Great Barrier Island in New Zealand: The Complete Travel Guide

Great Barrier Island in New Zealand Travel Guide

Great Barrier Island or Aotea is one of the largest, wildest, and seaward islands in the Auckland Region. This island really gives a unique chance to experience life in New Zealand many decades back. Because this island is one of the least populated islands in New Zeland with having plenty of untouched and secluded natural places. On the other hand, it swells to the Pacific Ocean and creates a great boating paradise. The western coast of the island has calm sandy bays and harbors while the eastern coast of the island offers a blue ocean with long white surf beaches.

However, amazing walking trails, mermaid pools to swim, natural hot pools, fantastic star gazing chances, kayaking/snorkeling/diving chance, unique fauna/flora, and special island events are the highlighted things in Great Barrier Island. So, let’s get to know more about it before travel.

Where’s Great Barrier Island located?

Great Barrier Island is located 90km to the northeastern side of Auckland city, New Zealand. Since the island has around 285km², it is the sixth-largest island in New Zealand. And as it is located at the edge of the outer Hauraki Gulf, it acts as a protector of the inner gulf and, the mainland from most of the ocean disasters like storms.

In the past, this island was only famous for its rich mineral sources and the existence of Kauri forests. And after some people were inherited there, cultivations were also spread. But, still, more than 60% of the island’s land area considers as a nature reserve under the rules of the government.

The smaller islands close to the Great Barrier Island are Dragon Island, Kaikoura Island, Rakitu Island, and Aiguilles Island. These are also mostly uninhabited and containing 100% natural things. And also there is a number of islands in the Great Barrier Bay as well.

Suggested Reading: Waiheke Island in New Zealand

Map of the Island

The following map shows you the exact location of Great Barrier Island and its important places.

Center map

How do you get to Great Barrier Island?

As I mentioned earlier, there are more than 90km from Auckland to this island. You can select the way of reaching there out of flights or ferries. Well, whatever the way, there’s a regular travel schedule.

When it comes to the ferry rides, I can highly recommend you Sea Link and Barrier Express ferry services. Whatever the service, the duration of the ferry will be around 4 hours and 30 minutes. Sea Link is starting from Wynyard Warf (part of Waitemata Harbor in Auckland) and drops you at Tryphena (harbor town in Great Barrier Island). Click the above link for bookings of one way and return. And, Barrier Express is departing from both Sandspit in North Island and Auckland harbors.

How do you get to Great Barrier Island?

If you want to fly by getting the aerial view of the island, then there are some flight services as well. Normally there are 10 passengers (max) seated planes with a regular schedule. And the flight duration is around 30 minutes. The departures are taking from Auckland International Airport and terminal is Claris, the major airfield of Great Barrier Island.

I can highly recommend the flight services of Fly Shark, and Flight Hauraki. These services provide scheduled flights as well as scenic charter flights to Great Barrier, Waiheke and other islands as well. So, book through the above links.

Once you reach the island, there are regular bus services run between Tryphena and Port Fitzroy once a day. But don’t worry there are taxis, shuttles, rental cars, vans, electric bikes, scooters, tour buses, and 4×4 vehicles are available.

Great Barrier Island Weather

This island has a great enjoyable temperate climate throughout the year. Because there are very low chances for rain and snow. And the temperature is great and varies in very little amounts. Therefore weather forecasts are always accurate.

The hottest months in the island are January, February, and March. Out of these 3, the mid of February is the hottest time with a temperature of 23ºC. In this time period, even the night temperature doesn’t fall less than 20ºC. That means the probability of snowing and precipitating is very low in this period. We can also call this period as the dry season in Great Barrier Island, New Zealand.

Great Barrier Island Weather

From April to December again temperature falls down and the lowest temperature normally reports in July, August, and September months. It will fall around 14ºC in the mid of July. The nights are also colder than any other month in the year. Actually, in September, you can expect significant precipitation on this island. Further, the weather reports say that there’s no considerable annual snow on this island (there is a very little amount).

When we discuss the humidity on this island, there are some months that have really high humidity. For December, the humidity is around 75% (highest) while the least humidity month is April with 67%. And in the case of wind, most of the places on the island are windy. The windiest months are July, August, And September.

