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Oceania > New Zealand > North Island > Auckland Region > Great Barrier Island

Great Barrier Island

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Great Barrier Island is the largest of the Hauraki Gulf islands. It is in the Auckland Region, east of the Northland Peninsula and directly north of Coromandel Peninsula.

Looking towards Medlands Beach from a ridgeline in the centre of the island

Get in[edit]

By Sealink ferry from Auckland.

By plane, with Barrier Air or Fly My Sky. The planes leave from various different airports, including Auckland International (Domestic terminal), North Shore aerodrome and Kaitaia. Sunair provides a service from Tauranga and Hamilton to and from both Claris and Okiwi on Great Barrier Island. Flight Hauraki sometimes operates flights from Auckland and Waiheke Island.

Get around[edit]

Map of Great Barrier Island

There is no public transport service operating on Great Barrier Island but there is a daily mail bus which runs from Tryphena to Port FitzRoy and back to Tryphena, called the People & Post (0800 426 832). Visitors can bring their own vehicles on the regular vehicular ferry, hire a vehicle on island or use one of the shuttle services that operate around the island. It is best to book your shuttle before you arrive and this is essential during the summer.

  • GBI Rent A Car & GBI Shuttle Buses, Opposite Claris Airport, +64 9 4290062. Located on the main road outside Claris Airport, GBI Rent A Car has a wide range of vehicles to choose from including funtops, family station wagons, corporate sedans, convertibles, wedding cars, 4x4's, utilities, people movers, minibuses and people movers. Rates start at $50/day. GBI Shuttle buses offers an island wide transfer service to and from the airport and ferry terminal, hot springs, beaches, walking tracks etc. For guided transport around the island, GBI Tours offer half day or full day tours, tailor made to suit your interests and levels of fitness.
  • Go Great Barrier Island Passenger Transport172 Gray Road, Kaitoke Creek, Phone +64 9 4290222. Go Great Barrier Island run an island wide taxi/transfer service. They specialize in airport and wharf transfers and offer hikers a convenient track pick-up and drop-off service. They have 10 seater 4wd vans, station wagons, and also run a 22 seater bus for larger group transport requirements.

See[edit]

Take in the view from above. Being an island, long views are spectacular on Great Barrier.

These are the best vantage points:

  • Mt. Hobson, Hirakimata via Windy Canyon, approx. 2hrs each way. Amazing vistas when clear and 360 degrees views at the top. It's Great Barrier's highest point at 621 metres. On a clear day it offers spectacular views of the Mercury Islands to the Poor Knights, and the Hauraki Gulf.
  • White Cliffs, te Ahumata, approx. 1.5hrs each way, nice aerobic walk (gradual descent/ascent). 360 degree view at the top
  • Mount Whanagaparapara, 1h15m, aerobic walk, great views from the top
  • Ruahine Lookout Track, 3hrs return, start at the end of Cape Barrier Road
  • Station Rock Lookout, 20 min each way, from the top of Medlands Road, great views for a relatively short climb.

Beaches

They are all beautiful, but some more than others.

If you like solitude, a walk along Medlands could be just the ticket. It is one of the busier beaches, but many visitors are lucky enough not to see another soul during the good hour it takes to walk from one end of the beach to the other. If you want a shorter walk, drive to the northern end of Sandhills, cut through the dunes and walk north to the creek. Spot the blowhole in the rocks. Even shorter is a hop over the dunes in the middle, taking a look at Memory Rock or climbing up if you are nimble footed, and having a look at the mermaid pool on the seaward side (low tide).

North of Medlands, on the other side of the Sugarloaf (and Blackwell’s Quarry) turn right to visit Kaitoke beach. Will you looove the combo of dark mountains looming in the back ground of this sparkly white beach? Walk to the rocks on the southern end of this beach to spot more mermaid pools.

Palmers, keep going straight at the northern end of Kaitoke Beach. Hammerhead sharks can sometimes be spotted, usually from the plane. Or walk all the way to the north of Kaitoke beach and through the creek.

Another lovely beach that is generally no good for surfing is Okupu. There’s often dolphins here and a public BBQ. BYO meat and drinks for an epic sunset.

Two more favourites are Harataonga, where you can walk down from the campground (where the locals camp) either left, crossing the creek twice, or right, over the bridge and through the paddock, without getting your feet wet, and Whangapoua (4 hrs), which can be accessed by turning right at Te Kura in Okiwi and following Mabey’s road all the way (about 10km one way). The graves from the Wairarapa shipwreck are a 5 min walk north, and there are some interesting rock pits approx. 500m south of the dune crossing.

Do[edit]

  • Walk to the Kaitoke Hot Springs - 30-45min one-way easy walk.
  • Take a quick hike (20 min. return) up the steps to Windy Canyon for an amazing view over the Okiwi Basin and the coast all the way to Medlands Beach.
  • Good Heavens Dark Sky Experience - this island is an International Dark Sky Sanctuary. Good Heavens guides will take you on a whirlwind tour of the universe.
  • Kowhai Track: top of Rosalie Bay to Medlands Beach, about 1.5hrs one-way, mostly downhill
  • Harataonga coastal walk, about 5hrs one-way, from Whangapoua to Harataonga, or the other way around. Hitch or book a transport to get you to the beginning of the track.
  • Harataonga loop walk, about 1hr, beautiful views into bays (or a steep walk down), including old Pah site, last bit of this track is a very steep downhill
  • Check out if the Old Ladies track in Port FitzRoy is really for old ladies…
  • Get into the spirit at the sacred waterfalls in Port Fitzroy or Whangaparapara (Kauri Falls)
  • Shrin Yogu nature walk with Vicky Kyan.
  • Trike tour with Go Great Barrier
  • Kayaking
  • Paddleboarding
  • Fishing / Coastal cruise

Buy[edit]

Groceries on the Barrier can be more expensive than mainland New Zealand because of the cost of freighting them to the island but you can buy fresh fruit and vegetables, bread, meat and general groceries at the local stores. Local crafts, products and souvenirs are available. There are several art galleries on the island. Try and find them all! and island specialties include manuka honey and local Barrier Beer.

Eat[edit]

  • 1 EarthSong (EarthSong Lodge), 38 Medland Rd, Tryphena (access is 4x4/SUV or arrange pick-up from roadside when booking), +64 9 4290030, e-mail: . 6–11pm. Delicious cuisine, candlelight, fine wine, and Tuscan villa-style surroundings with stunning views create a unique dining experience. An outstanding cellar of fine New Zealand wines enhances the experience. When planning his menus chef Trevor follows the seasons. He sources fresh organic produce locally and from the gardens at EarthSong. The table olives and extra virgin olive oil from the EarthSong olive grove are a special feature in menus. Bookings 24 hrs prior essential for dinner. Evening dining $110 per diner.
  • Stray Possum Lodge, Tryphena. Delicious pizzas and steaks. Fully licensed bar available.

Drink[edit]

Sleep[edit]

Connect[edit]

There is free Wi-Fi at Tryphena Social Club and Claris airport. Free Wi-Fi, computers and printers at Auckland City Library, Claris. Computer at Great Barrier Lodge, Whangaparapara. Mobile phone coverage: Vodafone around Claris and at Port FitzRoy and Telecom at Tryphena. Other places coverage is limited or non-existent.

Go next[edit]

If you have a boat, Leigh is one of the nearest harbours on the mainland.

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