Bike touring Great Barrier (Aotea) Island

You can always tell when you’re on a good trip by the number of photos you take while away. Our trip to Great Barrier Island (GBI) was one of those great trips that we talk about and recommend to everyone. It had been on our bucket list for quite some time and now we had the chance to go. Originally we were going to take the car, A-van (our pop-up trailer) and all our toys for kayaking, biking and of course fishing, but the $1500 price tag of the return trip from Auckland to GBI on the ferry made us have a re-think. In the end we decided to take our touring bikes, and this turned out to be a great decision.

GBI is situated off the coast of the Coromandel Peninsula (only 10km from the top of the Peninsula) but the two main ways to access the island is via ferry or to fly from Auckland. We decided to ferry which meant we rode our bikes from my sisters house in Auckland to the ferry on the morning of the first day.

Auckland waking up on Monday morning.

We arrived on the island 4.5 hours later in Tryphena and felt like we had slipped back in time. We rode on roads where there was little traffic, and what traffic we met was travelling not much faster than us. Probably half our route had us riding on designated dual use trails with no cars at all. There are 900 residents living on the island which, apart from a little tourism, we wondered what the rest of them do. One of the locals on the ferry suggested some of them may do a bit of drug trafficking.

We came fully self sufficient intending to camp for the three nights. We had less gear than usual due to the warm weather forecast. The first day we rode from Tryphena through to Medlands Beach, then over the Te Ahumata Track to The Green Campsite (for our first nights camping).

Medlands Beach

Te Ahumata Trail

Some desert like plants we found on the Te Ahumata Trail – very spiky and hardy.

The Green Campsite

An evening walk to an abandoned timber mill.

Because the total distances around the island are so short (on average our riding distance was around 30km per day) we decided to walk a 15km loop on day two – pretty much to fill in the day for us action bunnies. Day two took us from The Green Camp over an old forestry road to Kaiaraara Hut. From there we parked up the bikes and walked to the summit of the tallest hill on the island Mt Hobson 626m. What we really noticed this day was how much bird life there is on the island. There were lots of Kaka (NZ parrots), Tui, Fantails and all sorts of other birds that we didn’t know the names of. They didn’t appear to have any fear of humans and just ignored us and went about their daily business while we gawked at them.

The other thing that struck us was the amazing amount of money and time the Department of Conservation (DOC) and the locals had put into building and maintaining the trails and keeping pest numbers down.

More great views from the top of Mt Hobson.

There were kilometres of this type of boardwalk on the trails up Mt Hobson.

Mt Healy.

The view from Mt Healy hut. We both agreed this is a pretty stunning location for a hut.

This sign says it all.

Day three had us riding more sweet off road trails through Port Fitzroy and onto our camp for the night at Harataonga. This was one of the nicest campsites we have ever stayed at and we were entertained by the local Kaka for hours. They even started to squawk at each other at 2am (not so entertaining at that time)!

The view just before Port Fitzroy.

More steps at Windy Canyon.

Harataonga campsite.

Our last day had us biking back to Tryphena to catch the ferry, but first there were the local hot pools to go and check out on the way.

I would say Tony was giving his aching muscles some relief, but we had only biked 15km so far that day. This is a lovely spot.

Our final idyllic beach view before climbing back onto the ferry.

Our route.

The red lines are where we cycled, the blue lines are where we walked.

Getting there and away.

For information about ferry crossings go to: or Ph 0800732546.

Passenger costs are around $150 – $180 return for passengers. In addition to a standard fare Bikes cost $20 extra per direction. There are peak fare prices during December and January, and on public holiday weekends.

Flying (a much faster option):

Great Barrier Air operates regular flights from Auckland Airport and North Shore Aerodrome to Claris. Prices are around $230 return and an additional cost of $35 (or $50 return) applies to bikes. They can only get two bikes on per flight so it pays to book. The only requirement is the front wheel is removed and the chain is wrapped. For more info check out: or 0800900600


Two solemates sharing bikepacking adventures that are off the beaten track.

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