Suggested Reading: Bay of Islands in New Zealand

Best time to visit Great Barrier Island

If I summarize all the above explanation about the weather of this island in New Zealand, there are 4 seasons. They are as follows,

Fall Season starts in March and it runs through May. Since there’s a cold and windy climate, this is like the off-season for tourists. But, the doors are open for budget travelers with low packages.

Winter Season runs through June to August. Although the temperature is so cold and rainy, travelers visit the island in this period by making it the second busiest tourism season in the year. Therefore, even the accommodation prices are also high.

Spring Season starts in September and exists until November. Due to rainy or rarely snowy weather, very lack of tourists is attracting in this time period. So, you can have very low prices for everything.

Summer runs through December to February. Weather is warm and perfect to travel the Great Barrier island. So, this is the peak tourist season of the island.

So, the best months to travel the island are January, February, and June. But, as I said earlier, they are very busy and have very high prices. On the other hand, the least busy month is April.

Great Barrier Island Population

For many people in New Zealand, Aotea or Great Barrier Island is a place that travels to reduce their stress. There were no permanent residents on this island. But, in 2013, 939 were inhabited for the cultivation and tourism industry purposes. But, when it comes to 2018, it has reduced to 930.

Most of them are settled in Tryphena and Okupu like areas. Since there’s no power, the residents have to generate their own power from the wind or solar. On the other hand, roads are also narrow and do not try to drive over 50km per hour. I think this remoteness is the major reason behind the disimprovement of the tourism industry of this island.

And also as I said earlier, nearly 60% of the land is owned by the Department of Conservation while only 40% of the land owned by the private owners. Most of them are holiday homes and resorts.

Things to do in Great Barrier Island

Although there is a lack of facilities, Great Barrier Island is not lacking with natural beauty. I personally believe that we must take a break from our busy lives at least once a year and travel a remote place to breathe fresh air. Great Barrier Island is such an ideal place to breathe free, feel wild, and live simple. Here are the best things you can do in this paradise island in New Zealand.

Camping in Great Barrier Island

Camping on the Great Barrier Island always comes as the top thing to do. Because you are coming to this island to experience very authentic island life. So, camping is the best thing. There is a number of affordable campsites especially in the coastal area of the island.

And also no need to worry about the facilities around the campsites. There are tap water, toilets, showers, recycling bins, cooking benches, and picnic tables. But you cannot get electricity since people on this island get power from the wind and solar power generators.

Camping in Great Barrier Island

Here are the best campsites.

Awana Beach Campsite: This site is majorly for the surf experts. Because this beach area offers you sharp waves for the expert surfers.

Haratanonga Campsite: This one offers you the chance to snorkeling and swimming and stay surrounded by a supernatural environment. You can access this beach by paddling across a small estuary or walking along the coast of Harataonga Walkway. It directly connects to the Harataogna campsite with Aotea Road. And the whole walk will take around 4-5 hours.

Whangapoua Campsite: When you continue on the Aotea Road further by passing Harataonga campsite, you will find the access road to the Whangapoua site. There you will find a popular surf break as well. And the surrounding is just awesome with surreal ocean views. Click the link to book a site online. Actually, this link has all the booking links for the other campsites as well. Because the Department of Conservation handles all of these sites.

Medlands Beach Campsite: This campsite is a little bit crowded in the peak season since it is one of the most popular beaches on the island. Actually, this one is majorly famous as a surfing hotspot.

Suggested Reading: Florida Springs Camping

Great Barrier Island Star Gazing

Whether you are on a camping or in a hotel, do not forget star gazing when you are on Great Barrier Island in New Zealand. Because there’s no such an ideal place for stargazing in the whole country. Lack of inhabitants, absence of electricity, and lack of lights provide the ideal climate for stargazing. For me, it was like meditating while watching the stars.

Hikes in Great Barrier Island

There are plenty of adventurous and scenic hiking trails in Great Barrier Island. The followings are the most highlighted ones.

Hikes in Great Barrier Island

Aotea track/trail

This is a 25km long loop track that takes you through lush jungles to the mountain tops. You can even plan for a camp on the top overnight and get the best views across the island. And this trail considers as the only multi-day hike on the island. Since Aotea Track is a combination of steep climbs and flat trails, you will have more fun.

