Nature is king on Great Barrier Island, from the long white surf beaches and high cliffs of the east coast to the deep sheltered harbours and calm sandy bays of the west coast. And right across the island lies a blanket of pristine native bush, running from valleys to mountaintops.
Sealink operates regular vehicle and passenger ferries from Wynyard Quarter in the CBD to Tryphena Harbour. The journey takes 4.5 hours and if you're lucky you might see dolphins and even penguins on your way. Light plane flights also operate from Auckland (Fly My Sky or Barrier Air) and are only 30 minutes, plus you'll get to enjoy spectacular views as you travel above the Hauraki Gulf.
Great Barrier Island's many walks are a popular draw card for visitors. The tracks and trails range hugely, from one-hour walks to the challenging 25km, two-day Aotea Track hike. The easier, flatter Harataonga Coastal Walk is another top pick. Whichever walks you choose, spectacular scenery and epic views are guaranteed.
These beautiful natural rock pools are on the eastern coast of the island, on Kaitoke Beach; they're great for swimming or just sitting back and enjoying the view. There's good fishing and diving from the rocks too and at low tide you can walk onto Pitokuku Island just off the beach.
Kaitoke Hot Springs are the only undeveloped natural hot pools in the Auckland region and an easy 80-minute walk will take you there. Walk through glades of native nikau palms, over bridges and boardwalks with wetland and mountain views on your way, before a soak in the soothing waters.
Go surfing, kayaking or fishing – you can rent gear on the island and the operators will give you tips on the best places to go. If you're a keen angler, join a fishing charter for the ultimate catch. And if chill time is all you need, just relax on one of the island's beautiful white-sand beaches.
Part of what makes ‘The Barrier' so special is its lack of electricity – it relies on solar and generator power. And with limited mobile phone and internet connections, escaping here is the perfect excuse to take a break from your digital devices and enjoy the island's scenery and activities.
Great Barrier Island is the first island in the world to be designated as an International Dark Sky Sanctuary – joining only two other locations. The minimal number of outdoor lights make it a dream destination for star-gazers to take in the stunning starry vistas. Enjoy the beauty of the island's landscapes by day, and the beauty of the night sky when the sun goes down. Some locals say the starlight is about 10 times brighter than on the mainland.
Visit Glenfern Sanctuary to explore lush native forest and learn about its protected wildlife, including threatened and endangered species. Take the guided walk through 600-year-old kauri trees with an environmental scientist – you might spot a few of the rare and beautiful North Island kaka.
Head to Great Barrier in January for the FitzRoy Mussel Fest – immerse yourself in the atmosphere, the succulent seafood, local crafts and live entertainment. Join the locals for the Wharf2Wharf marathon in October or get a look at private residential gardens at the Great Barrier Island Spectacular by Nature Garden Tour in November.