Positioned as a guardian for the inner waters of New Zealand's Hauraki Gulf, Great Barrier Island is 55 mi/90 km from downtown Auckland, a 30-minute flight or nearly five hours by ferry. Fullers Ferries operates a faster, passenger-only service in summer months, which brings the trip down to two hours. The island gets busy December-early January, but it's quiet for the rest of the year. Given its proximity to Auckland, it's a convenient option for those wanting a real out-of-the-way New Zealand experience. You'll find that Great Barrier Islanders are a special breed, and they still see themselves as separate from mainland New Zealand.
Cars can be rented on the island, and accommodation options are plentiful and varied—from rustic campsites to luxury lodges and everything in between. Activities include swimming, hiking, fishing, bird-watching, and viewing natural hot pools in the forest and old whaling stations. The Barrier Island's beaches boast white sand, rolling surf and sheltered bays—and it's easy to find a whole stretch of coast to enjoy all to yourself.
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