Visiting Great Barrier Island, a must do in New Zealand.. It’s definitely one of our favourites. So much so, that we looked at buying property there a few times. We just haven’t managed to find exactly what we were looking for.
A quick 30 minute flight from Auckland Airport or the North Shore and just over an hour from Kaitaia in Northland with Barrier Air to Claris Airport – the main airport on the island and closest to the main centre and Ferry port in Tryphena. Alternatively FlyMySky will fly for a similar price from Auckland and Whangarei to Claris, but also Okiwi – a smaller airport located further north on the Island closer to Port Fitzroy. Another of the main centers on the island. Prices ranging from $85 – $200 depending on the season (winter is cheaper) or the airport you’re traveling from/to.
If you’re looking to rent a car when visiting Great Barrier Island, there are several rental car companies to choose from. With varying types of vehicles and prices. Aotea Car Rentals has always been our go-to, but there’s other options such as Medlands Rentals and Great Barrier Wheels. We recommend booking in advance to avoid disappointment.
If you’d like to bring your own vehicle you can take the Sealink Ferry. Ferries sail from Auckland several times a week and the trip can be a sensational experience. This can take around four and a half hours (depending on the port) of beautiful open seas and marine wildlife. Keep an eye out for Dolphins and sea birds. Orca frequent the area at times to feed on Stingrays and other sea creatures. Often in the shallow water of the harbour near Auckland. The weather can be unpredictable and can affect flying and sailing times to and from the island.
Things to do and see
“The Barrier” or Aotea as it’s also known is an outdoor adventurers dream. Stunning surfing beaches, sand, sea, hundreds of kilometers of bush hiking tracks, thermal springs and pools, fishing, marine life and boat excursion trips, dolphin watching, diving, kayaking and paddle boarding. If you’re looking for a quiet, peaceful, relaxing escape – you’ve found it. Fishing and diving charters should be booked in advance to make the most of this sensational resource. Exceptional fishing and diving opportunities to harvest some of the worlds best seafood exist all around the island.
Take a stroll along long white sandy beaches, with the waves infinitely rolling in completing their journey across the oceans. You will often find yourself on a deserted beach.Bliss. Not to mention the abundance of health and wellbeing retreats, natural thermal pools, yoga escapes and everything else that is good for the soul and away from the stresses of every day life.
It’s like taking a step back in time. Aotea is “off the grid”. This is one of the main reasons we love to visit. All power is generated by solar, wind or generators. Cooking is with fire or gas, which is supplied on the island. Water is more often than not collected from rooftops when it rains. Be prepared, there are no streetlamps – so take a torch or two. The Barrier is a Dark Sky Sanctuary, so do yourself a favour and go outside on a clear night and experience the wonders of the night sky. Illuminated by an infinite number of stars like you’ve never seen it. There is mobile phone coverage on the island, but can be patchy in some places. You didn’t come here to be on your phone anyway.
Food and Entertainment
There are lots of places to “wine and dine”, get some groceries or grab breakfast and a coffee. Keep in mind that because of it’s isolation prices for everything reflects this and expect to pay a little more for most things, including fuel. So stock up on essentials before traveling over, but keep in mind – the island depends on people coming over and adding to their economy. So support local businesses where you can.
The StoneWall store and Mulberry Grove store in Tryphena will stock just about anything you need. The Claris Store near the airport has fuel, a post shop and a bottle store. Two of our favourite places with good and affordable meals are Tipi and Bob’s Waterfront Lodge and The Currach Irish Pub. The latter being a standout after a birthday night well spent with friendly locals, good food and live music. There are an abundance of artists, art galleries and musicians on the island. So a night out with live music at the local or The Barrier Social Club is a staple.
Book your accommodation well in advance – prices and availability range from season to season. Dwellings can be a mansion at the top of the hill or a single bedroom hut in the middle of the stunning native bush. It all depends on the adventure you’re after.
Because of limited space on the island there are landfill restrictions. When visiting Great Barrier Island. Visitors are asked as far as possible to take rubbish back off the island with them. There are recycling bins and stations on the island and composting sites to drop off food scraps and other compostable rubbish. A must see is the Tip Shop near the refuse station on Gray Road in Claris. A plethora of recycled and pre-loved equipment, furniture and creations.
I have barely scratched the surface on this amazing destination. Visiting Great Barrier Island is a must. Some that do, never leave. We have had several life changing holidays and adventures while visiting Great Barrier Island and we will no doubt be back again and again. Our dream is still to one day own our own “off the grid” property on Aotea and be self sufficient.