Great Barrier Island/Aotea: Places to go in Auckland

Great Barrier Island Aotea
Image: Andris Apse. ©


Great Barrier Island has the only multi-day wilderness walk in the Auckland region, boasting two DOC huts and numerous campsites.


The Aotea Conservation Park spreads over more than 12,000 hectares and offers multiple walking tracks for novice and experienced walkers. It's the perfect destination for outdoor enthusiasts and families.

Discover beautiful beaches, a wide variety of native birds and animals as well as the famous Kaitoke Hot Springs.

Take an easy 30 minute scenic flight, or a daily ferry to this island, rich with Maori heritage and numerous archaeological sites.


Place overview


  • Camping
  • Diving and snorkelling
  • Fishing
  • Hot pools
  • Hunting
  • Kayaking and canoeing
  • Mountain biking
  • Surfing
  • Walking and tramping
  • Kauri dieback
    Help stop kauri dieback

    Kauri dieback disease is killing our native kauri. It spreads by soil movement, but you can help prevent it.

    • Stay away from kauri tree roots.
    • Clean your gear before and after visiting kauri forest.
  • Pest free
    Protect our wildlife
    • Check - your gear for pests, eg. rodents, insects, skinks
    • Clean - footwear and gear, removing soil and seeds
    • Seal - ensure your gear is zipped up (no open bags)

    See island biosecurity requirements.

In this section

Find things to do and places to stay Great Barrier Island/Aotea

About track difficulties
About track difficulties
About hut categories

North Island kākā.
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.
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.
Enjoying the Kaitoke Hot Pools

Heritage sightseeing

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:

Hot pools

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.

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    About this place

    Nature and conservation

    In the island's centre, spectacular bluffs and ridges rise to the highest peak, Hirakimata or Mount Hobson, at 621 m. To the west, forest covered ranges meet the coast, a maze of bays, islands and indented fiords. The eastern coastline has sweeping white sands and surf beaches, often backed by tidal creeks and wetlands.

    Hirakimata and other high points in the centre of the island are the main nesting area for black petrel in New Zealand. Over 60% of New Zealand's entire pateke or brown teal population live on the island. Many of these small brown ducks frequent the wetlands of the Whangapoua estuary.

    This is also one of only a few offshore island groups containing spotless crake and fern bird. It is a stronghold for North Island kaka and banded rail. There are over 13 species of lizard, including the rarest skink in the region - the chevron skink.

    Getting there

    Great Barrier Island lies 100 km northeast of downtown Auckland on the outer edge of the Hauraki Gulf.

    Several companies service the island by sea and air. Taxis and car rentals are available on the island. At peak holiday times, buses run unscheduled trips to all campsites on the island from Shoal Bay Wharf, Tryphena Harbour.

    Know before you go

    DOC staff are on 24 hour duty at Great Barrier campsites during the peak holiday period.

    Hauraki Gulf Maritime Park bylaws apply. Do not light fires, or remove/disturb plants and artefacts. No bicycles or pets. Take your rubbish with you – there are no rubbish bins.

    Some activities require a permit, such as weddings and events.


    Tāmaki Makaurau / Auckland Visitor Centre
    Phone:   +64 9 3796476
    Address:   Shed 19 Princes Wharf
    137 Quay Street
    Auckland 1010
    Full office details
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