Rākino Island was ostensibly purchased from Ngāi Tai and Ngāti Paoa and others in 1840 by Scottish trader and boat-builder Thomas Maxwell. Sir George Grey purchased the island in 1862 and began building a mansion on it. However he subsequently became more enamoured with Kawau Island and moved his residence there never actually living on Rākino.
During the Waikato War, a group of Māori headed by Ihaka Takanini were interned on the island in 1863 in a place that, as a result, came to be called Māori Bay.
Fisherman Albert Sanford and his wife Ann based themselves on the island for many years and their son Gilbert farmed the island until 1946, mainly running sheep.
In 1963 the island was bought by the United People’s Organisation which planned to develop it as ‘a retreat from the rush of modern life’. There were plans to develop homes for unmarried mothers, orphans and the aged. However the initiative ran out of money and Dr Maxwell Rickard, the proponent of the scheme then offered the entire island for sale to the Auckland City Council at a price little more than what he had paid for it. But sadly the Council declined.
Rickard then subdivided the island largely into 4 hectare lots, with 2 residential suburbs created, called Marine Park and Ocean View.
Leo Dromgool, the owner of North Shore Ferries, bought about two-thirds of the island at auction with ideas of turning it into a resort-type destination that he could service with his ferries. But he also got into financial difficulties and he further subdivided the land. When North Shore Ferries was purchased by George Hudson, the land was sold to help finance the commissioning of the Quick Cat ferries.
Today the island is largely privately owned and there are around 76 dwellings with approximately 15 people living full time on the island.
“You fall in love with Rākino Island. You really feel you’ve visited somewhere when you visit Rākino.”