90km NE of Auckland, about 3 hours by ferry and 30mins by plane Great Barrier Island (Aotea) is a ‘world of its own’. Although part of Auckland Central the island is as different to any city as you could get. Take a trip back in time to when roads were unsealed and drivers acknowledged one another. There are no banks, no traffic lights and just a few shops. Water is mainly what comes from the sky and power is generated by generator and/or alternative power systems.
On the west coast are steep, forest covered ranges with Hirakimata the highest peak at 621m. On the eastern coast sweeping white sand beaches, tidal creeks and wetlands. The absence of possums has allowed the plant life to flourish and there is an impressive variety of birds, many of which are threatened and/or endangered. Although logged extensively in the past much of the island is now covered with regenerating forest and bush and some fine stands of kauri still remain. In June 2014 the last remaining Kauri Dam was destroyed in a storm which caused extensive damage to roads and tracks at the northern end of the island.
Explore a variety of walking tracks from a short walk to visit a waterfall or some hot springs to the longer walk taking you to the highest most point of the island. View the regenerating forest of native trees, and enjoy the unspoilt natural beauty along with panoramic views.
From beaches to sheltered bays and steep forest covered hills to mangrove estuaries the Barrier has a diverse landscape. The brown teal duck, black petrel, North Island kaka, banded rail, NZ dotterel and chevron skink are just some of the endangered species this habitat provides for.
There is always a welcoming smile and a hand of friendship for visitors to this small Barrier community of about 900. The pace of life is slower here usually and things don’t always happen on time, they happen in ‘Barrier time’. This is a unique and special place not just because of it’s beauty but for the tranquillity, the peace and quiet it has to offer all who wish to experience it.
Great Barrier Island was named such by Captain Cook who sighted the island whilst sailing, on the Endeavour,up from the Firth of Thames and crossing the Hauraki Gulf between Cape Colville and Point Rodney on 23rd November 1769. Aotea is the Maori name for the island.
Hirakimata (Mt Hobson) is a mountain of significance in Ngati Wai tradition and identity. ‘Hira-ki-mata’ literally means ‘the mountain that is visible to the eye from a wide area’.
DOGS: If you bring your dog to the island don’t forget to carry proof of registration and always check first with your accommodation provider. Dogs are prohibited on all DOC public conservation land and boaties should note that there are no beaches in the Port FitzRoy Harbour to exercise dogs. Click here for Dog Exercise Areas
Port FitzRoy and the North Barrier were originally settled by Ngati Wai, who were joined by European settlers in 1838. Descendants of both still reside in the area.
Walking tracks allow visitors to experience the lush native bush and it’s hidden treasures, crystal clear streams, abundance of wildlife and the site of the historic kauri dam which was destroyed in a storm in June 2014.
Port FitzRoy is the ideal base from which to walk the Windy Canyon/Hirakimata (Mt Hobson) track which is undoubtedly one of New Zealand’s best one day walks. There are also shorter walks including to Lookout Rock from where the photo was taken. For those keen on boating, fishing or diving there are sheltered harbours and just over the hill magnificent Whangapoua Beach offers sand, surf and safe swimming.
For a time Rehua and his second wife Waipahihi lived peacefully in a whare on an island just off the east coast of Aotea. Mataa, who was still aggrieved after previous conflicts and frightened that Rehua would strike again decided to act first. While on the island Waipahihi was shown an omen in the form of a lightning strike at the cliff face on the main mountain of Aotea. It was not until she arrived home and found her husband burnt alive inside their whare that the sign became clear. After Rehua’s death two names arose, firstly the mountain where Waipahihi was shown the omen carries the name Hirakimata (lightning striking the cliff face) and secondly the island where they live, called Rakitu (upright lightning). Because Rehua was a leading chief amongst the Kawerau people his death was viewed as a kohuru (murder). The main mountain on Aotea and the island where he lived is now forever connected to his death.
Ngati rehua ngātiwai ki aotea