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Relax On New Zealand’s Great Barrier Island
– But Leave The Hair Dryer At Home

by Keri Jones 20 Nov 2016

Reproduced with permission - Subject to copyright in its entirety.

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The island’s green and sustainability movement is well established. Locals have to produce their own energy, clean water and deal with any waste. Solar panels provide the electricity. At my accommodation, Bob and Tipi’s Waterfront Lodge, they turn off the wall sockets at certain times of the day and overnight. If you visit, you’ll need to plan ahead for charging your electronic devices.

Bob and Tipi’s Waterfront Lodge

Maire Burns from the island pub, The Currach, in the waterside community of Tryphene, says you need to be self-sufficient. “We’re completely off-the-grid,” said Maire, who originally hails from the west of Ireland. “We run off solar panels during the day then turn on the generator in the evening to make sure the beer is cold.” You won’t find a plug-in toaster and you can’t use hair tongs, irons or hairdryers in most places. “You can dry your hair in the evening when the generator’s on,” Maire told me, “but not in the morning, when we’re running off solar power.”

Maire Burns and Phil Judd

The building was originally a youth hostel, but Maire said when she and her husband took over, they quickly realised, “the income wasn’t going to feed the children.”

“Luckily I had the right accent so we decided to open an Irish pub.” It’s friendly, has a very traditional feel with regular music and events. When I visited they had a party, watching the Eurovision Song Contest on satellite TV! The bar food is superb – go for the seafood chowder with homemade rye bread. “We grow all our own herbs and we’re lucky to get lots of fresh seafood here,” said Maire, as she gave me a tour of her impressive pub garden.

Things grow well in this climate. I went to watch olives being harvested on the steep hillside at Earthsong Lodge. Owner Trevor Rendell was a chief purser for Air New Zealand and now runs the small and exclusive, luxury three-suite lodge, where well-heeled guests fly in by helicopter from Auckland.

Olive picking at Earthsong Lodge

Earthsong Lodge

There’s a Saturday morning local food and produce market nearby. At the end of a short line of fruit and veg stalls I found Janene Hunsdale. By day, she works remotely as an IT expert. At the weekend she sells her Janene’s Ice Dreams lollies and ice creams. You’ll be introduced to some exciting local fruit flavours that you might not have tried before. When I visited, she gave me a taste of tamarillo ice cream, a tropical fruit similar to a tomato, as well as the local fruit feijoa.

Janene Hunsdale

Great Barrier Island will give you a very different view of New Zealand. The scenery is amazing, the peace and quiet is refreshing and it’s the perfect place to come for a few days if you want to get away from it all. It’s not a high-end luxury island (apart from Earthsong Lodge) – the accommodation is basic but comfortable. It’s the perfect place to bring kids if you want a safe ‘Swallows and Amazons’ style activity holiday, based around hiking, beaches or the water.

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