Great Barrier Island

Great Barrier Island
Great Barrier Island

I had some time off recently and did a three island trip over my holiday. I first kayaked to Rangitoto, as previously blogged. Then I took the slow ferry out to Great Barrier Island. It is a 4.5 hour trip on the ferry as it is a big ferry that carries over vehicles and supplies to the island. The island is very remote feeling, although it really isn’t that far from Auckland. It doesn’t have running water or electricity, the houses and bachs (short for “bachleor’s” cabins) have solar and wind power and store water in cisterns. I kept being shocked by the scale. I had read in the tourist guides and they talked about “cities” and “restaurants,” but the truth is, I drove through Tryphena twice before I realized I was actually in it. The restaurants were very informal settings and many of them felt extremely local. Since the island only has 900 year round residents, it is quite a small community.

Great Barrier Island

Great Barrier Island
The roads were treacherous. I definitely wouldn’t advise one to come straight to New Zealand and get on these roads. Even after more than a year of driving on the left side and gradually getting used to things like one lane bridges, these roads were still a shock. Many of the roads were considered one lane roads (with traffic going both ways) and they wound around sheer cliffs and blind hairpin turns. Average speed for me was probably only 20-30 k, so even though the distances were short, the travel times were long.  It took about an hour or more for me to drive from the hot pools to Port Fitzroy. Again, I was shocked, I didn’t see any restaurants, but there were some locals sitting by a picnic table at the side of the road.  here was a lot of bustle around when the ferries arrive and off-load supplies (beer seemed to feature heavily) and these were stacked on the wharf and people would come by and claim their goods.
Great Barrier Island
Great Barrier Island
The place is incredibly beautiful. Some of the beach vistas were gorgeous. There are some decent hill/mountain ranges. I climbed to the top of Hirakimata (Mt. Hobson) and had great views of the island. Windy Canyon was really impressive and that is just a short, but steep, climb up from the road. 
Great Barrier Island
Great Barrier Island
Great Barrier Island
Great Barrier Island

The wildlife is incredible. I was most thrilled about the wild parrots (Kaka) flying about, eating flax flowers, squabbling and chasing each other. From the top of Hirakimata, it sounded like a jungle below as Kaka sqwacked and chased each other. There were a lot of Tui, also, and the island has a large population of Brown Teal, which are endangered elsewhere.

 

  Great Barrier Island

 

Great Barrier Island

Great Barrier Island

Great Barrier Island

I was only out on the island for a few days, but it was incredibly peaceful and rejuvenating!

Great Barrier Island

Great Barrier Island

On the way back we saw numerous whales spouting (I was disappointed to not be able to see anything more than a spout of water, but it was still exciting).  Then we had dolphins that came up to the ferry for awhile. I have noticed that the wind and sun make an incredible difference in being able to get good photographs. There was a lot of sun on the water and so not very good photos. Also, if it is too cloudy, it is hard to see very deeply in the water.  Other times, with the right angle of sun and lack of clouds, I have gotten crystal clear photos of dolphins.

Great Barrier Island

On the way back into Auckland, the skyline and lighting was amazing!  See for yourself.

Great Barrier Island

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