Kaitoke Hot Springs Track

Kaitoke is just a 45 minutes flat and easy track that finally reaches you to the island’s natural wonder, hot springs. Due to the underground volcanic activities, the water of Kaitoke springs gets heat. This is not a crystal blue pool, but this is an awesome green hot water pool.

Mount Hobson Track

Mount Hobson or Hirakimata is the highest mountain on the island and it has a 2057 feet height. Don’t worry the track has wooden steps to make your journey easier. On the way, you may find some other hot springs. It will take around one hour to the roundtrip.

Whangaparapara Peak Trail

This trail runs to the summit of Mount Whangaparapara. The mountain is 1013 feet high and the trail is steep. Since the trail exists through regenerating forest, you can get good long views. For example, you can see Whangaparapara Harbor in the distance. If I tell you about the return time, it will take around 2 hours.

Some other highlighted hiking trails are Windy Canyon Lookout, Palmer’s Track, Te Ahumata Track, Old Lady Trail, and Bridle Trail. At least try the above four trails.

Suggested Reading: Best Hikes in Greece

Great Barrier Island Ferry

There are so many ultimate ferry island tours on Great Barrier Island. They offer you the chance for fishing, dolphin watching, watching the sunset, and scenic sightseeings around the island. Some are providing onboard great meals as well. Just click the link to book online.

Swimming, Snorkeling, kayaking, paddleboarding, and Diving

There are so many chances of swimming on Great Barrier Island in New Zealand. Especially on the eastern coast, the beaches like Kaitoke Beach are ideal for swimming and enjoying the view. It offers you natural rock pools with fishing and diving chances as well.

Kayaking in Great Barrier Island

Since Island’s coral resource is rich and colorful, snorkeling will be an unforgettable experience for you. Also, these corals are untouched and undisturbed, therefore the natural beauty is there as it is. Deep-sea diving is also a great opportunity for you to discover more marine lives nearby this island. Kayaking and paddleboarding are also some other ways to discover the island’s ocean. Click here for kayak and paddleboard rentals.

Bath in natural hot springs

I have already mentioned one of the most popular hot springs on the island. They are Kaitoke hot springs. Since the entrance is combined with a hike, you can have an adventurous experience.

Kaitoke hot springs in New Zealand

Visit Kauri Falls

This waterfall was named after the historical kauri felling on the island. As I mentioned earlier, huge kauri tree forests are the unique feature of Great Barrier Island. However, this waterfall is surrounded by kauri trees and it is pretty. You have to start the journey via Warren’s Creek Track (just 1km away from Port Fitzroy) and it will take around one hour for the journey.

Visit Kauri Falls

Join with a honey and bee tour

If you like to see how bees produce honey, collect them, and produce different products, then here’s the chance. I actually wanted to buy real honey to apply to my facemasks. And I could learn how to nurture bees and collect honey as bonus information. Great Barrier Active Honey and Bee Tours are always ready to offer you this chance. Within 2 hours, they show you everything about their products and provide us to buy real honey.

Great Barrier Island horse trikes

To tour around Great Barrier Island, I highly recommend you, Crazyhorse Trikes Tours. They offer a safe and secure service in a very enjoyable way. You can travel with a maximum of two people by carrying your bags as well. Since it is safe and comfortable and fully open to the surrounding, you view the island’s natural beauty without any barrier. Click the link to book online and get more details.

Suggested Reading: Victoria Falls in Zambia

Visit milk grain and honey museum

Claris Museum or Milk Grain and Honey Museum is an old farm owned by David Watson. Now there’s a museum to show the history of the island containing island’s old photographs, old artifacts, old ways of farming, milling, mining, and many more. If you are curious about the old cultivation patterns of the island, then here’s the chance in Claris.

Join with a Yoga Program

As this island is a very remote, calm, and less crowded destination, I think this is the best place to escape for a yoga holiday. There are so many workshops, classes, and training offering services. If you are a beginner, then join with one of them. Or do it with your own. I can highly recommend Ebb and Flow Yoga Classes on Great Barrier Island, New Zealand.

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Great Barrier Island in New Zealand

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