Great Barrier Island

Hauraki Gulf and Islands

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Great Barrier Island, Auckland
Ferry to Great Barrier Island | Hauraki Gulf & Islands
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Great Barrier Island is a place of rugged beauty and untouched wilderness.

From tramping through native forest to sea kayaking around the coves and inlets of the island’s coast, there are endless ways to explore this adventurer’s paradise.

Great Barrier Island highlights

Great Barrier Island Waterfall | Ferry to Great Barrier Island

​​Top picks

Follow the trail
Take one of the many walking tracks through pristine native bush, from short walks to the multi-day Aotea Track.

Ride the waves
Go swimming or surfing at spectacular surf beaches, including stunning Medlands Beach. Great Barrier Island offers some of the best surfing and boogie boarding in New Zealand.

Dive into nature
Discover the island’s native wildlife, with excellent bird watching, snorkelling and dive spots. The protected forest, clean waters and conservation efforts have allowed wildlife to thrive.

Fish for your dinner
Charter a fishing boat or join a heli-fishing tour to find the best fishing spots around the island. If fishing’s not for you, explore the island’s beautiful bays by kayak.

Bathe in the hot pools
Enjoy the 1-hour walk to soak in the natural hot pools at Kaitoke Hot Springs. Soak up the scenery too and feel the stress melt away.

Great Barrier Island Beaches | Hauraki Gulf Islands

Why visit?

Great Barrier Island is one of the most tranquil and unspoilt places you’ll ever find. Discover the island’s golden beaches, crystal-clear waters and vast native forests – on Great Barrier Island, nature is king.

Escape to the Hauraki Gulf’s largest and most remote island by scenic flight or ferry. The walking and tramping here are superb, with forest trails leading you to secluded hot springs, swimming holes, waterfalls and old kauri dams. Get out on the water too, with surfing, swimming, kayaking, snorkelling, diving and fishing.

More than 60 per cent of Great Barrier Island is administered by the Department of Conservation (DOC). The Department of Conservation exists to conserve New Zealand's natural and historic heritage for all to enjoy, now and in the future. All plants, animals and historic features on conservation lands are protected. Wildlife and marine mammals are fully protected everywhere. No dogs or other animals are allowed on conservation lands. People may camp only where permitted.

Department of Conservation Notice

Kauri dieback disease has been found on Great Barrier Island. Find out how you can help stop its spread here.

Rubbish and recycling

To help maintain the island's uniqueness, please dispose of all waste responsibly and support the island ideal of reducing waste going to landfill on the island.  Whether you are camping, renting a house, staying with friends, on a boat or staying in commercial accommodation, you will generate waste.  If you need to leave waste items on the island, separate out recyclables from landfill rubbish. Check out the resources for land-based and boating visitors to see what your options are for getting your waste sorted the Barrier way.

Boaties Brochure  

 

Plan and book

More information about Great Barrier Island

Beaches

Any of the four popular east coast beaches on the island will provide you with an enjoyable surfing adventure, but experience is needed when waves peak over two metres. The island works well on any swell from the northeast through to the southeast and the wave size is generally bigger than the Coromandel surf breaks.

There are campgrounds associated with the Medlands, Kaitoke, Awana and Whangapoua surf beaches. There is an additional charge if you are flying to Great Barrier with your surfboard.

Medlands Beach
Medlands is the nearest Great Barrier Island surf spot to Tryphena and has good sand bar breaks along its entire length, particularly on an incoming tide. Shark Alley is a popular right hand break at the southern end, but be aware that it didn't get its name for nothing.

Whangapoua Beach
Good surf waves break over sandbanks across the mouth of the Whangapoua Estuary producing barrels in a northeasterly swell. Entry is by paddling out through the surf or by hopping off the south end rocks. Watch for the odd stingray when wading across the estuary.

Kaitoke Beach
The largest beach on the east coast is Kaitoke, which boasts a number of good surf breaks all the way down the island at the south end. The best sand bar breaks are normally at Palmer's Beach. The undercurrent can be very strong so always surf in pairs. Palmer’s Beach is accessed either from the northern end of Kaitoke Beach (not at high tide) or from the top of the northern point above Kaitoke Beach down a track. There is no direct public access to Palmer’s Beach.

