No matter what the weather – summer or winter, sun, wind or rain – a trip to Aotea/Great Barrier Island is your opportunity to leave the hustle and bustle of normal life behind.
In the middle of summer, the island is a different place from the quieter off-season winter. In summer, you may meet other people on the beach, whereas in winter you will most likely be by yourself. Summer activities are focussed on sea, sand and land, but winter is ideal for stargazing when the sun sets at a civilised hour and the stars can be seen early in the evening.
The island is unique – it’s remote, it’s off the grid, and its permanent population is less than 1000. Needless to say, planning for your trip to the Aotea/Great Barrier Island is essential.
There are plenty of options for transport and accommodation on the island, and it is much easier to organise this before you arrive. Have a look at the great places to stay and then plan the best way for you to get around the island as you make your booking.
For more information or to make bookings contact the official Great Barrier visitor centre – 0800 468 622 .
Because there’s so much to see and do – from north to south – it is vital to pre-arrange your island transport. You can hire a car, hire a bike or use the shuttle service. Pre-booked transfer shuttles operate to and from Claris Airport and the wharves at Tryphena and Port FitzRoy. If you pre-book, then cars can also be hired from these points of entry. There is no publicly funded transport on the island. Most main roads are sealed, but expect to come across a few unsealed roads in your travels, including some with 4WD access only. Some properties, too, can only be reached by 4WD.
Mobile phones and internet access
Mobile phone reception and internet access cover most, but not all, of the island. You can choose – keep in touch or disconnect and connect with nature. Feel free to leave your technology behind and just pack your walking shoes, fishing rod and a few good books.
Food and drink
There are some great spots to sample local cuisine on the island -from 5 star dining to traditional kiwi takeaways. Check out the listings under Food. Opening times of dining establishments are negotiable in winter, as this is when the owners take their holidays. It’s a perfect opportunity to get to know the locals at one of our social clubs, or at takeaway cafes and burger bars. There are general stores at Tryphena, Claris and Port FitzRoy (which sometimes run shorter hours in the off-season). If you have specific dietary requirements, it’s a good idea to bring some supplies with you, as the island’s grocery outlets cover the basic necessities, but not all brands and varieties. The Stonewall Store works hard to provide a variety of gluten free options.
Bring some cash
There are no banks or ATM machines on the island, so it pays to come with a bit of cash in your back pocket, just in case. Most food and accommodation outlets have Eftpos and they often will allow you to take “cash out” if they have surplus cash. Plan to carry some extra cash as you may need some to buy a big pot of Aotea/Great Barrier Island manuka honey, or some beautiful artwork from a local gallery or the Stonewall Markets. Cash also comes in handy for the many honesty boxes around the island.
Our advice: bring your cards and some cash. Use the cards where you can and save your cash for other retail opportunities!
Weather… or Not
As an island off the east coast of New Zealand, we are exposed to unique weather systems. Extreme weather can affect sailing and flying schedules to and from the island, so be sure to check the forecasts around your time of travel. It pays to bring a selection of clothes for all seasons, especially if you are walking on some of our beautiful forest tracks, as the weather can be unpredictable.
Waste – get it sorted the Barrier way
As much as possible, please take any waste destined for landfill back with you. Even better, don’t bring it in the first place, as the island landfill site is limited.
Whether you are camping, renting a house, staying with friends, visiting on a boat, or staying in commercial accommodation, please separate recyclables from landfill rubbish. Should you have any waste for landfill or recycling that you can’t take with you, tidily closed refuse bags and sorted recycling can be deposited at the bins located at ports Tryphena, Whangaparapara and Fitzroy and outside the Claris refuse centre on Gray Rd, about 3km from the airport.
The island also has community compost bins at the Medlands community gardens, beside the St Johns Church op shop, a good used clothing and bricabrac drop off shop behind the Tryphena community hall and a Tip Shop close to the refuse centre on Gray Road, Claris.
Every island household and business is off the grid and generates its own power, either with solar panels, diesel generators, wind or water turbines. Limit your carbon footprint for the duration of your stay by leaving high wattage devices such as electric toasters, rice cookers, kettles and hair dryers on the main land.