Department of Conservation ranger returns to mainland after spending 67 days in Auckland's Hauraki Gulf

Stranded on an island for weeks on end with limited food and only wildlife for company.

It sounds like a nightmare for some but it's been the experience of a lifetime for one Department of Conservation (DoC) ranger.

On Friday, she was welcomed back to the mainland after a lockdown like no other.

It was supposed to be a 10-day stay but 67 days later, Emma Dunning is only just packing up.

"No way can I complain and if I had to stay another month," she said.

You can understand why. Tiritiri Matangi in Auckland's Hauraki Gulf is not a terrible place to be stuck.

"I feel like I'm in a bit of an alternate universe," Dunning said. 

But even in that universe, COVID-19 made its presence known. The vast native wildlife also took a while to adjust - mostly to the lack of visitors.

"For the first couple of weeks they followed us everywhere," Dunning told Newshub. "They were really clingy and every morning they'd be at the office waiting for us."

As the rest of New Zealand tuned in to 1pm COVID-19 press conferences, Dunning's best gauge of where things were at was to count the boats she could see from her backyard.

"The gulf was silent," she recalled.

And then finally alert level 2 arrived - when the hum of boats returned.

"I am so lucky, absolutely blessed to have spent lockdown out here," said Dunning.

And if people are craving that overseas getaway - there's good news. Ferries from Auckland's mainland to Tiritii Matangi will be back up and running by early July. 

Dunning said she's keen for the company

"It's just incredible."

But before then, for the first time since COVID-19 gripped the world, Dunning's heading back to see family.