Having run snapper and kingfish charters in the Hauraki Gulf for many years now, there’s one place that I find particularly special and almost always delivers on the fishing and diving front – Great Barrier Island.

Great Barrier Island is the largest and most seaward of Hauraki Gulf’s islands. The eastern shore of Great Barrier Island faces the ocean with high cliffs and long white surf beaches, while the western side offers sheltered anchorages and calm bays. More than 60% of the island is public land administered by the Department of Conservation.
The native forest is home to numerous walking tracks which lead to natural hot springs, relics of the island’s logging and mining history, and several rare plant and bird species.

Getting there

There are a variety of options available to get out to Great Barrier Island. You can grab a water taxi from Auckland which will take a couple of hours, jump on the car ferry which will be a slower journey, take a scenic 30 minute flight from Auckland airport, or take your own boat over. If you want to take your own vessel, it’s a decent run of 50 nautical miles from Auckland city or 30 miles if departing from Sandspit, so check the weather and be well prepared.

Accommodation and anchorages

If you’re going landbased on the island, there are an abundance of beautiful lodges, bed and breakfasts, backpackers and campgrounds scattered around the island, primarily around the main settlements (Tryphena, Medlands, Claris, Okupu, Whangaparapara, Awana, Okiwi and Port Fitzroy).
The most sheltered anchorages are found along Great Barrier’s western shore, and Port Fitzroy is the favourite for many visiting boaties due to both its shelter from all wind quarters and stunning scenery. I also find Port Fitzroy a very reliable area to catch prime jack mackerel livebaits. In the right conditions, the east coast, normally exposed to oceanic swells, can be a stunning place to anchor for the night – particularly the cove at Arid Island which is a standout experience for many.

Fishing

Great Barrier caters for all manner of fishing experiences and being a large island, there will be somewhere to fish no matter what the weather’s doing. I’ve only scratched the surface of the fishing potential here, but I can give some general direction. If you’re into slow-jigging and workup action, then look no further than the western side of the island, particularly the area around the Pigeon Rocks and the Broken Islands, which are home to a large gannet colony. In 40-50m of water this area can really fire with big snapper and kingfish. The fishing is great around the year, but the most intense workups I’ve seen here have been through winter. 

The northern and eastern coastline provide mile after mile of prime moocher snapper territory for soft-baiting or stray-lining close to the rocks and reefs. Kingfish regularly cruise this same territory, so having a livebait or topwater set ready to go for when his majesty turns up can pay dividends. If your main focus is kingfish, target the exposed reefs, headlands and pinnacles around the island. Spots worth mentioning include Cape Barrier, Motuhaku Island, Miner’s Head, the Needles and the pinnacles around Arid Island.
If you’re really lucky, you will sometimes encounter schools of kingfish working pilchards or mackerel right against the island’s western shore. Look for gannets bombing into the shallows and get ready for some crazy stickbait action!

For the more adventurous fishos, hapuka and tarakihi can be found around the deeper foul northeast of Arid Island, and in the warmer months striped and blue marlin are regularly encountered to the north and east of the island – a hotspot being the 155 which you’ll find easily on the chart. Further afield there are a number of very productive swordfish locations closely guarded by those in the know! By all accounts, the landbased fishing on the island can be very productive for both snapper and kingfish, although I’ve never tried myself. The popular spots are Cape Barrier, Medlands, Awana and Whangapoua.

Diving

The crystal-clear waters around Great Barrier make it a diver’s paradise. Scallops can be found in Tryphena, Blind Bay, Port Abercrombie and various other sandy locations on the island’s western side. The beds have been in reasonable condition over the last couple of seasons. Both red and packhorse crayfish can be encountered right around the island and in surprisingly shallow water. As a general rule of thumb: the more remote the location, the
more bugs you’ll find. Legal paua can also be found in certain spots on the eastern coast around the boulder falls.
So, there you have a very quick rundown on Great Barrier Island. I truly recommend experiencing the place for yourself – you will not regret it!

Article by:            Nick Jones