12 Must-Do Hikes on Great Barrier Island
Backpack through one of Auckland’s most stunning islands!
Warm up in a natural hot pool, hike through dense forest to a summit with awe-inspiring views, then down the other side to cool off at a pristine bay, and everything in between! Great Barrier Island (Aotea) is connected with an an impressive network of walking and hiking tracks, giving us backpackers no reason to, well, leave the island… ever! There are plenty of hikes on Great Barrier Island to keep you busy.
Humans and wildlife alike have thrived off this forested island for years, and today Great Barrier Island is a huge conservation park just 90km away from Auckland city. The journey to the island by boat or flight is an experience in itself, let alone the journey through the island’s wilderness! See for yourself in our Great Barrier Island – Guide for Backpackers.
So whether you fancy yourself a day stroll or a multi-day adventure, Great Barrier Island will serve!
1. Aotea Track (3 day Loop)
Discover the mountainous inland of Great Barrier Island. The 25km loop track takes hikers deep into the forest and high onto the mountain tops with fantastic backcountry huts to stay overnight with views across the island. There is a mix of steep climbs to easy flat trails. Find out more about the Aotea Track, Auckland’s only multi-day walk, on our Aotea Track Guide.
Location: There are multiple entrances to the track. From Whanaparapara Road, take either the Kaitoke Hot Springs Track, Forest Road, Tramline Track, Tramline Track then Witneys Track, or Tramline Track then Pack Track. There are also entries from Aotea Road via the Tramline Track, Palmers Track, Coopers Castle Track. Finally, from the Kairara Bay area, take Forest Road.
2. Kaitoke Hot Springs Track (45 minutes one way)
This flat, easy and well-formed track made up of gravel and boardwalks leads directly to Great Barrier Island’s natural wonder. The Kaitoke Hot Springs are naturally heated by the rising ground water rising from underground volcanic activity. Relax under the ferns in a green pool and its network of streams. Continue on the Tramline Track then Peach Tree Track to continue to the summit of Mt Hobson (see below). See more 7 Free Natural Hot Springs in New Zealand.
Location: The Kaitoke Hot Springs Track is well signposted off Whangaparapara Road. You can also approach the other end of the track via the Tramline Track.
3. The summit of Mt Hobson (30 minutes one way)
As the highest mountain on Great Barrier Island at 627m, Mt Hobson (Hirakimata) is the ultimate island hiking goal. You will be rewarded with panoramic views across the entire island. You can even see Little Barrier Island which appears to be floating in the distance. The track to the summit starts from the Mt Heale Hut, with more wooden steps than we can count!
Location: The summit track starts from the Mt Heale Hut. Get there via the Hot Springs-Tramline Track-Peach Tree Track (4 hours one way), the Kaiaraara Track near Kairaara Hut (3 hours one way), or via Windy Canyon and the Palmers Track (2h30min one way).
4. Windy Canyon (10 minutes one way) and Palmer’s Track (2h30mins one way)
Windy Canyon is a short walk up some steps to awesome views through sheer rock faces. You can continue this hike up Palmer’s Track to the Mt Heale Hut then the Mt Hobson summit. Along the way, you’ll experience more and more incredible views across the island between regenerating forest. The Palmer’s Track also holds the Wooden Horse, a H-frame once used for lifting logs from one side of the saddle before flinging them down the other side.
Location: Start from Whangapoua Hill on Aotea Road.
5. Whangaparapara Peak Track (2 hours return)
A steep climb to the summit of Mt Whangaparapara (309m), the Whangaparapara Peak Track involves hauling yourself up through regenerating forest. Of course, there’s great views to be had of the Whangaparapara Harbour.
Location: Whangaparapara. The track starts close to the Green Campsite, near the beginning of the Tramline Track.
6. Te Ahumata Track (1 hour one way)
More climbs, more bush and more stunning views! The Te Ahumata Track follows an old mining road with gradual climbs leads to a brach track, taking you all the way to summit. You’ll walk past heaps of fascinating plant life and see a historic mine on the way to the summit at 398m.
Location: Can be started from either Whangaparapara Road or Blind Bay Road.
7. Old Lady Track (45 minutes one way)
Despite what the name suggests, you don’t want to be an old lady if taking the steep side-track to a great lookout spot over Port FitzRoy. Climb Port FitzRoy Hill following a stream through the forest.
Location: From Port FitzRoy, access the track via Glenfield Road.
8. Bridle Track and Warren’s Creek Track (1 hour one way)
Walk through a kauri tree plantation (the island once hosted a huge kauri logging industry), to a small picturesque waterfall: a great photo opportunity and swimming hole. The track is fairly easy with just a few gradual climbs.
Location: Start the Bridle Track from FitzRoy Store or Warrens Creek from near the Akapoua campsite.
9. Bush’s Beach Track (30 minutes one way) and Kiwiriki Track (4 hours one way)
These hiking tracks showcase some of the western shores and forest of Great Barrier Island. Look out for birdlife in these quiet areas. Bush’s Beach Track is mainly made up of boardwalks to protect the kauri from the kauri dieback disease. You’ll notice the shoe cleaning stations too. After checking out Bush’s Beach, continue on the Kiwiriki Track with some adventurous crossings over Coffin’s Creek (don’t be put off by the name) and Kiwiriki Stream.
Location: Start either from the Kairaara Hut on the Bush’s Beach Track or from Forest Road near Maungapiko.
10. South FOrk Track (3 hours one way)
This is the more adventurous route between the Kaiaraara Hut and Mt Heale Hut. You follow a shallow but beautifully clear stream for a section, crossing it several times along the way, before ascending into the forest and mountain sides. This is another great place to spot skinks and birds in between crossing a gnarly-looking (but perfectly safe) swingbridge.
Location: Start either 1km south of the Kaiaraara Hut or nearby the Mt Heale Hut.
11. Harataonga Coastal Walkway (4 hours one way)
If you want to do some campsite hopping with some great coastal views, then this is the track to be on! Additionally, there are no challenging gradients like much of Great Barrier’s walking tracks, so it is doable with a backpack and camping gear.
Location: The track starts at the Harataonga campsite and ends Aotea Road, south of the Okiwi Basin. You can then walk on to Whangapoua campsite.
12. Burrill Route (8 hours return)
The most challenging track of Great Barrier Island, you will need to be well prepared with water and reasonably fit, as some of the track involves scrambling in areas that are not as well managed as other tracks on the island. Climb through the northern forests of Great Barrier Island, Te Paparahi and up to Tataweka (526m).
Location: Start Burrill Route on Mabeys Road, northeast of Kawa Road.
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