Gulf Harbour or private boat are the two options for getting to the island.
Tiritiri Matangi ferry: There is a ferry to Tiritiri Matangi that starts in Auckland, stopping in Gulf Harbour on the way. It runs only one time per day in each direction. We recommend including the optional guided walk.
Private boat: While private boats can dock overnight, the surrounding anchorages are not well protected from the elements. As a result, we have always opted for a day sail.
What to bring
You will need to be self-sufficient during your time on the island, carrying everything you need for the day in a bag that seals. Remember, on pest-free islands in New Zealand, there are no rubbish bins. Therefore, you need to carry out everything you bring in, which should include:
- Enough drinking water for the day.
- Energy snacks and a packed lunch.
- Sensible, solid walking shoes.
- Sun hat and sunscreen.
- Binoculars and a camera with a zoom lens, if you have one.
- On a warm day, you may want swimwear and towel.
- Like everywhere in New Zealand, the weather is subject to change unexpectedly. We always bring a light jacket in the summer and wear layers in the winter.
NOTE: There is a gift shop near the lighthouse. However, the only available snacks include some soft drinks and fair trade chocolate bars.
Biosecurity and what to leave at home
In order to protect the island and its wildlife, biosecurity is important. There are no mammals on the island; therefore, visitors cannot bring dogs, cats, or other pets. Also, to keep out rats, mice, and certain insects, visitors should inspect their bags, especially food bags packed the night prior, before embarking on their journey.
There are shoe cleaning stations at the ferry entrance to prevent visitors from unknowingly bringing anything on their shoes that might be dangerous to the vegetation. Click here for Tiritiri Matangi biosecurity details.
Can I spend the night at Tiritiri Matangi?
Volunteers and researchers frequently spend the night in the bunkhouse on the island. However, when they are not being used, it is possible to book a bed. Be aware that it usually books up months in advance and is managed by the Department of Conservation.
The bunkhouse is the only overnight Tiritiri Matangi accommodation option. Bookings are required and there are strict biosecurity rules to follow. Click here for details.
Camping is not permitted on Tiritiri Matangi.
I live in the Auckland region and Tiritiri Matangi Island is one of the more unique things to do in our city as well as being one of my favourite Auckland day trips. Its one of the best places to see some of New Zealand’s unique animals.
While I can visit Shakespear Park at the end of the Whangaparaoa Peninsula, also an open bird sanctuary, it isn’t home to as many rare and endangered species as Tiritiri island. Plus, I love the Tiritiri ferry ride.
Tiritiri Matangi is different each time we visit. You never know exactly what you will see. Regardless of how many times I have been before, I always go with a guide, as they spot wildlife that I miss. I recommend including the guided walk when you go.
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These are our go-to companies when we travel. We believe this list to be the best in each category. You can’t go wrong using them on your trip too.
- Flights: we use Expedia for the best and cheapest flight options.
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Check out our travel resources page for more companies that we use when you travel.
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What’s your favourite reason for visiting Tiritiri Matangi island?
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Rob + Ann
While we’ve never considered ourselves birdwatchers, it’s always interesting to catch local wildlife. Toss in that hike through an ancient forest, and we’re sold on a visit! Thanks for sharing, and putting this pretty island sanctuary on our radar!
World Of Animals, Inc.
Thanks for sharing this wonderful post with us. We just love all the photos. They were all so beautiful and we would love to take a trip to New Zealand one day. It will be a long flight but it will be once in a lifetime experience. Have a great rest of your day.
Wendy (The Nomadic Vegan)
This sounds like an awesome day trip! I would definitely benefit from the guided tour, since I’m not normally a birdwatcher. I’ve been on several safaris in Africa and have found that the knowledge and spotting skills of the guide make all the difference in the world.
Great images. I hope these lovely birds survive.
I did not make it to Tiritiri Matangi island on my last visit to New Zealand but I will have to add it for next time. I would love to see all of the different birds, especially the Takahe.
Loved reading about all of these beautiful birds! Love seeing native species in different places, so it is great to see the conservation efforts in place 🙂
Such beautiful birds and amazing colours. What a wonderful place for a visit!
Auckland had so many brilliant day trips that in my 10 months living there I never managed to make it to Tiritiri. I’m not a big bird person but NZ changed that for me. The birds there are so brilliant!
Wow, the birdlife on Tititiri Matangi island seems to be absolutely thriving!! What an interesting array of birds I have never even seen or heard of. Your photos are amazing too – how you managed to capture them so clearly I have no idea!!
