A unforgettable trip to 'The Barrier'
A trip to Great Barrier Island is good for the soul.
"Mike, came over the PA System and pointed out a pod of whales below us. Mike even made a few turns to allow us to snap some photos."
We had been looking forward to our two-week holiday in New Zealand to celebrate our 15-year anniversary for around six months. After trawling the internet, many calls to travel agencies and several conversations with close friends who had spent time in New Zealand, we had our itinerary by-andlarge mapped out. The portion of our trip which we were most looking forward to, and certainly delivered beyond our expectations, was our three-day stay on the beautiful Great Barrier Island. Our transport of choice was Barrier Air’s new Cessna Grand Caravan flying from Auckland International Airport. The aircraft was fitted with a very smart leather interior, was quiet and rivalled the aircraft used by much bigger airlines in terms of comfort – a rare feat for a local airline. A bubbly young lady called Brooke checked us in at Auckland and helped us with some last minute essential “Barrier” tips. We boarded our aircraft and set off over the stunning turquoises of the Hauraki Gulf for our 25-minute flight. Just as the Coromandel Peninsula was passing by the right-hand side of the aircraft our pilot, Mike, came over the PA System and pointed out a pod of whales below us. Mike even made a few turns to allow us to snap some photos. We also saw a group of huge manta rays swimming North to warmer waters. The flight would have been worth taking simply as a scenic tour. Once we arrived on Great Barrier Island, we headed off to our accommodation at Trillium
Lodge. Lynda and Jo met us at the lodge and instantly made us feel welcome. We were shown to the Tryphena Suite which had an ensuite and small private deck. We were blown away with the mountain and ocean views from our suite. We spent the rest of our first day touring the island, checking out local cafes and eateries, the art gallery, and watching the surfers on the water at Okiwi on the northern side of the Island. At night, we enjoyed a drink on our private deck in awe of what is known to be “the best stargazing experience in New Zealand”, made possible by the striking lack of light polution. The next day we embarked on a tour of the island with Steve from Go Great Barrier. We hopped on board Steve’s impressive trike, affectionately known as “Crazyhorse” and headed north through Medlands and Claris to the Kaitoke hot springs. These natural hot springs are on the edge of the Kaitoke wetlands and are at the end of a 40-minute level bush walk that meanders through luscious nikau groves and over boardwalks and bridges. At a pre-arranged time, Steve picked us up back at the beginning of the walk then it was off to grab some lunch at the My Fat Puku Cafe. After lunch, we headed to the Kaitoke Creek for a paddle down to the northern end of Kaitoke beach for a swim and beach walk. Our final day exploring this island paradise included walking the tracks and
trails managed by the Department of Conservation. The highlight was reaching the summit of Mount Hobson after a stunning four-hour walk through native New Zealand bush where we encountered a rich abundance of native New Zealand wildlife and birds. Our trip to Great Barrier Island and, in particular, the way we were welcomed by the locals left us revitalized. “The Barrier” is just plain good for the soul. We had been drawn to “The Barrier” by its eco-friendly and free-spirited reputation. While we had to adjust slightly to the off-grid nature of the island, no essential comfort was gone without. Our flight back to Auckland with Barrier Air departed Claris Airport in the early evening. The disappointment at not having spent
long enough enjoying Great Barrier Island was quickly put to the back of my mind, when, noticing my interest in aircraft, our pilot (Garry this time) offered to let me sit up the front with him. That flight was the best way I could think of to end what was a remarkable experience. We plan to return to Great Barrier Island this Summer and cannot wait to try our hand at some of the best fishing in New Zealand and walk several of the other conservation trails. Who knows, maybe a holiday home on “The Barrier” is on the cards?