There is nowhere in the world quite like Great Barrier Island. It might be a small community, but it’s a much bigger island than you think; big beaches, big forests, big views and big adventures. And we wanted to see as much of it as we could in one weekend.
The flight from Auckland Airport to ‘the Barrier’ was an adventure in itself. Our eyes were glued to the windows as we flew over the city’s volcanic cones, beautiful beaches and the glistening waters of the Hauraki Gulf. Just before landing, we passed over the expansive white sands of Kaitoke Beach, giving us our first real close up of the island’s incredible beauty. A mere half hour after leaving the airport, we were already in full-on holiday mode.
We settled in that night with a hearty meal at Currach Irish Pub and quickly began to get a feel for island life, with photos on the walls tracing the island’s history and the locals avidly discussing the annual north versus south cricket match on the next day.
Giving the local derby a miss, we set off to explore the Harataonga Coastal Walkway, which treated us to spectacular views across the treetops and up the coastline. If there’s one thing you must do on Great Barrier Island, it’s exploring the walking trails. There are enough tracks on the island to keep you busy for weeks, from short, easy strolls to multi-day hikes.
As we devoured steak and scallops that evening at Tipi and Bob’s Waterfront Lodge, word quickly spread around the restaurant – there are dolphins, look, dolphins! A pod of about thirty dolphins were playing in the waves right in front of us; it was the most amazing sight and an experience I’ll never forget.
Driving around the island is a leisurely task. There’s no heavy traffic or parking hassles and everyone gives a friendly wave as they go by. Many of the roads aren’t sealed and can be quite winding, but I’d definitely recommend hiring a vehicle to get around and explore at your own pace.
Our climb through Windy Canyon on Sunday morning took us among sheer rock cliffs and native birdlife that had me snapping away with my camera from start to finish. We lazed away our last afternoon at Kaitoke Hot Springs. The naturally heated pools are tucked away in native bush, and are a welcome reward for tired feet after a weekend of walking.
Determined to get the most out of every second of our short stay, we lingered in the sunshine at Great Barrier Island Golf Club for as long as we could without missing our flight home, tucking into deliciously fresh fish and chips and chatting with the locals. As the sun set behind Mt Hobson and the ninth hole, we toasted our glasses to a perfect weekend in a perfect paradise.