• Three Day Cavalli Islands Sea Kayak Expedition

Cavalli Islands Sea Kayak Expedition

The Cavalli Islands is one of New Zealand’s most amazing sea kayak locations. This group of islands located in the the Far North of New Zealand’s North Island has been described as ‘Aotearoa’s best sea kayaking location’.

If you are after a remote sea kayak location, staying on a pest free conservation reserve, kayaking amongst wildlife, sea kayaks and between islands, then this is the perfect sea kayak adventure for you.

Spend three days in a kayak exploring the stunning Cavalli Islands, rock gardens and golden beaches in the Northland.

Our accommodation is in a cute 12 bunk Department of Conservation hut. Trip dates can be seen here. If these do not suit then please contact us for availability.

The Cavalli Islands are a small group of islands 3 hour 45 min north of Auckland on Northland’s East Coast in northern New Zealand. They lie 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) to the east of Matauri Bay on the mainland.

The group consists of the island of Motukawanui and the smaller islets of Motutapere, Panaki, Nukutaunga, Motuharakeke, Haraweka, and Motukawaiti Islands. The main island is used as a nature reserve. These islands provide wonderful kayak rock gardening with a multitude of caves and tunnels in this area. The main island has a great walking track to the summit which is a wonderful place to watch the day end or start from.

The Cavallis were so named by Captain James Cook on 27 December 1769 during his first voyage of discovery. In his journal he recorded that some Māori “sold us some fish–Cavallys as they are called–which occasioned my giving the Islands the same name”. Cook probably meant trevally which is abundant near the islands, because the Māori word for that fish is araara.

On 2 December 1987, the hulk of the bombed Greenpeace vessel Rainbow Warrior was scuttled between Matauri Bay and the Cavalli Islands, to serve as a dive wreck and fish sanctuary. The move was seen as a fitting end for the vessel.

The below is an outlined itinerary and may change due to weather and the group’s ability.

Day 1.

We start by kayaking through the Cavalli Passage (normally steaming with fish) and out to Motukawaiti Island. This island is exposed to the eastern swell and provides some amazing island hopping conditions. We will finish the day by paddling into Waiti Bay and set up base camp for two nights in a cabin. Home to some of New Zealand’s most endangered birds.

Paddle distance approx. 18 km

Stay in Motukawanui Island Hut (platform-style bunk hut)


Day 2.

Explore the northern islands of Horonui, Hamaruru, Panaki and Nukutaunga island. Exploring sea caves, marine life. Depends on weather we may also have an opportunity to explore Motuharakeke and Te Anaputaiti islands. These island lie further east and are home to the largest sea caves in the Cavalli island group. In the late afternoon we hike to the main island’s summit to watch the sun set. 

Paddle 20 km – Hike 1.5 hours return

Stay Motukawanui Island Hut. 


Day 3.

After packing up our belongings from the hut and loading up the kayaks we head south navigate our way through Tatawera, Whatupuke and Whatupukeiti islands before having lunch on Motukawaititi Island. This is the second largest island in the Cavalli group and is the only privately owned island.

We arrive back at approx 3 pm to Matauri Bay and take a hot shower before making our way home to Auckland or Kerikeri.


This tour is self-catered. All cooking equipment, cookers and cutlery provided. Accommodation is in a cute 12 bunk Department of Conservation hut. Hut fee included in quoted price. Sleeping bags are provided on request at no extra charge.

For sea chart of the Cavalli island area please click here.

Tour Cost


$740 per person. Please note this tour is self-catered.  Minimum 6 people.



3 days, two nights.
Finishing approx 3 pm day 3.

Start time

Start Time

10 am

Start location

Start Location

Meet at Matauri Bay Holiday Park. – More

Pick up possible in Kerikeri

Fitness required

Fitness Required

For expedition style sea kayaking you require a moderate level of fitness

  • “Nic had created a flawless kayaking itinerary, provided for our every need and was a wealth of information about the islands.”

    NZ Herald, 23rd March 2013

  • “Only one word does it really: awesome! Awesome harbour, awesome team (and especially our camp leader) and oh my, awesome (in a hushed, awed sort of way) Kiwi birds. Thanks Nic.”

    Joanna sent via email 2016


  • Are there any biosecurity restrictions?

    Yes there is. Please help us keep Hauraki Gulf islands pest free. The Hauraki Gulf provides a haven for some of our most endangered animals and plants, including sea birds, tuatara and takahē.


    Check your gear and help keep our islands pest-free. To keep these islands pest free. See what you need to do before joining Auckland Sea Kayaks on our trip please go to www.treasureislands.co.nz

    When visiting pest free islands, or islands that are becoming pest-free, make sure you check your gear before you leave the mainland.

    Protect our wildlife

    Check – your gear for pests such as rodents and insects

    Clean – footwear and gear, removing soil and seeds

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

    When you arrive on a pest-free island, you may be met by rangers to recheck your gear.

  • How fit do I need to be?

    All members of your group need to be able to kayak for several hours over the 3 day trip period.

  • How many people can come on this tour?

    Minimum 6 people.

  • Is this tour catered?

    No, this trip is self-catered.

  • Where will we stay?

    Our accommodation is in a cute 12 bunk Department of Conservation hut.

    $15 per night hut fee included in quoted price.

What you need to bring

A comprehensive list of what to bring is sent to you upon booking. 

What is provided?

A comprehensive list of what is provided is sent to you upon booking. 

Meeting point
Matauri Bay Holiday Park, Matauri Bay Road, Matauri Bay 0478
– Get Directions

Tour Start Location

This tour starts from the Matauri Bay Holiday Park located in Matauri Bay. There is lots of free car parking.

Meeting point
Matauri Bay Holiday Park, Matauri Bay Road, Matauri Bay 0478
– Get Directions



Ain't no office better than the Hauraki Gulf 💯☀️
Dinner al fresco. Do the guides deserve a Michelin star? @dukeofednz #dukeofedinburghaward
Team New Zealand @emiratesteamnz training on the Hauraki Gulf yesterday. They tried to keep up with our kayaks but I think they had the wrong foils on 😂
Beautiful jellyfish found on the shoreline at Motukorea. Any marine biologists out there have some intel on this cool creature? @emr_nz
There are still some kayak spots available for the Upper Waitemata Coastal Cleanup this Saturday. Join us to get on the water and help cleanup the coastline.
Motunau Bay, Ponui Island. Everyone enjoying an afternoon swim at high tide on the Autumn Equinox, Wed, 20 Mar 2024.