Great Barrier is beautiful and totally unspoiled. After a morning in the rain forest, I was off to the beach. “The beaches are very isolated and even in the summertime they’re never crowded,” said John Ogden. He moved here from Lancashire, via Auckland, several years ago.
Medlands Beach is stunning. You get to it walking along a short boardwalk, cut through the dunes. There are no shops, no bars and very few people. I only saw two other visitors – both of whom gave me a warm ‘hello.’ Everybody greets you here. You’ll have to wave at all oncoming drivers too. As you walk to the beach, all you can hear is the creaking slats of the boardwalk and wildlife – bees buzzing and flies humming – until you reach the wide expanse of sand and the ocean fills your senses.
Medlands is a crescent of deep, fine, white sand framed by the rich, green bush and mountains. There’s a high, grass-topped outcrop halfway along the beach, known as ‘Memory Rock.’ Stairs are carved into its face, so you can climb to the top and you can also see grooved markings at its base, left by years of weapon sharpening by the local Maori who used to inhabit the island.
You make your own entertainment on Barrier, although Chaos Fishing Charters’ Barry Kearney can help. ‘Baz’ was preparing fish – snapper and hapuka – in a smokehouse in his front garden when I met him. There’s lot of wildlife in the waters of the Hauraki Gulf that surround the island. Baz says pods of up to forty dolphins will often come right up to the beach, barely 70 metres from his front gate.
His boat tours can also show you some of island’s historical sites, such as the old whaling station and what was once one of the biggest kauri wood plants in New Zealand. These trees are pretty rare now but were prized by the British Navy because the tall, straight trunks were perfect for making ships’ masts. Baz can also take you to see what remains of the copper and goldmines. “They made money,” he told me, “but in they end they just ran out.”........MORE
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