Awana Beach
Awana Beach is noted for its good all year round surfing conditions and its variety of waves, which result from rapidly shifting sandbanks. Any respectable easterly swell will push up fast-moving, heavy beach breaks on an incoming tide.

Walks

Please note, due to storm damage, some walking tracks have been temporarily closed. Contact the i-SITE team for further information.

There are more than 100 kilometres of well-maintained tracks offering spectacular sightseeing amid canyons. Most walking experiences on Great Barrier are of tramping track standard and require a reasonable level of fitness.

Great Barrier Island is a great place to undertake the challenge of a multi-day walk or casual one-hour stroll. The two to three day walks include a climb to the summit of Hirakimata /Mt Hobson (621 metres) and the chance to see a piece of history at the old kauri dam, while the family friendly tracks include a one-hour easy walk to Kaitoke Hot Springs, or a quick steep climb up to the beautiful views from the Windy Canyon lookout.

Choose a guided tour or explore the many walking tracks at your leisure. When walking these tracks beware of steep drop-offs. Here are some popular Great Barrier Island walks.

Warren's Track
Beginning by the Port FitzRoy Department of Conservation area office this is a 30-minute gentle graded climb passing through a kauri plantation to a waterfall. From the waterfall the return to the Department of Conservation office is 60 minutes, or you may carry on along the Bridle Track to Port FitzRoy. The stream has many deep pools that are ideal for swimming.

Old Lady Track
From Port FitzRoy you can take a 30-minute trip up a steep sign-posted track to Lookout Rock where there are some great views of Port FitzRoy Harbour. The round trip takes approximately 90 minutes.

Kaitoke Hot Springs Track
A popular track off Whangaparapara Road. The one-hour walk to the hot springs is on an easy, well formed track which crosses the Kaitoke Stream and skirts the Kaitoke Swamp (all crossings are bridged). There are several pools for bathing but take care as the water can be hot. Do not put your head underwater. Find out more

Bridle Track
This is an alternative walk between the Department of Conservation area office and the Port FitzRoy store. This track is graded as an easy 30-minute walk and features indigenous and exotic forest.

Pack Track and Withey's Track
Starting from Whangaparapara, walk up the Tramline Track and above the remains of Whangaparapara Hut. Turn left at the sign-post and on to the Pack Track. The track rises up a ridge and down to Wairahi Stream then carries on back to Whangaparapara along Withey's Track, which follows the stream. This is a 2 to 3 hour loop.

National Track
The island has an extensive network of tracks suitable for all ages. Most are maintained by the Department of Conservation.

Palmers Track via Windy Canyon
Palmers Track winds through Windy Canyon and offers spectacular views of Okiwi and Awana. The track is 3 hours one way, with an optional 15-minute return walk to the Windy Canyon lookout. Find out more

Harataonga Coastal Walkway
Following the old coastal road, this easy-grade track starts takes in stunning coastal views. An optional 30-minute loop walk climbs the coastal ridge to a pa site. Find out more

Te Ahumata Track
A one-hour easy track for walkers and bikers. The track offers panoramic views, and follows an old mining road between Okupu and Whangaparapara. Find out more

Kowhai Valley Track
A one-hour downhill walking and biking track leading to Medlands Beach. The first section is very steep, so mountain bikers will need to be experienced. Find out more

Activities

Great Barrier Island has a wonderful range of activities and natural attractions. There’s a variety of walking tracks to discover the stunning terrain, or try some of the many fun outdoor activities on offer.

Great Barrier Island’s remoteness and rugged beauty make the island the ideal place for a true escape. The island can be a relaxing haven to read a book and put your feet up while listening to native birds, or for the adventurous the untamed landscape is perfect for exploration. While the quiet is part of what makes The Barrier so appealing, if you're looking for more structured Great Barrier Island activities, there are a range of local island companies that can accommodate your interests.

