Auckland Sea Kayaks’ founder Nic Mead’s passion for the Hauraki Gulf—paddling it in particular—is palpable, and he feels privileged to share with others the glittering seascape which so captivated him as a youth. Even when not on the water, Nic’s high school classroom afforded him daily doses of his favourite view.
“There are four pest-free islands in the gulf, it’s astonishing to have that so close to such a huge urban environment,” says Nic. “Motuihe, which is just an hour’s kayak from St Heliers, is home to the tuatara—that’s the world’s oldest reptile! Think about what that means for a second. I don’t think people quite comprehend just how awesome that is, and it’s just a couple of kilometres away. There are also kiwis there, but you have to go at night and most people don’t have the confidence to do that in a kayak.”
That’s where Nic and his team come in. Among the array of guided adventures on offer is a two-day island hop (“away from the crowds and getting in touch with nature again”), which takes in Motuihe, Motukorea (Browns Island), Motutapu and Rangitoto.
So, is certain level of experience or fitness required to get paddling?
“Not at all. Ninety-five percent of our guests have never kayaked before. My 83-year-old grandmother has done the sunset trip out to Rangitoto. But then, my grandmother is awesome! In the right conditions, you’d be amazed just how far you can go—you can get to Great Barrier Island and back in a day—and we won’t take people out unless the conditions will enable them to have an amazing time.”
Operators in the area don’t come much more qualified than Nic. Growing up, he spent a great deal of time sailing those waters, and has more than a decade’s worth of experience as a kayak guide, including lengthy stints in Fiordland and Norway. But it’s cruising the local waters of his youth which means most to him, and his eco-friendly company works closely with conservation organisations.
“I saw the opportunity to start a business doing something I loved,” Nic says. “To provide local and international visitors a unique taste of adventure. It’s what I’d be doing in my spare time anyway.”
And he’s clearly doing a spectacular job. At the time of writing, 227 of the 245 TripAdvisor reviews are 5-star. With the holidays just over the horizon, what better Christmas present than a marine tour? “January to April are generally the most stable months and the best conditions out on the water,” says Nic. “So many people already have so much ‘stuff’, so why not gift an experience instead!”
We’ll see you out there.
Guided Tours at a Glance
Sunset Kayak Tour: Rangitoto Island
Paddle to Auckland’s iconic volcanic island as the sun sets over the city and the Waitakere Ranges. Build up an appetite with a trek to the summit, and upon your return be rewarded with an organic gourmet meal at the water’s edge before kayking back under the stars.
Half-Day Explorer: Motukorea Island
Marvel at the untouched Motukorea—also known as Browns Island—one of the regions best preserved volcanoes, from the water before taking in the incredible views from its summit. Learn of the three ancient pa sites before paddling back to the city. Lunch and refreshments provided.
Day Sea Kayak Tour: Rangitoto Island
A return trip from St Heliers across the sparkling waters of Waitemata Harbour to Auckland’s mightiest—and youngest—summit. If you’re lucky, you may even see blue penguins and Cook’s petrels. Enjoy a seaside lunch and refreshing dip in the ocean before heading back.
Waiheke Island Coastal Sea Kayak Tour
Don’t panic, you get the ferry over to our wondrous Waiheke before embarking on an incredible paddle around its stunning coastline where you’re sure to witness a wealth of wildlife along with historic sites and habitats. Refreshments are provided during the day, with a visit to a winery or restaurant to finish things off.
Multi-Day Island Hopping Kayak Tours
Two- or three-day trips take in a variety of the Hauraki Gulf island hideaways, visiting natural, pest-free sanctuaries home to endangered native wildlife such as the tuatara, kiwi and dotterel. High quality food and premium camping gear is included in this immersive, back-to-nature adventure.
A three-hour one-way unguided trip that’s a cinch even for novices—it’s a fine way to build up a thirst before finishing at a the Riverhead Historic Tavern. It’s known as the ‘Paddle to the Pub’.
Te Ara Moana Kayak Trail
Take a self-guided multi-day tour at your o wn pace, exploring one of many traditional Maori trade routes along one our city’s most spectacular coastlines. Paddling between Omana Regional Park and Kaiaua, at foothills of the Huana Ranges, there are plenty of campsites along the way—and all gear is provided.
Great Barrier Island Wilderness 5-Day Sea Kayak Tour
A more challenging marine experience aimed at kayakers of an intermediate level. Single or double kayaks are provided for guests to explore one of our most unspoiled of environments, including the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park, the country’s first national marine park at sea.