Far North in the South Pacific

Tramping New Zealand's North Island
  |  Gorp.com
Windy Canyon Track on Great Barrier Island, New Zealand
Windy Canyon Track on Great Barrier Island (Scott Venning/courtesy, Tourism New Zealand)

With my perspective appropriately adjusted to the antipodal, I set off to explore Great Barrier Island. Not to be confused with Australia's Great Barrier Reef, mountainous Great Barrier Island is about 55 miles northeast of Auckland (a 25-minute flight or a five-hour boat ride) and is a throwback to simpler times, with nicer accommodations. Two thirds of the 110-square-mile island is protected national park, and "tramping" (aka, hiking) to remote hot springs and surfing are the big activities here. Public utilities do not exist, and the lodge where I stayed generated electricity from solar panels, drew all its water from a nearby creek, and was constructed of straw bales for insulation. Earthsong Lodge proprietors Trevor and Carol Rendle are Slow Food enthusiasts and made nearly every meal from scratch, using ingredients grown on the island. Their fresh pesto zinged with local garlic and basil, but my favorites were the homemade "palate cleansers": lemon-celery sorbet and manuka honey ice cream.

I had the odd luck of being pinned down on Great Barrier Island by a cyclone (southern hemisphere–speak for hurricane). The violent winds made tramping in the forest a hazard for falling trees, so I spent my days walking the beaches, getting pummeled by horizontal rain yet remaining warm in the balmy temperatures.

When the weather cleared, a helicopter charter service triangulated the lodge's location with Trevor as the pilot hovered offshore scanning the dense forest for landmarks. "Follow the river up valley and look for the bright grass opening," Trevor extolled waving his arms from the grassy helipad.

Contacts: Glenfern Sanctuary Tour, a wildlife sanctuary for local flora and fauna; Chaos Charters, fishing and snorkelling tours; Skywork Helicopters
Where to Stay: Earthsong Lodge

Published: 3 Feb 2009 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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