Station Rock Track to Medlands Beach via Kowhai Valley Track

View from Station Rock Track

It is a good idea to start this from the top at Station Rock end. Unless you really like steep hills. 🙂

Station Rock track is a fairly new track. Originally it only went up to Station Rock but now it has been extended. It follows along the ridge-line to meet Kowhai Valley Track. This means you can do a nice loop by walking up the Medlands Hill, along Station Rock, and then drop down Kowhai Valley track back onto Medlands Beach.

Station Rock

The track up to Station Rock is good. The next part of the track is brand new and well marked but it can be muddy and slippery. When you get to the  Station Rock turn off, maybe 15 mins in, it is worth going to have a look at the view. Looking west you can see down the valley to Medlands. And looking east you get a good view of Tryphena and Coromandel.

Station Rock lookout

You can also see one of the radio masts for Aotea FM.

After going back to the turnoff you can head south along the ridge line. I was a little disappointed in the views but perhaps that was because I had seen them before. It is really more of a nice walk in the bush. A lot of work has been put into the track but unfortunately the pigs have decided it was all for them.

Station Rock Track view

Kowhai Valley Track

Kowhai Valley Track runs from Rosalie Bay road down to Medlands Beach. Station Rock track joins on about 200m down from the road. If you have the time go up and have a look if John Kargaards gallery. Otherwise it is downhill for quite a way. There is a seat near the bottom of the incline and then you go through some coastal forest before coming out onto Primrose Road at Medlands.

Kaitoke Hot Springs to Mt Heale Hut via Peach Tree track

Kaitoke Hot Springs Track

Kaitoke Hot Springs track is probably the most walked piece of track on Great Barrier Island. It is also the easiest. Being almost flat helps. If there was a track to take someone in a wheelchair on, this would be it. Do a test run first, but it should be fine.

The track starts on Whangaparapara road. There is parking and it is maybe an hours walk from the Claris Airport so it isn’t hard to get to. Another good idea is to get Steve and Lebee to drop you off and pick you up at the other end.  I don’t know how much it costs but they seem to do it quite a lot.

It takes about three quarters of an hour to get to the hot springs. There is a toilet there and if you follow the path around to the left you can find some hotter pools up stream. There is also a deeper one at the top that isn’t as hot but is still the best.

If you cross the bridge the track keeps on going up steps. At the top there is a seat with a nice view of the Kaitoke Swamp. There are a couple more steps and that is about all the climbing until the start of Peach Tree Track. At the bottom of the hill the Hot Springs Track joins onto Tramline Track.

Tramline Track

Tramline Track runs all the way from Whangaparapara almost to Windy Canyon. Both ends of it are quite steep but the middle is flat and straight. Easy walking.

Tramline Track

Peach Tree Track

Peach Tree Track runs off Tramline where an old whare used to be. I have been told the peach tree wasn’t there though. It may even be still around. It is an interesting sign to read though.

Almost immediately after starting the track you begin to ascend. There had been recent track work when I went up to try and stop the spread of PTA there is a washing station at the start of most of the tracks on Great Barrier.

Once you get out of the larger Manuka into the smaller scrub-lands you are halfway there. The vegetation changes and you cross a stream where an old Kauri Dam used to be. After that it is a fairly steady climb until the junction with Southfork near Mt Heale Hut.

It is always a good idea to look at the view on the way up though. 🙂

Te Ahumata (Whitecliffs) Track

Te Ahumata - Looking down.

Te Ahumata Track is a nice walk to the top of Te Ahumata (Whitecliffs). Roughly an hour and a half up and down again. Parking is right across the road at the Forest Road track entrance.

Te Ahumata track entrance

It is a fairly gentle walk to begin with. Following the ridge and curving around until getting to the turnoff to the top. If you keep on going without turning off you end up in Okupu.

Although the track is quite good and I didn’t get my feet wet in sneakers you do have to be careful in parts as the mud can be slippery and the moss deeper and wetter than it looks.

There are good views up toward Hirakimata (Mt Hobson) and down into the Kaitoke swamp and the northern end of Kaitoke Beach.

After the turn off the path does become a touch steeper and rugged as a lot of water comes down and the clay is gouged and slippery. It isn’t to bad though and soon you get to an area where you can look over the ridge down into Blind Bay.