Walking, tramping and mountain biking
With more than 100 kilometres of well-maintained walking tracks offering spectacular sightseeing amid canyons, valleys, native forest, mountains and coastline, walking is a wonderful way to discover the island’s untouched wilderness. There’s everything from short walks such as the popular Kaitoke Hot Springs Track, to challenging tramping tracks through the steep interior of the island. There are also impressive mountain biking tracks for all levels - another adventurous way to see much of the island.

Water sports and activities
Great Barrier Island is a fantastic destination for boating and sailing, and kayaking is also one of the best ways to discover the natural beauty of the island's coves, bays, inlets and wildlife. The sweeping white beaches on the island’s east coast offer excellent surfing and boogie boarding.

Great Barrier Island is renowned for its superb fishing spots, whether you're surfcasting from the coast or relaxing on a boat – you can even splash out on a heli-fishing adventure. It’s also a haven for casual divers and snorkellers, with some of the most varied scuba diving in New Zealand.

Art
Creating art is a favourite pastime for many locals and you can find their artworks in restaurants, cafés and studios across the island. Most artists work from home and allow visitors to view their work by prior arrangement, a rare opportunity for art lovers.

Explore this magnificent island at your own pace or get an insider’s look at the island on one of the many guided nature, walking and sightseeing tours – it’s a great way to learn about the island and get to know the friendly locals.

 

Events

ANNUAL EVENTS

SeaLink GBI Wharf-to-Wharf Marathon
Saturday 11 October 2014
From Port FitzRoy Wharf to Tryphena Wharf.

Winding through pristine native bush, this event is a wonderful way to discover the island’s incredible natural beauty and raises money for a local school. The Wharf-to-Wharf is suitable for people of all ages and levels of fitness, with a full marathon (42.2kms) or a half marathon (21.1kms) on either track or road. Participants can mountain bike, run or walk, or do a duathlon (half track bike/half road run).
Find out more >



AOTEA Walking Festival
Autumn 2015
Choose from eight walks over a three-day weekend, ranging from full-day tramps to shorter learning expeditions. Each walk is hosted by a guide, including local iwi representatives, Auckland Council and Department of Conservation staff, local café owners, fire fighters, ecology professors and historians, who have all volunteered their time to give walkers an experience ‘one step beyond’. Bookings are essential. This event is run by Ngati Rehua.

 

 

Port FitzRoy Mussel Fest
January 2015
Landing Reserve and the Boat Club, Port FitzRoy

Great Barrier Island is renowned for its mouth-watering mussels farmed in the clean, clear waters of Port FitzRoy. Freshly harvested for the Mussel Fest, visitors can sample them au naturel, smoked or as the special ingredient in chowder, kebabs, fritters and other tasty cuisine. Browse the stalls and enjoy great live music and entertainment.
Find out more >

 

FUN AND QUIRKY

Melbourne Cup Annual Snail Race
4 November 2014
The Boat Club, Port FitzRoy

Contact: 09 4290 138

 

 

 

Polar Plunge
20 June 2014
Port FitzRoy Wharf at 12:30pm, Medlands Beach and Mulberry Grove

Funny costumes are essential for the Great Barrier Polar Plunge and fancy dress event. Get ready to jump into the freezing cold water, join in the fancy dress and bring your togs and some warm clothing to keep toasty after your plunge.
Find out more >

 

Garden Tour
29 November 2014
A unique opportunity to view a variety of residential gardens on the island. The guided tours take in stunning coastal views, pretty cottage gardens and native bird life. Traditional Devonshire afternoon teas are also available.
Find out more >

 

 

 Lovebirds 
 
7 - 9 November 2014
Lovebirds 2014 is a pilot event – a weekend away on Great Barrier Island for birds watchers and nature lovers – Friday 7th to Sunday 9th November.
Find out more>


 

Conservation

More than 60 per cent of Great Barrier Island is administered by the Department of Conservation (DOC). The Department of Conservation exists to conserve New Zealand's natural and historic heritage for all to enjoy, now and in the future. All plants, animals and historic features on conservation lands are protected. Wildlife and marine mammals are fully protected everywhere. No dogs or other animals are allowed on conservation lands. People may camp only where permitted.

