North Island kākā
Bird and wildlife watching
Many of the birds on Great Barrier are rare or extinct on the mainland. They can be secretive and require patience to spot. Keep an eye out for:
- Brown teal/pateke, found in most streams and wetland areas, particularly in the north of the island.
- Banded rail/moho pereru, New Zealand dotterel/tūturiwhatu and kākā, regularly seen around the island's beaches and forest edges.
- Black petrel/taiko nest at the summit of Great Barrier's mountains. If you stay in the Mt Heale hut during the summer months, you may hear them returning to their burrows at night.
Remember to maintain the 5 metre rule when bird watching i.e. stay at least 5 metres away from any bird.
Great Barrier is a fantastic destination for boating and sailing. The island has seven boat ramps, all on the west coast, and many sheltered coves and bays which make great anchorages. Boat hire is also available on the island.
The Kaitoke Hot Springs Track is buggy friendly, so is a good option for young families.
Child/familiy friendly activities
Many of the activities listed are child or family friendy.
There are several swimming beaches on Great Barrier. The east coast beaches are generally sandy, and often have surf to play in. The beaches on the west coast are rocky, and are great places for looking for sea creatures in rock pools.
Diving and snorkelling
Great Barrier is one of the most diverse diving spots in the Auckland region and also has excellent visibility. Features include huge underwater rock formations, seaweed forests and a mixture of sub-tropical and temperate marine species. Dive bottles can be filled in Port Fitzroy and Claris. Dive tours are available from the mainland.
You can fish off the rocks or the beach anywhere round the island’s coastline. Great Barrier Island is also a popular destination for fishing charters from Auckland or the Coromandel.
Enjoying the Kaitoke Hot Pools
Spectacular pa and other archaeological sites survive throughout the island, evidence of its long Maori history. Relics of the exploitative industries – whaling, mining and kauri logging – can also be seen all over the island.
Visit these heritage sites:
A series of hot pools for bathing are dammed at a fork in the Kaitoke Creek. The Kaitoke Hot Springs Track takes you to the hot pools.
Kayaking round Great Barrier is one of the best ways to see the islands multitude of bays and coves. You might also see some of the marine life around the island, including whales, dolphins and penguins. The west coast often has more sheltered weather conditions for kayaking. Bring your own kayak to the island as kayaks are not available for hire on the island.
Mountain biking & cycling
You can mountain bike on several tracks on the island.
The beaches on the east coast of the island offer good surfing, particularly Whangapoua (about 25 min drive north of Claris), Awana (10 min drive north of Claris) and Medlands (5 min drive south of Claris). DOC campgrounds are located at each of these three beaches.
The sweeping white sandy beaches on the east coast offer great swimming. Many of the beaches are next to DOC campgrounds if you want more than one day of playing about in the sea.
Castaway film location at HarataongaBay
Visit Harataonga Bay on Great Barrier Island where Castaway was filmed. In early 2007 the normally quiet and peaceful Harataonga Bay was transformed into a busy production village and film set.
Wander the deserted beach now the Castaways have gone or walk the nearby loop track to take in great views of Harataonga Bay and coastline.
Access is via Harataonga Road, a steep and narrow road (2.5 km), off Aotea Road, 8 km north of Claris. Heavy rain can make the access road impassable for 2WD vehicles.