I like this spot. In the distance is Coromandel, but if you look down the valley then you can see Blind Bay wharf which means Davey Owens house is down there. I have to resist the urge to yell,”Have another Waikato!” in the voice of god.

Looking down toward Blind Bay Wharf

Once you get to the top there are views in every direction. Down into the Kaitoke and Medlands Valleys. Out to sea off both side of the Barrier. Up north across the bush. I had forgotten how nice it was as I hadn’t been up for a while.

Te Ahumata advice

There isn’t really any drinkable water up there especially in summer so it might be an idea to take some liquids up with you. It can also be windy and a little exposed. Coming down is worse than going up if there is a bit of rain. Footwear with good grip is advised.

The Barrier Wave

Barrier Wave

The Barrier Wave is a special thing. And I’m not talking about the surf. I am talking about the way people wave at you as they go past in a car. Some are instantly identifiable by their wave, some are cursory, some are exaggerated, and some are hilarious.

You see it in other parts of the country in rural areas. I have always thought of it as not just a, “Hi! How are you?” but more of a recognition of the other persons existence. I am here, you are here.

It is also very hard to stop doing. When you drive of the ferry at Auckland it usually takes about ten to fifteen minutes to stop automatically waving at everyone. Half because of the weird looks you get and half because your hand gets tired.

I sometimes joke that as I am driving off the edge of the road I’ll probably be waving.

Luke Nola has done a short video on it so I am posting it here to make it a little easier to find in case I ever get homesick. It is a nice slice of Great Barrier Islands population, at a party.

The Barrier Wave

The Barrier Wave – Part 2

The Barrier Wave – Part 3

Emma’s Vegetarian Lasagna

Vegetarian Lasagna

A vegetarian lasagna made for a couple of us on Te Araroa by the wonderful Emma and Harry. Easy to make and even easier to eat.


  • Half a large crown pumpkin
  • 2-3pm large orange Kumara (orange is important)
  • 2 Brown onions
  • A few garlic cloves
  • 1 can of tomatoes (can use Mexican if you want spice)
  • 1 can of corn
  • Quite a lot of cheese hahah
  • Lasagne sheets
  • Milk
  • Butter
  • Flour
  • Spinach
  • (Mushrooms optional)

Lasagna instructions

So you make cheese sauce with butter in a pan, heat up milk, sift some flour in there or itll go lumpy, add truck loads of cheese (just taste until you like the intensity)

You’ll need a full pan of the sauce.

Then start with a base layer of the sheets, pumpkin and Kumara mix on top of that, slice the onions lengthwise so they just come out in little c shapes, that’s hard to explain sorry but instead of dicing them slice them so all the layers in the onion just pop out, throw the onion and garlic cloves on top, then half a can of tomatoes, another layer of sheets, a layer of cheese sauce, more pumpkin and Kumara mix, spinach, half a can of corn, lasagna sheets, half tomatoes, more pumpkin and Kumara mix, onion etc, more tomatoes, more cheese sauce, then I throw in a mixture of herbs (best if fresh) oregano, some basil but not too much, chives, layer of pastry again then cheese sauce on top (important for all sheets to be covered or they will go hard) then grated cheese on top.

Vegetarian Lasagna

Farro Salad

Farro Salad

This is a farro salad my father makes. It is delicious, try it.

The original recipe can be found here. I have copied it over just in case they take it down. You don’t have to use the exact ingredients but it does give you a good idea of the flavours you are looking for.


2 Tbsp of Forum Cabernet Sauvignon vinegar
2 cloves garlic, crushed or chopped finely
Ortiz anchovies , chopped finely
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Whisk all of the dressing ingredients together.


1 bag Girolomoni organic farro
150g El Navarrico pimiento slices
3-4 Tbsp Sabato salted capers (soaked for half an hour then drained)
125g Sabato semi-dried cherry tomatoes , sliced
½ 185g jar Salvagno pitted olives (drain and save the oil)
1 green chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1 handful of fresh rocket, chopped
75g Kernelz walnut pieces , toasted in a 170˚C oven for 10 minutes or starting to brown
50g Italian parsley, chopped

Cook the farro in plenty of boiling salted water for 20 minutes. Drain well.

