Sunday, March 20, 2016

Great Barrier Island

Kia Ora! Archie the Kiwi here, writing to tell you about my recent trip to the beautiful Aotea, or Great Barrier Island.

Great Barrier Island is a short 30 minute flight away from Auckland, but a world away from the frantic city bustle. You can also take a stunning four-hour ferry journey across the Hauraki Gulf to Tryphena Harbour. Stock up on your food supplies in Tryphena at the Stonewall Store, or visit Claris Texas Café – I recommend their coffee and homemade pies! Angsana Thai Restaurant also has a tasty Thai buffet, perfect for refueling after a busy day exploring.

There’s no public transport on the island, but you can take your car on the ferry, hire a car when you get there, or do as I did and have a friendly local show you around! Steve from Go Great Barrier Island was the best host – he shared the island’s stories, pointed out the highlights, and fascinated me with facts about the history of Great Barrier Island – did you know that the island broke off the tip of the Coromandel Peninsula, which is about 12 km south? Steve’s insight certainly made the island come alive. You can find Steve’s website here.

As I wandered around Whangaparapara Harbour, I could hear the Kōtare’s (Kingfisher) welcoming song. Great Barrier Island has beautiful beaches, harbours, and estuaries, perfect for relaxing and exploring. Swimming, surfing, fishing, diving and snorkeling opportunities abound in and around the island’s isolated surroundings. Hooked on Barrier’s fishing, diving and sightseeing charters are one way to explore the island’s breathtaking views and pristine waters – check out their website here.

The island is also home to native birds we don’t see in mainland Auckland – my friends the Kākā, Pāteke (brown teal), Kākāriki and Taiko (black petrel) are all Great Barrier residents. There is even an Australian Spoonbill who has wandered off course but keeps the company of the native shags, obviously enjoying his island stay too much to leave!

Great Barrier Island is free from nasty pests like possum, stoats, and weasels – as such, the island is a haven for native birds and plant life. Kānuka and Mānuka dominate, with Mānuka honey and natural Mānuka remedies thriving as local businesses. One to check out is Sven’s Island – you can access their website here.

Puriri, Kauri and Tairere are also beginning to re-emerge after being plundered over 150 years ago – the “boom and bust” industries of logging, mining and whaling, now long gone, have left a trace still visible on the island. Over time, more and more of the island has been placed under the auspices of the Department of Conservation, which further protects our native flora and fauna.

Great Barrier Island also has great walking tracks that meander through the bush and cater for all ages and fitness levels – Mount Hobson has the best views, but alas my wee legs were too small to scale this hike! I heard one walk on the island has a hot pool you can soak your feet in before wandering back – bliss!

Aren’t us Aucklanders lucky to have a paradise like Great Barrier Island in our backyard!

Until next time,

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