In Waiheke Island – A History, Paul Monin writes, “Then in the 1870s access to Waiheke improved dramatically. Alexander McGregor began to run commercial steamers out of Auckland into the Hauraki Gulf starting with Rowena, built by Henry Niccol in 1872, and later joined by Argyle, Iona, Glenelg, Staffa and Katikati. The occasional steamer bound for Coromandel and Thames now stopped at Waiheke.
“McGregor was quick to see that a much fuller Gulf service was required and that a vast excursion market existed there to be tapped. Opportunity to act on both came with the founding in 1881 of the Northern Steamship Company, in which he held a majority interest. Soon new steamers, driven by paddle or propeller, were in service keeping settlers in vital supplies, towing rafts of kauri logs, or carrying people on excursions.
“To an Auckland apprentice or shop assistant the steamer day trip to Waiheke was affordable at two shillings, although definitely a treat costing close to his or her daily wage.
“ The annual staff picnic to Waiheke or another Gulf resort became the highlight of the social year for big city stores, government departments, trade unions and societies.
“Meanwhile Waiheke was exerting an increasing pull on the more affluent citizens of Auckland…a yacht owner familiar with the Waiheke of the 1880s recalled the scene at Matiatia where of a Friday night ‘yacht after yacht came in and dropped the hook, until be next morning there were 30 or 40 in the bay.'"
One Saturday night, Bruce and Jeanette Croll counted 120 boats anchored in the bay. On Sunday morning, they had to row out, asking some boats to move to make room for the ferry.