Browns Island – Auckland, New Zealand - Atlas Obscura

Browns Island

This quiet island in the middle of a bustling city is actually a volcano dotted with Māori ruins. 


In the middle of busy, urban Auckland harbor, there’s a little spot of green. It’s a peaceful place, one without tourist boats and very few structures at all. You may notice it while standing on the city’s shore, or while cruising along on a ferry to one of the more developed islands.

This oasis of serenity is Browns Island, or Motukorea in Māori.  Though it looks quiet, it’s actually a remnant of the land’s volatile past, as it’s one of the Auckland volcanic field’s most intact volcanoes.

The island once bustled with human activity, too. It’s speckled with archaeological ruins from Māori , meaning villages or defensive settlements. For centuries, the Māori gardened on the little island and used it as a base while fishing.

Regular tour boats don’t stop at Browns Island, but it’s accessible by private sailboat, kayak, or seaplane. When you’re on the island, you’ll notice it seems like a steep, grass-covered hill plopped within the harbor. You can see down into the main caldera from the top of the hill, as well as three volcanic cones on the curving slopes. 

Know Before You Go

There's a beach on the north side of the island in a sheltered harbor where sailboats anchor and kayaks pull up on the shore.

In partnership with KAYAK

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