Travel and Culture

Aotea – Great Barrier Island: Tropical Isolation

Aotea Great Barrier Island, a secluded piece of paradise can be found a 4 hour ferry ride from Auckland City. Often confused by name only with Great Barrier Reef, Aotea Great Barrier Island is a tranquil and peaceful island perfect for nature lovers and people wanting to get away from the hustle of daily life. While further from popular Waiheke Island, access is just as easy, the only difference is it may take a little more time.

Getting There

Transport options include ferry, plane, own boat or helicopter (for the few who spare no expense!) Planes depart from Whangarei, Auckland’s North Shore and Auckland Airport. Ferries are regular and you can bring your vehicle – many groups pack their utes with kayaks, mattresses, enjoy a nap or card games on the way over. Costs vary depending on the time of year that you travel so book early. In the summer, there is the option of additional high speed passenger ferries which take around 2 hours.


Wynyard Quarter car ferry. Photo: Supplied

Getting Around

If you hire a car, it will be waiting for you upon arrival, don’t expect a new car but do expect great service, this first communication is the start to amazing service across the island. If you book ahead of time, chances are this will all be done over the phone and they will be there to meet you. No online booking, no email confirmation.

If you bring your own vehicle ensure it has a full tank of fuel before arriving as petrol on the island is expensive. Having said that, hitchhiking around the island is common place and cycling is a possibly however as it is hilly you need to be prepared for this physically.


With various accommodation options, this is one place where you are spoilt for choice. There are numerous lodges, bed and breakfasts and motels along with private property rentals. Try and get something with an ocean view and chances are you will see dolphins. Camping and campervan sites are also available so something for all budgets.


Swimming with the dolphins at Tryphena. Photo: Supplied

Food and Drinks

There are a number of cafés, bars and stores dotted around the island although you will find that Tryphena and the Claris airport area are the two main areas you’ll want to go. Port FitzRoy is another great spot which you will probably head straight toward if you are travelling on your own boat. If the isolation is wearing thing and you’re looking for a social time try the Irish pub at Tryphena.

Great Barrier Island – Must See’s

Kaitoke Hot Springs – A short easy flat walk from Whangaparapara Road. There is a bathroom (long drop) at the springs and remember to bring your swim suit.

Windy Canon – The short walk requires a medium level of fitness and good balance and coordination. You will find hand rails at the steps but they are steep. The photos are worth the effort but be safe.

Beach Walks – While there are many beach walks in New Zealand Aotea Great Barrier Island has so few people that walking along this beach has a feeling that can be best described as tropical isolation. Enjoy the air, the feeling of freedom and space.


Windy Ridge. Photo: Supplied

Aotea – Great Barrier Island: Tips for Travelling

  • Book early especially during the busy season
  • It is recommended to have a vehicle or form of transport on the island.
  • Bring some food supplies but remember to support local food and beverage businesses too.
  • Tryphena is good for the slower, easy swimmers; Medlands has a surf break so better for surfers and confident swimmers.
  • Phone reception isn’t optimal, some providers had better service than others.
  • Bring a first aid kit, this is an isolated area.
  • Take your rubbish with you – there are recycling stations but if you can take all rubbish and recycling with you, you can help minimise the impact of the islands resources.
  • Bring your swim suit, walking shoes and camera and spare batteries – you will use all 3 every day.
  • Drive carefully – roads are narrow, plus you don’t need to get anywhere in a hurry surely.
  • There are a number of long drops around the island. These are serviced on a daily basis and will come in handy!

Have you visited Aotea Great Barrier Island? Let us know what you thought of it? Or thinking about visiting? Let us know what you’re planning!


Medlands Beach. Photo: Supplied

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