Destination of the Week: Great Barrier Island
Why you should go: With temperatures heating up, the flight from Auckland taking a minuscule 30 minutes and the longer (yet more idyllic) 4.5-hour ferry saturated in scenic views and dolphin sightings, visiting Aotea/Great Barrier Island is a no-brainer. So many reasons to go - and we haven't even touched the land yet. Once there, find every island stereotype you could dream of: golden beaches, turquoise water and laid-back vibes – it's like New Zealand met Rarotonga and made a mini motu.
Top spots: Literally any beach will leave you swooning. If the kids are in tow, there's a string of safe and sheltered bays. If you're lugging a board, the best surf is found at Medlands, Awana, and Okiwi Beach. Trampers can heave their body poles along the 2-3 day Aotea Track and pleasure-seekers can head to Kaitoke hot springs; an all-natural pool of gloriously warm water hidden in the folds of the forest. The entire island is a Dark Sky Sanctuary and there are tours to suit every whim, whether you're into stargazing, horse riding, zipping about on modified trikes, boat excursions or honey-making bees.
There are no banks, ATMs or public transport on the island but car rental companies, including shuttles are plentiful. For something different, Stay High Island Camping Co. rent vehicles with tents attached to the roof.
Best eats: Don't expect a string of bars and restaurants akin to the city but there are a handful of outposts to keep you fed and watered. Grab the first latte of the day from places such as Mulberry Grove Cafe and Pa Beach Cafe, lap up the sea views at Tipi & Bobs Waterfront Lodge and tuck into wood-fired pizzas at My Fat Puku.
For more on Great Barrier Island, see greatbarrier.co.nz