Loved the birds and that you included their conservation status. Tiritiri Matangi Island is something I’ll definitely have to put on my list. New Zealdn was the plan for this winter, but will probably have to ve delayed at least a year.
I’ve never done any bird watching before but these look spectacular! I love how vibrant and colourful they are! I’d love to visit New Zealand one day!
The birds are so lovely, what a wonderful opportunity to explore and see so many different types of birdlife. I would love to see the island and take this day trip!
My dad and brother are OBSESSED with birds so I will definitely be sharing this with them!
Wwow – you’ve taken some fantastic photos of these birds!
I’ve never been there but if I did I would be taking so many photos.
I absoultly love bird watching so Id be in heaven! I stare out my window for my hummingbird to come all day lol. Love this post and would love to go here one day! Also the photos are great!
Would love to stay on this island and see the different birds and go hiking.
I am seriously in love with your birds! Unfortunately, that now means when I see something silly I want it – just got a PC screen wipey cloth and a pen with fantails and Tui and kerukeru…those are my favorite two, and I finally saw that colorful parrot fly by today, the rosella? Your birds are awesome! When I come to Auckland, I will put this on my list, though wine is on my list as well…lol
Beautiful area and great shots as always. It’s so important to have a safe place for our feathered friends to thrive.
Have a fabulous day and weekend, Rhonda. Hello to Jeff. ♥
Hi Rhonda – it sounds an amazing place and I’d love to visit … wonderful conservation you have in New Zealand … thanks for this … great post. Hilary
Wow, what great photos of the birds you have taken.
My favorite is the Red Crowned Parakeet.
Those photos are amazing! I think you are a bird photographer!
Gorgeous photos!! I love birds. Especially raptors and parrots. I used to be quite involved in the avian community, specializing in parrots. A great experience.
Kim Marie Ostrowski
No kiwi? No one believes me when I say there’s a kiwi bird! lmao!
Then My cousin moved to NZ & I was proven I wasn’t amking things up! she sent us one year a ‘tiki’ looking magnet, playing cards coasters & a memobotebook (the small ones like 5″ or so only big enoguh to take down assignments maybe a little more.) anyway So it’s Kiwi birds but they are in the shape of Paisley & I LVOE paisley!@
Amazing photos of nice birds, such I’ve never seen before…
Greetings from Germany
Gorgeous birds! I love ’em!
Wow, it’s a great blog. I love birds, and they are all good shot. Thank you so much I enjoyed reading it.
the eyes have it!! Well done very impressed – nice blog – good to meet you
I would love to photography birds, i just don’t have the real patience to wait in one spot to capture the perfect moment. Your photos are beautiful along with these colorful native birds.
the second bird looks so different, I have never seen anything like that before. Thank you for sharing such beautiful pics 🙂
Alex J. Cavanaugh
Not a bird photographer? Those are amazing! And a couple of those I’d never seen before.
Julie K Pick
Even another professional bird photographer would be impressed with these photos! The angry bird’s expression could pass for some of the grumpy old people I’ve seen.
For one who’s not a bird photographer, you done good!
I like them all but the Stitchbird is my favorite. That’s a fabulous capture and birds are tough to photograph.
Considering your not a bird photographer Rhonda you done well those photos are crystal clear, that bellbird is strange looking although it isn’t it looks like it’s overweight heheh!
Have a beaktastic week 😉
What beautiful birds! So sea that so many are vulnerable or worse. I have visited a bird sanctuary before and loved it but sadly I have never been to New Zealand. I certainly hope to one day!
I visited Tiritiri about 10 years ago with my family from Auckland. What an amazing day we had. As I had been a Atlasser of NSW bird club for some years, this was for me. I photographed 9 of the 11 rare birds at the time- Takahe, Kokako, Saddleback, Fern bird, Stitch- bird, Brown Teal the Parakeet, Black Robin, Greg the Takahe walked down the path with me. I would like to know the rarety status of the birds.
I have just finished my ‘autobigraphy, I am 90 years old now, still taking phoyos. I have at least 6 of these bird photographs in my illustrated journal.
As I lived on Jervis Bay for many years, this is a great place for birds. Many times I recorded over 80 species in Callala beach area.All this information went on to a database- interesting. Thank you for the information of recent times.
Would love to visit New Zealand some day. Have never seen those birds before.