Destinations

Great Barrier Island

Great Barrier Island, in the outer Hauraki Gulf, 100km north-east of Auckland, truly is the land that time forgot – but in a good way. The first thing you see when the plane flies in is the Claris plateau, the beautiful Kaitoke beach and bush beyond it, then Hirakimata (ot Hobson), the rugged centrepiece of the island.

Great Barrier is New Zealand’s fourth largest landmass and is home to beautiful bays, pristine white-sand beaches, lush native bush, walking tracks and hot springs. When I first came here in the mid-1970s, we drank water straight out of the streams and, although the island had been populated for hundreds of years before Europeans arrived, it felt as if we were walking in virgin bush.

Nowadays the Barrier has a permanent population of only 800 – uninhabited compared to Waiheke Island, which at half its size, boasts a population of 7000. The true charm of Aotea – the island’s original name – lies in its people and, as in most small places, there are some real characters.

At the Claris pub on a Saturday night, I bump into Bruce the proprietor of the lodge where I’m staying. And then there’s Phaedra, who runs the island’s all-important bottle store. I pass the time with Clayton, a painter I’d met earlier in the day, and last but not least there’s Sharon, with whom I have a great conversation about love and life.

of course, there are plenty more places to wine, dine, drink coffee and socialise. I love the Wild Rose Cafe in Tryphena Bay, but the best coffee by far is at Ben and Fritz’s mobile cafe. In enterprising fashion, these guys met my plane, delighting a captive audience of caffeine lovers who were dying for a fix.

When it comes to getting about in the great outdoors, there are tracks of varying ease. The hour-long Kaitoke hot springs track is good for keen but not athletic types, with a refreshing mud pool to soak in at the end. Mr there is Windy Canyon Lookout – short, steep and spectacular.

At the top of the island, you’ll find the the Wairarapa Walkway, a memorial to those who lost their lives when a ship ran aground on oiners Head in 1894. It’s rather moving, standing up there and reflecting on the difficult conditions and tragic losses our forebears endured.

Also of note is oedlands Beach and Port Fitzroy, which has a great boating club and pub. While on the island, history buffs should try to get to Young’s ouseum at okupu Bay, as well as check out the disused silver mine, the remains of the Kauri dams and what’s left of an old whaling station.

And if all this running around sounds far too exhausting, it’s quite okay to simply sun yourself on the beach. After all, you’ve come here for a holiday!

Getting there

The Barrier is a half hour flight from Auckland airport.

Fly oy Sky www.flymysky.co.nz

Great Barrier Island Airlines  www.greatbarrierairlines.co.nz

Alternatively, SeaLink runs a regular ferry service from Auckland. Visit www.sealink.co.nz

Where to stay

There is something for every person and budget on Great Barrier. For more information, visit www.thebarrier.co.nz

Hot Tip!

Take a ToRCH! The Barrier’s power is supplied by generator and other alternative energy sources that are often turned off at night.

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