Great Barrier Island is a natural paradise and an idyllic getaway from the bustle of Auckland. About 55 miles (90 kilometers) offshore in New Zealand’s only national marine park, with no electricity, ATMs, or public transportation on the entire island, there is little more to do here than play in nature and truly relax.
The New Zealand Department of Conservation owns about two-thirds of Great Barrier Island, which has a population of only 850. Popular activities include diving, kayaking, swimming, fishing, horseback riding, golf, hiking, and bird-watching. While adventure lovers can camp out under the stars at a campground, there are many accommodation options available—including luxurious retreats—so you can immerse yourself in nature during the day and sleep in comfort at night.
Travelers visit Great Barrier Island independently, on organized full-day or overnight tours from Auckland, or on cruises that circle the island and stop on land for lunch or a hike. Some tours include flights to the island to maximize time.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Great Barrier Island is perfect for outdoor enthusiasts and Auckland visitors wanting an escape to nature.
- There are no ATMs on the island. You can use eftpos to pay for most things and withdraw cash at larger stores.
- There are no supermarkets, but there are several general stores selling basic provisions.
- Take a flashlight, as there is no street lighting on the island.
- The island is free of harmful predators to native birds, such as possums and weasels. If you’re arriving by private boat, be extremely cautious not to bring any furry stowaways with you.
How to Get There
Great Barrier Island is an approximately 30-minute flight from Auckland Airport or North Shore Aerodrome, or a 2.5-hour ferry ride from downtown Auckland. If not taking your own car, be aware that there is no public transportation on the island; you can book private shuttles in advance, or rent a private car or van.
When to Get There
January through March is the warmest time of year in New Zealand and coincides with the peak travel season, although the climate is temperate so never especially hot or cold. Many travelers prefer the outdoor activities of Great Barrier Island in the warmer months, but there are also hot springs to enjoy in the off-season.
Diving on Great Barrier Island
Some of the best diving in New Zealand—some would say in the world—can be done off the east coast of Great Barrier Island. Visibility is excellent, there is lots of sea life and numerous shipwrecks to explore at different depths, and you can even swim with orcas. The most convenient way to experience the depths here is to charter a boat with a local company specializing in diving.