Great Barrier Island (often colloquially just The Barrier) is a large island of New Zealand, situated 100 kilometres (62 mi) to the north-east of central Auckland in the outer Hauraki Gulf. With an area of 285 square kilometres (110 sq mi) it is the fourth-largest island of New Zealand's main chain of islands, with its highest point, Mount Hobson, rising 621 metres (2,037 ft).
The remote island was initially exploited for its minerals and kauri trees and saw only some limited agriculture. It is now inhabited by a small population of 852 people, mostly living from farming and tourism. The majority of the diverse environments of the island (around 60% of the total area) is administered as nature reserve by the Department of Conservation, with the local authority being the Auckland Council. Recently, the island atmosphere has also been described as being "life in New Zealand many decades back", not without some positive emphasis.
With an area of 285 square kilometres (110 sq mi), Great Barrier is the sixth-largest island in New Zealand after the South Island, the North Island, Stewart Island/Rakiura, Chatham Island, and Auckland Island. The highest point, Mount Hobson or Hirakimata, is 621 metres (2,037 ft) above sea level.
The island's European name stems from its location on the outskirts of the Hauraki Gulf. With a maximum length (north-south) of some 43 kilometres (27 mi), it (and the Coromandel Peninsula directly to its south) protect the gulf from the storms of the Pacific Ocean to the east. Consequently, the island boasts highly contrasting coastal environments. The eastern coast comprises long, clear beaches, windswept sand-dunes, and heavy surf. The western coast, sheltered and calm, is home to hundreds of tiny, secluded bays which offer some of the best diving and boating in the country. The inland holds several large and biologically diverse wetlands as well as rugged and hillcountry (bush or heath in the more exposed heights) as well as various second- and old-growth kauri forests.