Great Barrier Island is in the outer Hauraki Gulf in northern New Zealand. It lies east of the Northland Peninsula and directly north of Coromandel Peninsula. It is 90 km north-east of central Auckland and is administratively part of the Auckland Region. At 285 km2, it is the 4th largest island in the main New Zealand archipelago, significantly smaller than Stewart Island, the 3rd largest at 1,683 km2, and the outlying Chatham Island 900 km2.
A Sealink ferry carries vehicles, freight and passengers from Central Auckland. It runs 3 or 5 days a week, depending on the season, and even 7 days for about 4 weeks around Christmas. It leaves Auckland at 8am, then from the island at 3pm, and trips take 4.5 to 5 hours.
1 Great Barrier Aerodrome (Claris Airport; GBZ IATA). Barrier Air and Fly My Sky fly to the island. The planes leave from various airports, including Auckland Airport (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.
There is no public transport service on the island but a daily mail bus called the People & Post (0800 426 832) runs from Tryphena to Port FitzRoy and back. You can bring your own vehicle to Great Barrier Island on the regular vehicular ferry, or you can hire a vehicle on island or use one of the shuttle services that operate around the island. It is best to book shuttles before you arrive and in summer it's essential.
- 1 GBI Rent A Car & GBI Shuttle Buses, opposite Claris Airport (on the main road outside the airport), ☏ . Offers a wide range of vehicles 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 offer 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 customised half-day or full-day tours.
- 2 Go Great Barrier Island Passenger Transport, 172 Gray Rd, Kaitoke Creek, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. An island-wide taxi and transfer service specializing in airport and wharf transfers. Offer hikers a convenient track pick-up and drop-off service. They have 10-seat 4WD vans, station wagons, and also run a 22-seat bus for larger group transport requirements.
Take in the view from above. Being an island, long views are spectacular on Great Barrier.
They are all beautiful, but some more than others.
- 1 Medlands Beach. If you like solitude, this 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).
- 2 Kaitoke Beach (north of Medlands, on the other side of the Sugarloaf (and Blackwell’s Quarry) turn right). Will you love 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.
- 3 Palmers Beach (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.
- Okupu Beach. Another lovely beach that is generally no good for surfing. 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 hr), which can be accessed by turning right at Te Kura in Okiwi and following Mabey’s road all the way (about 10 km one way). The graves from the Wairarapa shipwreck are a 5-min walk north, and there are some interesting rock pits approx. 500 m south of the dune crossing.
Kayaking, paddle boarding, fishing, and coastal cruises are all generally recommended.
- 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.
- 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
- 4 Mt. Hobson (Hirakimata). Hike to the top via Windy Canyon, around 2 hr one way. Amazing vistas when clear and 360 degrees views at the top. It's Great Barrier's highest point at 621 m. On a clear day it offers spectacular views of the Mercury Islands to the Poor Knights, and the Hauraki Gulf.
- 5 White Cliffs (te Ahumata). Around 1.5 hr each way, nice aerobic walk (gradual descent/ascent). 360-degree view at the top.
- Mount Whanagaparapara. A 90-minute aerobic walk with great views from the top.
- Ruahine Lookout Track (Starts at the end of Cape Barrier Road.). 3 hr round trip.
- Station Rock Lookout (20 min each way from the top of Medlands Road). Great views for a relatively short climb.
- Walk to the Kaitoke Hot Springs. An easy walk, 30-45 min one way.
- Windy Canyon. Take a 20-min hike up the steps for an amazing view over the Okiwi Basin and the coast all the way to Medlands Beach.
- Harataonga coastal walk (from Whangapoua to Harataonga, or the other way around). About 5 hr one-way. Hitch or book a transport to get you to the beginning of the track.
- Harataonga loop walk. A hike with beautiful views into bays, including old Pah site. The last bit of this track is a very steep downhill. About 1 hr long.
- Kowhai Track. Walk from the top of Rosalie Bay to the Medlands Beach. About 1.5 hr one way, mostly downhill.
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.
- 1 EarthSong Lodge, 38 Medland Rd, Tryphena (access is 4x4/SUV or arrange pick-up from roadside when booking), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. 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.
- 2 Stray Possum Lodge, Tryphena. Delicious pizzas and steaks. Fully licensed bar.
- 1 Stray Possum Lodge, 64 Cape Barrier Rd, Tryphena, ☏ , toll-free: . Backpacker hostel with bar & restaurant. A little rough and ready, but a good setup in a great location.
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.
If you have a boat, Leigh is one of the nearest harbours on the mainland.