Today all these remnants of the island’s history form an exotic mix that creates a unique and warm atmosphere to a walk around the island. Although the walks can be accomplished in 2 hours, you are better to spend the day on the island and explore the Mansion House as well.
Ferries leave from Sandspit to Kawau Island. There is also a ferry from Auckland.
All tracks on Kawau Island pass under a canopy of Monterrey Pines, with a carpet of needles on the forest floor. The tracks are well formed and signposted, but mostly unmetalled.
From the wharf at Mansion House Bay follow the front fence of Mansion House and climb the headland to Momona Point. The track loops back and follows cliffs along the western coastline to Lady’s Bay (30 minutes). After 15 minutes at the grass clearing and lookout, follow the Miners Track for 15 minutes to the old copper mine. At low tide walk across the rocks to the ruins of Coppermine Engine House.
Past the chimney the track climbs to a grass clearing from where the Redwood Track leads through a shady gully to Two House Bay (45 minutes).
The 15 minute climb over the steep headland to Mansion House Bay is metalled.
Ngati Tai lived on the island, fiercely guarding the renowned nearby fishing grounds containing bountiful muru (small spotted shark). They cultivated land around Momona Point (Momona means ‘fertile land’).
In the 1830s green stains were noticed on the cliffs near South Cove and this prompted the exploration for copper and manganese. In 1844 both were discovered and for 15 years 400 people were employed in one of New Zealand’s earliest industries. Over 3000 tonnes of copper were mined with a value of £60,000. Mining ceased in 1855, but the 70-foot-high brick chimney of the engine house still stands at Dispute Cove.
In 1862 Sir George Grey bought Kawau Island for £3,500 and invested his love of arts and natural history, energy, and a hint of eccentricity into creating a private kingdom. He planted exotic botanical species, brought from his time in Australia and South Africa. He introduced animals such as zebra, Chinese peacock, monkey, antelope, kookaburra and wallaby.
He was premier of New Zealand between 1877-9 and lived at Mansion House from 1870-4. He collected 8000 rare books which he gifted to Auckland Public Library and was socially egalitarian, building a school for his employee’s children at School House Bay. He sold Kawau Island in 1888 for £12,000 and died in 1898 with £800 to his name.
North Island ▷ Auckland Region ▷ Kawau Island
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Thanks to all the good people working for the NZ Department of Conservation - for all your hard work - making NZ more beautiful, accessable and healthy! Cheers 😍