- For a 1 night trip, stay at Mt Heale Hut
- For a 2 night trip, stay at Mt Heale Hut then carry on to Kaiaraara Hut or campsites along the way
- Walk the track in reverse to the description below and and end with a soak in hot pools
Hot Springs to Mt Heale Hut
Time: 3 hr - 3 hr 30 min
A paddle or soak in the Kaitoke Hot Springs is one of the highlights of the Aotea Track
Starting from Whangaparapara Road, the Kaitoke Hot Springs Track begins flat and easy, following an ancient shoreline.
Follow the boardwalks across the unique Kaitoke Wetlands and listen out for the call of a fernbird or spotless crake, or maybe spot the orchids and sundews close to the track. Enjoy the hotpools but take care - they might be too hot in places.
After a brief steep climb and descent, join Tramline Track North, which harbours reminders of the toil of loggers 80 years ago. Peach Tree Track soon appears on the left and you climb steadily through the regenerating forest to reach Mt Heale Hut.
Given a clear evening, the striking sunsets over Hauturu/Little Barrier Island make the journey all worthwhile.
Mt Heale Hut
Facilities: 20 bunk beds, cooking, mattresses
Windy Canyon to Mt Heale Hut
Time: 3 hr - 3 hr 30 min
Alternative access to the Mt Heale Hut is possible from the east, via Windy Canyon and Palmers Track, accessed from Aotea Road at the top of Whangapoua Hill. This section is fully bridged and is the shortest and easiest option for the first day. Here a steady climb takes you through the sheer rock faces of Windy Canyon with superb views of Okiwi Basin and Whangapoua estuary to the north, and Kaitoke and Medlands Bay to the east.
On the ridge still stands the ‘wooden horse’, a sturdy H-frame used for winching logs up and over the saddle, before sending them down the other side on their way to the sea.
The track follows the ridge, offering constantly changing vistas in every direction, before an impressive set of steps and stairways leads you to the summit. From here take South Fork Track along and down to Mt Heale Hut.
Mt Heale Hut to Kaiaraara Hut
Time: 3 hr
From Mt Heale Hut take South Fork Track which descends to Kaiaraara Hut.
The descent is a mix of steep paths, stairways and bridges before levelling out as you get to the hut.
Facilities: 28 bunk beds, heating, mattresses
Kaiaraara Hut to Whangaparapara Road
Time: 4 hours
The last day is an easy grade route with no major climbs following Forest Road. Enjoy the beautiful bush and mountain views on route including Maungapiko Lookout, Kauri Tree Route (a small stand of impressive large kauri trees), as well as extensive vistas of the bays to the west.
From Forest Road follow the historic Tramline Track to The Green campsite. On the way, a 5 minute detour to Kauri Falls is an excellent waterfall swimming opportunity. You can camp at The Green campsite at Whangaparapara or exit onto Whangaparapara Road.
Boardwalk through Kaitoke Wetland with Te Ahumata in the background
Bridges like this swing bridge make the Aotea Track an all weather track
Great Barrier can be reached by boat or plane.
Two airlines, Great Barrier Airlines and FlyMySky, link Auckland’s domestic airport and the island’s two airfields at Claris (daily throughout the year) and Okiwi (weather dependent). Note: The maximum baggage allowance on these small planes is 15 kg per person.
Sealink offers a passenger and car ferry service three to four times a week according to season, and Fullers runs a seasonal service using a high speed catamaran over the peak summer period.
The current Kaitoke Hot Springs Track entrance to the Aotea Track can be accessed by road. There is no public transport on the island. Shuttle bus services are available, but there are no scheduled services available to the current entrance - you must organise your shuttle before you arrive on the island. Car rental services are also available.
Nature and conservation
Great Barrier Island (Aotea) is somewhere special - rugged and remote, wild and isolated, yet just a 30 minute flight from Auckland. You’ll be captivated by the stunning scenery of this beautiful island, which lies at the eastern edge of the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park.
Many of the reptiles, amphibians and birds on Great Barrier are now rare or extinct on the mainland. They can be secretive and require patience to spot. Keep an eye out for the following on the walk:
- Chevron skink, one of NZ’s most endangered lizards. They can grow up to 30cm long.
- North Island kaka. Large brown noisy parrots are often seen flying high above the forest canopy, their raucous call is part of the island’s atmosphere.
- Banded Rail, often mistaken for baby weka, are a common site.
- Black Petrel, North Island Robin and tomtit also inhabit the slopes of the highest point Hirakimata.
The native forest is regenerating after a history of land clearance and kauri logging. Three plant species found only on the island are found along the track:
- Great Barrier tree daisy
- prostrate kānuka
- subspecies of hebe
History and culture
Maori oral history speaks of early occupation, of Ngati Wai and its chief Rehua settling on Aotea and claiming mana whenua over the land in the late 1700s. Being ancestral land, the entire island is sacred to Maori. At its centre stands Hirakimata, Mt Hobson, the maunga tapu (sacred mountain) of Ngati Rehua.
The kauri forests were logged with increasing intensity between the 1880s and early 1930s. Much of the Aotea Track follows old kauri logging and milling tramway routes. A few areas of original kauri forest survived, one area being the summit and surrounds of Hirakimata. Much of the forest is now regenerating.
Know before you go
- Do not put your head under the water if swimming in the Kaitoke Hot Springs.
- Take care when crossing streams.
- Beware of steep drop offs.
- Prepare for colder changeable weather conditions.
- Keep to the tracks to avoid damaging rare native plants.
Before you go into the outdoors, tell someone your plans and leave a date to raise the alarm if you haven't returned. To do this, use the New Zealand Outdoors Intentions process on the AdventureSmart website. It is endorsed by New Zealand's search and rescue agencies and provides three simple options to tell someone you trust the details about your trip.
Aotea Track requires a moderate degree of fitness and the ability to carry a pack containing a sleeping bag, cooking and food requirements, and warm clothing. The track is sometimes steep with several lengthy stairways. Tramping boots are recommended.
What to expect
- to walk 10 - 20 km
- to carry a pack
- some steep climbs
- many steps and stairways
- hot sun and high UV
- rain and colder temperatures
- slippery portions of track
Personal equipment to take
- clothing for hot, wet and cold weather
- sleeping bag
- drink bottle
- first aid kit
- cooking and eating utensils
- matches and candles