Mix all the salad ingredients together. Dress the salad, mixing well. Season with salt and pepper. Make this salad a little ahead of time and let the flavours develop.


replace semi-dried tomatoes with fresh cherry tomatoes cut in half, or use shredded basil for the rocket. Crumble goats’ cheese over salad just before serving or add BBQed zucchini strips.

Farro salad recipe



Mt Heale Hut to Harataonga Beach

It was cold and clear when I woke up at Mt Heale Hut. I probably should have been more proactive and gone to the summit for sunrise but instead I cleaned the hut. There had been a rat the night before. Probably because of the food people had left behind.

Really, on the bench there was an egg, and open UHT cream, 1/10th of a bag of chips, a little bit of cider, and some butter. A little note beside them proclaimed that the egg and cream were good on the 15/06/17. What a wonderful person to leave their rubbish behind for others to carry out. There was probably around 3kg of left overs as well.

Rubbish at the Mt Heale hut.

Hirakimata (Mt Hobson)

After leaving the hut you skirt around the base of Mt Heale and then up a large old slip (same big storm) to the start of the stairs that lead to the summit of Hirakimata (Mt Hobson). There are quite a few of them.

Hirakimata is home to a Black Petrel colony but you don’t see much of them. You might be better to sit down in Whangapoua at sunrise or sunset? That’s the only time I have seen them. There are the usual calls of Kaka (demented parrot) and Pīwakawaka (fantail).

The upper part of Hirakimata was one of the only places on the Island that wasn’t logged or burnt off so it still has original bush. From the summit you pretty much have a 360 degree view of the Barrier and surrounding landscape. Nice place for a break.

Palmers Track

Taking Palmers Track away from Hirakimata you follow the ridgeline to Windy Canyon. There isn’t much full bush which means you get really good views down into the Whangapoua basin and Kaitoke, Awana valleys. The track is good and clear but can be slippery in the wet.

Halfway along is an arch made of tree trunks. This was part of a logging system. It is incredible how valuable logs must have been back then. It is also incredible how few remain.

Further on is Windy Canyon. It is worth stopping at the top of the stairs and looking back down the valley at the columns rising from it. There is a triptych in the waiting room of the Claris Health Centre. It’s worth looking at. 🙂

Whangapoua Basin from the top of Windy Canyon.

Palmers Track winds through Windy Canyons steep slopes and then carries on until you reach the road. I was going to The Harataonga Coastal Walkway tracks northern end so I turned left on the road and started down Okiwi Hill.

Harataonga Coastal Walkway

Strangely, when you get to the start of the Harataonga Coastal Walkway the sign says there  is cellphone coverage. This isn’t actually true. Probably the last cell coverage you will have will be as you leave the Whangapoua Basin at the end of the peninsula.

The Harataonga Coastal Walkway is stunning. It isn’t steep, the track is well maintained, it has great views of Rakitu (Arid Island), and small beaches. Unfortunately, you can’t go to the beaches as it is private land. Both sides of the track are private land.

When you get to Harataonga it will more than make up for that. As will the camp ground with sheep and geese wandering around. Eels in the stream and no one there.

Forest Road to Mt Heale via Southfork

One end of Forest Road starts at Port Fitzroy and the other at Whangaparapara Road. I started at the Whangaparapara end. It was closer.

Forest Road

The entire track is supposed to be 13km and it can feel that long.  It follows the ridge line at either end but there are three deep valleys and, especially heading south, a hill that seems to climb forever. Forest Road can be quite slippery at times. You definitely have to keep an eye on where your feet are going when it is wet. Not so much muddy, just slippery.

Little barrier in the distance from Forest Road


Halfway along is one of my favourite places on the Barrier. Maungapiko lookout. Sitting on the junction of Forest Road and Kiwiriki Track, with a nice little table, is a short ten minute track that leads up to Maungapiko.  There is also a piece of railway line stuck in the ground at the entrance. The track can be a little slippery but it always amazes me how far you can see from the look out and how few houses there are in view.


Near the end of Forest Road is the start of Southfork Track. It got pretty nailed in a storm a couple of years ago and you have to walk up the Kaiarara Stream for 500m or so before picking up a ridgeline that takes you up out of the valley. In the stream you will see the devastation that can be caused by weather on the Island.

The track rises fairly steeply at first but then levels out a bit before coming to a wire bridge. It must have been one of the first DOC wire bridges on the Island. Maybe even a Forestry Service one? It isn’t to far from the end where Southfork meets Peach Tree. Take a left and you’re only a hundred meters from the Mt Heale Hut.

