Kayaking Auckland: Sunset Kayaking to Browns Island (Motukorea)

Just a stone’s throw from the busiest CBD in New Zealand, you might be surprised to find an incredible opportunity to take to the water.  Sunset kayakiing to Browns Island ticks all of your outdoor-loving adventure boxes – Kayaking Auckland’s harbour should be a challenge that everyone takes on – travellers and locals alike.

Kayaking Auckland – Everything You Need to Know About Sunset Kayaking to Browns Island

A favourite amongst those in the know, Browns Island (also known as Motukorea) is only accessibly by private craft.  Fortunately, we know exactly how to get you there; on a sunset kayak tour (which includes a BBQ dinner – yes!)

Located to the south of Rangitoto Island and Motutapu Island, Browns Island provides gorgeous views back towards the city.  Best of all, because you’ll be the only ones there, it will be impossible to do anything but relax and enjoy the stunning scenery that New Zealand is so well known for.

What Makes Browns Island Motukorea Special?

A small island in the Hauraki Gulf, Motukorea (which means ‘oystercatcher island’ in Māori) is one of the best preserved volcanoes in Auckland’s volcanic field.

The island itself is of archaeological importance, having been home to many Māori people before pākehā settlement.  With three sites identified, and moa bones and fishhooks having been found on the island, it is clear that Motukorea was a hive of activity in years gone by.

Now, though signs of the fortified pā sites are still visible, the most obvious sights on and around the island are natural ones; incredible views, flowing grass and seabirds are in ready supply.

Not only is Browns Island rugged and gorgeous but it also provides a home to countless endemic species, including the dotterel and oystercatcher.  If you’re especially lucky, you might even come across dolphins or orcas as you make your way on over!

A lot of hard work has been done over the years to rid the islands of the Hauraki Gulf of introduced pests, and visitors now reap the benefits.

Can you think of a better place to go sunset kayaking right in the middle of Auckland?

What to Expect Whilst Sunset Kayaking to Browns Island – Kayaking Auckland

Upon arriving at the St Heliers Beach boat ramp, you’ll meet the others in your group and get kitted up ready for your adventure.  The Auckland Sea Kayak crew will come equipped with practically everything you need for an evening out on the water but we suggest you also pack/wear the following items.

Gear List For Your Sunset Kayak

  • Comfortable clothing that allows you to move freely (try to avoid cotton where possible, as it will be cold when wet)
  • A jumper/hoodie for the island
  • A drink bottle of water
  • Sunglasses
  • A cap
  • A camera and/or GoPro
  • Socks and comfortable walking shoes (to change into on the island)
  • Optional: A dry bag (they are supplied)

Once you’re kitted out (with spray jackets, life vests etc), you’ll break into groups, meet your guide for the evening and will undergo some basic kayak training.  Whether you’ve kayaked before or have never been on the water, this quick session will ensure that everyone on the water has the same basic understanding of how to kayak – they’ll even teach you some handy tips and tricks.

Taking to the water, you’ll enjoy incredible views of the Hauraki Gulf as you paddle your way alongside the mainland, first to Ladies and Gentleman’s Bay and then towards Browns Island.  All the while, your guide will share information about the local area with you.

Chatting away to your fellow travellers, you’ll paddle yourself ever closer to Browns Island, a spot that even locals very rarely get to see.

One ashore, your group will set sights on the summit of Motukorea, weaving your way through the tall grass and up the volcano.  The hike itself is very manageable, though we don’t guarantee you won’t find yourself a little out of breath (I did).  Without a doubt, the views are worth the effort to get to the top!

Once there, you’ll sit back, relax and enjoy watching the sun slowly slip closer to the horizon.  All the while, you’ll hear about Auckland geology and geography – honestly, even as locals, we were blown away by the level of knowledge that our guides had (with the odd funny, but well-intentioned, Māori mispronunciation from our English guide thrown in)!

After a leisurely stroll back down (with plenty of photo stops), it’ll be time to get the barbie cranking!