Glenfern Sanctuary offers self-guided walks through native regenerating forest, which is home to a 400-year old kauri tree. Spot native species such as Kaka, Tui, Kereru, Weta, Kokopu and Petrel on the way. Find out more

Department of Conservation Notice

Kauri dieback disease has been found on Great Barrier Island. Find out how you can help stop its spread here.

Rubbish and recycling

To help maintain the island's uniqueness, please dispose of all waste responsibly and support the island ideal of reducing waste going to landfill on the island.  Whether you are camping, renting a house, staying with friends, on a boat or staying in commercial accommodation, you will generate waste.  If you need to leave waste items on the island, separate out recyclables from landfill rubbish. Check out the resources for land-based and boating visitors to see what your options are for getting your waste sorted the Barrier way.
 

History

The name Great Barrier' stems from its sighting by Captain James Cook in 1769. He quickly recognised the role the island played in sheltering the waters of the Hauraki Gulf.

Great Barrier Island (Aotea) has a rich history dating back to the initial settlement of New Zealand by the East Polynesian ancestors of today's Māori population. From the 1840s the island's natural resources attracted European settlement and a number of 'boom and bust' industries that exploited the island's forest, minerals and the migrating whales.

The Ngati Rehua, hapu of Ngati Wai, who live on the island today trace their association back over many centuries. Evidence of this long history is seen at the island's many archaeological sites, which are generally found in coastal locations.

Early industry

Gold and silver were discovered in the 1890s and numerous shafts and adits are located in the Okupu / Whangaparapara area. Remains of the 1899 Oreville stamping (ore crushing) battery at Whangaparapara are an impressive reminder of the mining area, with its massive stone walls above and below the road.

Great Barrier's kauri forests were logged with increasing intensity from the mid 19th to the mid 20th century. Kauri driving dams were erected to drive large quantities of kauri downstream. One of the island's best known historic landmarks is the Kaiaraara main dam on the Kaiaraara Stream below Mt Hobson.

Another reminder of the logging days are the ruins of the Kauri Timber Company sawmill at Whangaparapara where some of the walking tracks follow the early tramlines used by the logging industry. The remains of New Zealand's last established whaling station can also be seen here.

Great Barrier Island FAQs

  • How do I get to Great Barrier Island?

    ​As the island is geographically isolated, there are some important things to keep in mind when preparing to travel there to ensure you have a safe and enjoyable trip. If you are from out of Auckland, organise your transport to Great Barrier Island before you organise your transport to Auckland. The transport to and from Great Barrier Island is regular but seasonal and the frequency choices are limited.

    Flights
    Great Barrier Island is a 35-minute flight away by light plane. The main airfield on the island is at Claris. Fly My Sky departs several times a day from Auckland Airport. Great Barrier Airlines operates daily out of Auckland Airport and Dairy Flat on Auckland’s North Shore.   

    Ferry
    It's a leisurely 2 ½-hour ferry ride from Auckland with Fullers passenger-only ferry services. These seasonal sailings operate through December and January plus long summer weekends, which commence at Labour weekend.

    Cars can be taken to Great Barrier on SeaLink's Eco Islander ferry, which takes approximately 4 ½ hours and operates all year round. Passengers travelling without vehicles can also take this service. These ferries to the island arrive at Tryphena.

     

  • How long does it take to get there?

    ​The trip to Great Barrier Island is around 35 minutes by light plane, 2 ½ hours by passenger-only ferry (which is seasonal) and 4 ½ hours on the year-round car and passenger ferry.

  • Can I take my car to the island?

    Cars can be taken to Great Barrier on SeaLink's Eco Islander ferry, which takes approximately 4 ½ hours and operates all year round. Passengers travelling without vehicles can also take this service. These ferries to the island arrive at Tryphena.​

  • How do I get around?

    ​Once on the island, a network of roads connects the main settlements. Great Barrier Travel and Go Great Barrier Island Passenger Travel both offer a comprehensive range of passenger transport.

