Great Barrier Island is a place where you wave to every car you pass, you can be totally off the grid and the views will take your breath away.
The island is a 30-minute flight from Auckland Domestic Airport or a 5-hour ferry from North Wharf on Auckland's viaduct with Sealink. The ferry is NZ$84 one way or NZ$105 return, which is slightly cheaper than the flights, which start at $89 one way with Barrier Air. I took the ferry there and returned on the plane which was great, I wanted to take the ferry because a lot of the time people see dolphins or whales. I saw one dolphin so that was awesome, but I think next time I would just fly there and back; it still offers incredible views and involves much less travel time.
The beaches on Great Barrier Island are a huge drawcard. I visited Pah Beach, near my friend's bach in Tryphena which is a gentle harbour beach with some cool rock formations near the local store and pub. On the east side are some stunning surf beaches, which I didn't have a surfboard for sadly, but I did some boogie boarding and body surfing anyway. Medlands was about a 10-minute drive from Tryphena, has a cool island in the middle of the beach and some great little waves. Apparently, they have surf comps there too! I really loved Awana Bay, which was another 15 minutes north, on the east. The waves there were great too, and the beach itself is stunning and very empty due to its location further afield. Great place to stop after doing the punishing Mt Hobson.
Speaking of Mt Hobson, what a cool walk! It's a 40 minute drive from Tryphena to the start of the walk, and the walk itself isn't very long, just quite intense. I think it took us between 60-90 minutes at a good pace, stopping a few times, to reach the top. We definitely didn't time it well though, we started the walk before lunch time, I think around 10 or 11 am and boy oh boy it was hot! Did I mention this trip was in January, the middle of New Zealand's summer? I think it was around 26°C and there were parts where it felt much hotter.
The first third was in the bush, lots of stairs with uphills and downhills. Then there's a lot of walking along a ridge out in the sun, but unfortunately the wind wasn't blowing in the right direction and this part was sweltering. The final third was in the bush again but it was a lot of stairs, all going uphill. The view along the path, and especially at the top, was really worth it though and I'm so glad we pushed through to reach the summit.
My friend Bri has been going to Barrier for years and knows all the good spots! So naturally, I was keen for her to show me the waterfall while I was there. It's off Aotea Road, and about a half hour walk. Like Mt Hobson, it's a very steep walk. This one was straight downhill to the waterfall and straight back up to the road when we were done. Unfortunately, the steepest bits didn't have stairs and due to recent rainfall, we were slipping a lot on the way down. Poor Bri landed on her rear about 3 times, each one looked so painful.
Food & drink on the island
Because the island is quite far out, the food at the local store isn't cheap, and you have to buy water or boil it to make sure it's drinkable. I saw a lot of people taking 10L bottles of water over on the ferry which is a great idea because they had none in stock when we were there so we were constantly buying 2L bottles or boiling water, which gets expensive. Head down to the local pub in Tryphena, Currach Irish Pub, for a delicious wood-fried pizza and a beer, or try the cute little food stalls on the way out to Medlands Beach. Even better, enjoy some of the kaimoana (seafood) that you catch yourself, like kingfish or scallops, there are plenty of great spots! Just make sure you read up first to see what the limits are etc, you can find more information here.
Have you ever been to Great Barrier Island? Would you consider a trip out there?