The team at Auckland Sea Kayaks include tea/coffee/water (along with delicious homemade brownies) before guests depart on their hike but it’s the freshly prepared and cooked BBQ dinner that refuels energy stores before beginning the paddle home.

With plenty of options for both meat-eaters and vegetarians, dinner is a social affair on the beach whilst everyone enjoys the incredible sunset back over the city.

Seriously, is there a better way to spend an evening?

If you thought the paddle over to Browns Island was peaceful, wait until you find yourself paddling in the last of the twilight hours.

After a relaxing sunset dinner, served à la carte on the beach, you’ll gear up again and point your kayak back towards the mainland.

With lights on your kayaks, paddling as the day shifts to night is a surreal experience and one that you won’t likely experience anywhere else.  It felt completely safe but also like we were off on a real adventure!

After some hard mahi, we dragged our tired bodies (and kayaks) back ashore where we first set off, celebrating our achievement.  When we first started paddling in fairly choppy seas, I half-jokingly exclaimed that I wasn’t entirely sure I’d make it there and back, so in my eyes, the celebration was well-deserved!

Do I Need to Know How to Kayak to Join This Excursion? I Want To Go Sunset Kayaking!

There is no need for prior kayaking experience (though of course it won’t hurt).

As a guest, you will be taught all of the skills you need to hit the water, both in regards to kayaking technique and boat control.

Everyone kayaks in a double kayak, so it’s very possible that you’ll be buddied up with someone with more experience anyway.

How Fit do I Need to be to Kayak in the Open Ocean?

The fitter you are, the easier you will find the kayak and hike.

With that said, I am not particularly fit (truth be told, I’m not fit at all, I’m just determined to give things a good crack) and I handled the evening out just fine.

Both of us expected to wake up the next morning, aching all over, but it never happened!

If you are able bodied and have a good attitude, you’ll be just fine to take to the ocean.

Kayaking Auckland: What is Being Done to Ensure Browns Island Remains Pest-Free?

The Department of Conservation have teamed up with the Auckland Council to ensure that the many islands of the Hauraki Gulf remain pest-free, both now and in the future.

Invasive plants and animals can easily find their way over to these islands, causing significant hard to the natural ecosystems.  You might be surprised to learn that mice can squeeze through gaps as small as 7mm, whilst insects can be transported in bags and seeds and weeds can easily be carried on the soles of your shoes.

In a bid to protect our native flora and fauna, it’s important to maintain the pest-free status of these islands.

If visiting Browns Island, you’ll have an important role to play in this regard.  Following DOC instructions is simple; simply ensure you’ve completed each of the following steps before venturing over on your kayak trip.

Check – your gear for pests such as rodents and insects

Clean – footwear and gear, removing soil and seeds

Seal – ensure your gear is zipped up (no open bags)

For further information, you may like to check out the information provided by the Department of Conversation.

Together, we can all do our part to keep New Zealand clean, green and healthy for everyone.


Auckland is a busy, thriving city, so the ability to escape the hustle and bustle with such ease is a huge bonus – that’s exactly what a sunset kayak to Browns Island offers.

Whether you’re living in Auckland or paying the city a visit as you pass on through, we would encourage you to add a sea kayak trip to your agenda.  With awesome guides, unbeatable scenery, a good dose of exercise, yummy food and best of all, access to a spot that you’ll have to yourself, it’s a memorable way to spend an evening.

Gear up and get ready to enjoy the harbour up close; this is sunset kayaking done right!


Keen to get out kayaking Auckland?  Pin this post…

Thank you to Auckland Sea Kayaks for hosting Nathan and I for the purpose of this review.  As always, all thoughts are our own.

We were initially due to kayak to Rangitoto Island but due to high winds, the decision was made to travel to Browns Island for sunset instead.  We will be back to take on Rangitoto another day!

Escape to a deserted island from Auckland City. This is a must-do activity whilst you\'re on vacation in New Zealand\'s largest city. Read our review of a sunset BBQ sea kayak trip. #travel #newzealand

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