Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live in a simpler world?

A world where you’re not constantly overwhelmed with information. Somewhere you are truly present with your surroundings. 

Well, I couldn’t believe this was possible on Great Barrier Island, an island less than 100 kilometres from the heart of Auckland. 

My trip started with a short 30-minute flight over the Hauraki Gulf, offering scenic views of Auckland and the islands nearby. You can also get to “The Barrier” as the locals call it by ferry, but if you have a clear day, the views from the flight are hard to beat.

Great Barrier Island is a simpler world

Great Barrier Island offered me some much-needed respite from the buzz of the city. Four days exploring this amazing place was a much-needed escape from the world. 

There is no power grid on the island, everything is powered with solar panels and generators. With less than a thousand inhabitants and only one main road on the road, I felt truly disconnected. 

The remote island reminded me that there is more to life than Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. 

Upon arrival, I headed to Medlands Beach to camp overnight and partake in the Dark Sky Experience.

Great Barrier is a dark sky sanctuary, one of ten locations in the world, earning the designation from the International Dark Sky Association for having exceptional quality of starry nights. The weather conditions prohibited me from seeing the full colourful Milky Way Galaxy that I’ve seen in photographs. I had an exceptional night of stargazing, looking through binoculars and a high-powered telescope at galaxies, constellations, and planets in the night sky. 

After a great night’s sleep in my tent, I hiked the Aotea track, looping through the heart of Great Barrier Island. 

With stunning 360-degree panaroma views, I enjoyed taking in the verdant mountains, long white sandy beaches, and the islands out in the bay. 

Great Barrier Island is a simpler world

I was sad to miss out on a sunset or a sunrise on the hike – it would have been incredible. 

Typically, the track takes three days and two nights to complete, but I chose to combine two of the days into one. That made for a challenging day hike, but it was well worth it in the end.

The walk into Port Fitzroy handful of beaches and lookouts to view the sunset over the wharf stargaze once it gets dark.

The next day of hiking followed a gravel mountain bike track to the end of the trail. It was an exhausting hike, with several long, rolling hills. Hard work with a heavy hiking pack! 

The Kaitoke Hot Springs at the end of the track made the hike well-worth it. The pools are heated by a geo-thermal epicenter underneath a stream – it was a rewarding and highly relaxing way to finish off the hike. 

Great Barrier Island is a simpler world

My final night on Great Barrier was spent at the Green Campsite in Whangaparapara, in the company of fellow travellers. It was a surprise to meet people at the camp, after a few days in isolation, with limited human interaction on the hike. It was a fun evening! I have found that Kiwis are extremely welcoming and friendly, and the people I met on Great Barrier were no exception.

The next day, after a few short hiking detours on my way back to Claris, the main town, I flew back to Auckland to continue “normal” life. Great Barrier Island exceeded all expectations and I’m so glad I had the opportunity to experience this magical place. Certainly, a trip I will never forget!

Michael Kaufman
From United States of America