Wire bridge on Southfork.

Mt Heale Hut

Nice hut. No heating but there are mattresses for about 20 people, gas burners, water, and toilets. It does call itself a serviced hut although that hasn’t really been true when I have passed through. Twice the gas wasn’t working, once the water had to be got from the outside tank, and generally there was no toilet paper. This time was the exception with everything working.

There are electric lights in the hut but no wall socket. Cell phone coverage can also be intermittent.

Off The Grid Great Barrier Island

Off The Grid Great Barrier Island

Off The Grid Great Barrier Island is a website run by the Aoteaora Trust to promote and inform people on the issues surrounding off the grid living on Great Barrier Island.

There is a huge amount of information to process when deciding to go off the grid. Not only on Great Barrier Island but for the rest of the world as well. Who better to give advice on what works and what doesn’t work than the people who live with off the grid technology every day.

Micro hydroThe website gives information on power generation, power storage, harvesting water, hot water, waste disposal and septic waste disposal. Each subject also includes case studies using real situations on the Island.

It also promotes new technologies such as Lead Carbon batteries and Salt Water batteries and in the future will be adding a blog on the pros and cons of running an electric car on the island.

Since 2015, the Trust has run a yearly event to promote the Island in its technology.

The 2017 event started at the Auckland Bowling Club with speakers on solar power, batteries, water filtration, power systems,  and waste disposal. It then moved on to the Island where the theory became reality with a tour of the Islands solar powered shopping centre, rodent monitoring, off the grid cooking and other workshops.

It then moved onto the Claris Club with presentations from Integrity Solar, CanFarm Energy Solutions, Aqua Synergy Group and Aquanova.

There were tours of homes using off the grid technology with the owners speaking about the pros and cons, solutions and drawbacks.

Finally, on the Sunday, there is a field day with stalls from both locals and off Islanders and plenty of conversation about local sustainability initiatives and solutions.

More can be found out about event by visiting their website or going to the next Off The Grid GBI Event in 2018.

Off The Grid GBI 2015

Aotea FM Great Barrier Islands Solar Powered Radio Station

Aotea FM logo

Aotea FM has come a long way in a relatively short time. From an initial small set of batteries and a couple of solar panels up a hill it now has three transmitting stations to cover as much of the Island as possible and a new broadcasting hut near the Claris shops.

That’s not a bad feat for an Island with no power grid.

It offers Island news, interviews, and an outlet for people to share their diverse tastes in music and culture. There is also the occasional weather forecast which can start at Great Barrier but stretch all the way into the Pacific in order to give surfers an idea what might be coming.

Aotea FM is run by volunteers as a local not for profit community effort. These volunteers do more than just play DJ. They have built the transmitters, the radio shack, governance, provided money and time, and occasionally they have to run up a hill to start a generator if there has been heavy cloud for a couple of days.

A weekly schedule can  look like a who’s who of the Island population, for example…..

08:00 – Kick Start with Brownie
10:30 – The Cure (Michelle & Marie)
13:00 – The Adam from Okupu Show
15:30 – Mystery Monday with Sharon

08:00 – The Breakfast Club (John Tate)
10:30 – Leebee’s Lunch Break
13:00 – The Rook show
15:30 – The Penny Drops

08:00 – “T” in the morning
10:30 – Nikki’s of Angels, Love & Horses
13:00 – L’Indie’sClassicJazz’nBlues
15:30 – Cool Grooves & Hot Tracks

10:30 – Leebee & Lenny’s Music Mayhem
13:00 – Ngaire’s Thursday Cruize
15:30 – Cool Grooves & Hot Tracks

08:00 – Kit’s Morning Catch Up
10:30 – Phill’s Friday Fiasco
13:00 – Off the Record with Kathy
15:30 – Sali (Stolen Tuesday)

08:00 – DJ Fresh
10:30 – Toni’s Top 10
13:00 – Stop it! Live with Leon
15:30 – Sharon’s Saturday Arvo

10:30 – Sunday Buzz (Joseph Hodgetts)
13:00 – Tala’s Sunday session
15:30 – Lars and the Real Show

And you don’t have to be on the Barrier to listen. AoteaFM streams live online!

AoteaFM Collage