The Auckland Harbour leads out to the sheltered waters of the Hauraki Gulf Maritime Park - forty-seven islands scattered like stones across the sea. As if by design, Great Barrier Island - New Zealand's fourth largest island - rise commandingly along the outer edge to tame the swells of the Pacific Ocean beyond.
Cruising through these islands, the outlook changes continually as you round each headland to discover yet another deserted white sand beach or romantic sheltered cove, often isolated by rugged terrain and dense forests.
You'll notice that the islands vary in appearance as much as they do in size. Some are designated wildlife reserves, (havens for endangered species), while others are covered with regenerating native forests - home to those who seek the kinship with nature and neighbour that isolation delivers.
Perhaps the most unique island is Rangitoto, which erupted rather gently from the sea floor only 600 years ago to form a near perfect volcanic cone. Walking on this island is like visiting another planet. The rugged terrain - which includes several large lava caves - is now home to many unique plant species.
Waiheke Island has some outstanding vineyards including Stonyridge, which produces New Zealand's most sought after red wine - Stonyridge Larose. It also has many superb beaches.
The sheer majesty of Great Barrier Island promises silent awe and an overwhelming sense of insignificance. The waters around this island teem with marine life, providing exciting opportunities for fishing, snorkeling and diving. Then slightly to the north, en route to the Bay of Islands, lie the Poor Knights Islands, a marine reserve with an international reputation for astounding sea life.