    Transfer services and rental vehicles are all readily available but should be pre-booked. Great Barrier Buses operates a daily service between Tryphena and Port FitzRoy all year, as well as scheduled services in the southern part of the island. Please contact one of our i-SITE Visitor Information Centres for further information.

  • What kind of accommodation is there?

    ​Great Barrier Island has a range of accommodation available to suit all tastes. Demand for accommodation on the island during the main summer holiday period is high, so be sure to book in advance. Camping is permitted only in designated camping grounds.

    When selecting your choice of accommodation, please be aware of the distances to services – for example, if you stay at Medlands you will need some form of transport to get groceries and to dine out.

     Find Great Barrier Island accommodation

  • Do I need to pre-book my accommodation?

    ​Yes. Demand for accommodation on the island during the main summer holiday period is high. Because of the island’s remote location it is advisable to book in advance whatever time of year you are visiting.

  • How can I plan my trip to Great Barrier Island?

    ​Plan your trip in advance at one of our i-SITE Visitor Information Centres or call 0800 AUCKLAND (0800 282 552).

  • Can I use EFTPOS and credit cards on the island?

    ​As there are no banks or ATMs on the island, it is recommended that you take cash over with you. New Zealand EFTPOS and credit card facilities are available at most commercial outlets.

  • Where can I get cash out?

    ​There are no ATMs on the island, so you should take cash with you. New Zealand EFTPOS and credit card facilities are available at most commercial outlets.

     

  • Can I bring my dog?

    ​If you bring your dog to the island, don't forget to carry proof of registration and always check first with your accommodation provider. Dogs are prohibited on all Department of Conservation (DOC) public conservation land.

    Dogs must always be on a lead except for designated Dog Exercise Areas. 

  • What kind of water and power utilities are available?

    Great Barrier Island has no reticulated power, water supply or sewage system. It is powered by alternative energy systems, mostly by generator or solar. As power can be limited, please check with your accommodation hosts whether you will be able to use any electrical appliances you may want to bring on holiday with you. There is no street lighting so it is advisable that you bring at least one torch with you.​

  • What should I do in an emergency or if I need medical assistance?

    In the event of an emergency call 111 (for police and fire). For medical emergencies, call (09) 429 0356.​

  • Can I light a fire on the island?

    There is a complete ban on fires during the summer months. 

     Fire is a serious danger on the island and permits are required for all outdoor fires, with the exception of gas barbecues. Fireworks require a permit, flares must not be let off except in an emergency and cigarette butts must be fully extinguished and disposed of safely. To report all fires, call 111. ​

  • What kind of fuel is available?

    ​Petrol and diesel are available at Port FitzRoy Wharf, Whangaparapara Wharf, Tryphena and Claris. There are no facilities for vehicles which require CNG or LPG.

  • Is there internet access on the island?

    Internet access on the island is limited. Some accommodation providers have internet available for guests only. Free internet access and wireless is available at the Auckland Council Library, located in Claris. Public internet and wireless is available at the Claris Centre. There is Vodafone coverage at Port FitzRoy with a 3G cellsite on Kaikoura Island. ​

  • Is there mobile phone coverage on the island?

    ​Mobile phone coverage on the island is limited to the western beaches such as Tryphena and Okupu and some high points/ridges along the road. There is Vodafone coverage at Port FitzRoy with a 3G cellsite on Kaikoura Island. 

    Card phones can be found at the main settlements around the island. It is a toll call from Great Barrier Island to other parts of Auckland.

  • Are there public telephones?

    ​Card phones can be found at the main settlements around the island. It is a toll call from Great Barrier Island to other parts of Auckland.

  • What should I do with my rubbish?

    To help maintain the island's natural beauty, please carefully dispose of all rubbish. Household refuse and recyclables can be dropped off at transfer points clearly visible at roadside locations. A rubbish barge is located in Port FitzRoy Harbour (for the convenience of boat owners) through the summer months to Easter. ​

  • Where can I get general supplies on the island?

    General stores are located at Port FitzRoy, Whangaparapara Reserve, Claris, Pa Beach and Mulberry Grove, Tryphena. ​