• Blue seas and dramatic cliffs of Rakitu Island
  • Ginni and the Needles
  • Native kaka parrot
  • Fun day around Kaikura
  • Evening in the Broken Islands
  • Pacific Ocean swells
  • West coast of the Barrier
  • Shelter from the wind
  • It's a water sport!
  • One of many caves around the Barrier
  • Playing in the surf at Haraotonga
  • Peaceful sunrise inside the lagoon

Great Barrier Island, New Zealand

Genuine Kiwi adventure

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Great Barrier Island is located in the Hauruki Gulf, a 4-5 hour ferry ride from Auckland. Named by James Cook during his exploration of the Southern Ocean the island acts as a protective barrier between the Pacific Ocean on its eastern side and the Hauraki Gulf to the west.

Why do we love it so much that we want to share it with you? Because this is one of NZ’s unsung wilderness areas, a paradise of dense forests, convoluted coastline and craggy peaks. The wildlife is reminiscent of NZ 100 years ago. You will get to hang out with 3/4 of the world’s population of Pateke (Brown Teal) and be as near as you will ever get to the rare Kaka (NZ parrot). At camp a few Banded Rails are always mucking around whilst Ruru (Morepork/ Native owl) provide a gentle soundtrack at night. Frisky little blue penguins frolic in the waters.

Great Barrier has a wild coast and a slightly less wild coast. The Eastern side is open to the Pacific with little shelter, many surf beaches and some very committing paddle days!It’s also stunningly beautiful!! Rakitu (Arid Island) is spectacular beyond belief and a great day paddle when the swell is down. “The Needles” at the Northern End of the Island are towering rock formations making up the North cape of the island. Rounding them is the pinnacle of any paddle expedition to GBI, and a feat that takes a combination of hard work, good tidal planning and some luck with the weather!

The Western coast is considerably more user friendly to paddlers with whole series of indented bays just waiting to be explored by kayak. There are numerous stunning beaches to camp on, great cliff paddling and whole island groups to explore. Shelter from the open ocean makes this side easier to plan around but a stiff E wind can still kick up a good chop.

For those that like to Snorkel the water around the whole island is typically spectacularly clear and the ocean is teeming with life! We’ve seen giant stingrays, curious cuttlefish, a spectacular variety of algae, tasty urchins, and many fish.

Great Barrier has fantastic hiking through its prehistoric landscape. From easy walks to visit hot pools, to challenging days climbing the rocky peak of Mt Hobson, nesting ground of the rare black petrel, there is walking to suit everyone. The tracks make excellent fallback plans when the wind is up and paddling unattractive. Hiking here is a fantastic way to get a bit of insight into GBI’s fascinating pioneer history with relics of both whaling and forestry industry littered through the bush and bays. The mighty Kauri trees that brought the loggers can be viewed making their patient comeback in the densely forested valleys.

A good road network links the different parts of the Island and for this trip we will use vehicle support to give us the option to move and take in the best bits of the island as and when the weather gives us the breaks we need to make the best of different areas. It also makes visiting the Kaitoke hot-pools at the end of a hard days paddle a feasible activity. Having the Van and Trailer close to hand will mean that every day can be packed and adventure filled, no need to be wind bound on one side of the island whilst the other has perfect conditions to play!

New Zealand Sea Kayak Adventures, the longest-standing owner-operated outfitter in the country, and now in its second generation, is the outfitter for this trip. Sea Kayak Baja Mexico owner Ginni Callahan explored Great Barrier Island in 2015, fell in love with it, and ran 2 commercial trips there, the last one with NZSKA. We can wholeheartedly recommend Magnus, Ana, and Dave, and their excellent operation, for any trip, and for the Barrier in particular.

Most of the kayaks are Australian designed Q-Kayak Skuas, polyethylene sea kayaks with rudders. It’s a solid model, well loved and well tested by rock-hopping enthusiasts who abound in New Zealand sea kayaking culture! Greenland paddles are available.

February is the end of summer in New Zealand. The water is still warm. It’s a perfect time to experience this remote and fascinating part of the world.

For photos from prior trips, please see the Barrier Trip Photos.


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Dates & Prices

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