Hauraki Gulf Islands

including Waiheke Island, Great Barrier and Rakino

Suburb Specialists

These picturesque islands are a source of great pride to Aucklanders. Most of the islands are Department of Conservation reserves but Waiheke, Great Barrier and Rakino are home – or holiday home – to a lucky few. In the case of Waiheke, make that a lucky few thousand. Waiheke, a former hippy retreat just a half hour ferry ride from the CBD, is hugely popular with the wealthy mainstream now. Property prices have soared here in recent years and many a modernist palace has replaced a tumbledown bach. However, thankfully much remains the same. Beautiful beaches and native bush, grape and olive groves and a laid-back attitude to life from its year-round residents. Great Barrier, on the other hand, is for the more intrepid and is 75% rugged conservation land. Rakino is near Waiheke but it’s a tiny island with a very small population and no amenities to speak of.

Who Lives There?

Once the domain of retired folk, the unemployed and alternative lifestylers who had to float two hours in a boat to get to the city, Waiheke Island has become a commuter suburb and holidaying mecca. While plenty of locals could still be described as left-leaning and green, they’re now more settled and middle class. The real hippies have moved to Great Barrier Island or the Coromandel. Waiheke has long been popular with artists and craftspeople. Now it’s also a trendy haven for media and advertising personalities. The need to commute by ferry is no longer seen as a problem and many residents own apartments and cars in the central city. Waiheke baches are being snapped up by wealthy professionals looking for something that doesn’t involve a frustrating car trip out of town. During summer, the island’s population rises from 10,000 to around 40,000. The rising cost of fuel has caused an exodus from Great Barrier Island in recent times. The island has lost hundreds of people in just a few years, and it didn’t have many to start out with. The population is down to around 600 now, and they’re still there only because they can afford the diesel which is the lifeblood of modern conveniences here – diesel has quadrupled in price in recent years. This has polarised the once-diverse population, now the residents are either wealthy Aucklanders or economically challenged locals. No prizes for guessing what the ‘real’ Barrier people think of the city folk who pour huge amounts of money into glossy renovations but spend little time there themselves. Rakino Island’s permanent population is tiny, life here is for the hardy and adventurous only.

Typical Homes

The classic Waiheke bach is becoming rare, with many being bowled to make way for swanky modern creations. Most properties are on large sections and while there are do-ups available, anything with a sea view sells fast and at a price. The new house styles vary, with mud brick, board and batten, barn style and Mediterranean stucco available as well as swept-up creations in zincalume corrugated steel and concrete. There are also a number older houses relocated from the mainland. It’s not a place where you’d expect to find townhouses or apartment blocks; however in a few places zoning has allowed for medium density housing. Palm Beach has a group of four Kerry Avery- esigned homes and The Sands is a lock-up-and-leave apartment complex with an onsite manager at Onetangi. Houses on Great Barrier Island are more rustic with the odd discreetly designed architectural number. Rakino’s few houses are just plain rustic.

Population Profile


Aged Under 15 Years 19.12%
Aged Over 65 Years 12.94%
European 78.22%
Maori 11.74%
Pacific Peoples 3.63%
Asian 2.47%

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