A Herald series discovering the secrets of the best New Zealand islands to visit this summer.

You might want to allocate more than a day if you want to experience all that Great Barrier Island has to offer.

"We could go for two days and still not see all of it," says Chris Ollivier, who moved to the island 14 years ago. "It's a unique part of the country."

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Ollivier, who owns and operates Hooked on Barrier Charters, says the boat charters are increasingly being used for sightseeing rather than fishing, which is more family-friendly and fits with his conservationist approach.

"The fishing trips would tend to be for one or two members of the family, but the sightseeing tours are for the whole family."

He says the business is getting busier, with as many charters in October this year as usually run in January.

Chris Ollivier says you'll need more than a couple of days to experience Great Barrier Island to the fullest. Photo / Supplied
Chris Ollivier says you'll need more than a couple of days to experience Great Barrier Island to the fullest. Photo / Supplied

Since Ollivier came to the island, the business has gone from offering only fishing trips to becoming 80 per cent sightseeing tours, he says.

"That process is part of the effect the island has on you. It changes the way you see things and that's what I'm trying to pass on."

Ollivier takes the chance during the tour to share the history of the island, which is part of Department of Conservation and Auckland Council's Pest Free Hauraki Gulf initiative.

Visitors can see gannets, pods of dolphins, and even whales here - and the beaches and bays are prime spots for surfing, kayaking and swimming.

Okiwi Passion provides fresh produce to Great Barrier locals and visitors. Photo / Bree Biederman
Okiwi Passion provides fresh produce to Great Barrier locals and visitors. Photo / Bree Biederman

On land there's no shortage of activities. Local market garden and orchard Okiwi Passion has been in business on the island since 2007, providing both locals and visitors with fresh garden produce.

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You can get your fruit and veges picked to order here and experience a taste of the island.

Owners Gerald and Caity Endt say they're lucky to be able to grow organic produce on what can be an extreme environment.

"We offer people on the island something different, it's fresh and it's seasonal," Caity says.

Caity and Gerald Endt have been growing produce on Great Barrier since 2007. Photo / Bree Biederman
Caity and Gerald Endt have been growing produce on Great Barrier since 2007. Photo / Bree Biederman

"There's a huge spike in visitors from Christmas through to early January, word of mouth spreads pretty fast and we're growing every year."

For keen walkers, there's the several-days-long Aotea Track walk, while the Kaitoke Hot Springs waits to reward you at the end of an hour's walk.

And when night falls on Great Barrier, the starry-eyed will enjoy the guided stargazing evenings with a Dark Sky Ambassador.

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Great Barrier is the only island in the world with Dark Sky Sanctuary status - this is the perfect way to round out a day on the island.

Great Barrier Island

Location: Hauraki Gulf, 100km northeast of central Auckland

Size: 285 square km

Population: 852 (as of 2006)

How to get there: a 35-minute light plane flight or a 4.5-hour passenger and car ferry trip

Highlights: Walks, beaches, hot springs, stargazing, lodges, charter fishing boats, and sightseeing tours