Community arts village - Great Barrier Island“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.”
This simple, but incredibly profound observation was made by the famous American  Trappist monk & writer, Thomas Merton, in 1955.
It is a truth than can be appreciated from many perspectives… As an artist, a casual observer, a dedicated art appreciator and most definitely as a community.

In one form or another, the Great Barrier Island Community Heritage and Arts Village Trust have been providing the opportunity and the ‘space’ for Great Barrier Island’s artists, community and visitors to find and lose themselves since December 2004.

In the beginning…
The Trust was first registered in 2001 as Aotea Artz Community Trust. With no ‘home’ of their own, the seven original trustees exhibited their work at local cafes, restaurants and halls. After an enormous voluntary effort over the following three years, the Aotea Gallery was officially opened in December 2004.
By late 2009 the trust had changed it’s name (Great Barrier Island Community Heritage and Arts Village Trust) and moved to it’s current and ideal location on the main road in Claris.

Village life...


The ‘village’ is a work of art in it’s own right. The three main buildings are signicant historical structures. Art is exhibited in the Mabey Gallery which was the old Mabey family homestead. It was built in 1908 in the north of the island at Whangapoua Beach.

The Wiltshire House was built by the Gray family. The wreck of the Wiltshire Steamer near Rosalie Bay in 1922 provided some invaluable timber & materials used to finish the construction of their home on the edge of the Kaitoke wetlands. Work is nearing completion on transforming this lovely old homestead into the Village Museum.
The oldest building is the Tryphena School Master’s House, built in 1897. It was the original Aotea Gallery but these days it’s used for holding workshops, meetings and performances.
There’s always something happening at the village. Group exhibitions, winter workshops, kids art classes and special events ensure that their calendar is full of dates to remember.

On display...
All of the art displayed at the village is created by island residents or artists with a strong island connection. With over 100 artists contributing their work to the gallery and regular themed exhibitions running throughout the year, the art offered for sale is always diverse and fresh. You’ll find a huge range of items, from paintings, sculptures and prints through to jewellery, pottery, carvings and clothing.

art gallery

The engine room…
There are seven trustees that handle the long term planning and decisions.
The day to day running is taken care of by a Gallery Coordinator and a Finance Coordinator.
Shona Gray became the Gallery Coordinator in August 2013 and she’s connected in more ways than one.
Not only is she married to Darren Gray, whose grandfather built the Wiltshire House, but she’s also a Mabey through her mothers side of the family.


Shona Gray - Great Barrier Island Arts Village

“As a child I had many holidays on Great Barrier Island. We always stayed at Whangapoua in my grandmothers house - which is now the Mabey Gallery. I never imagined that in the future I’d be going to work each day in the very house I used to play in with my cousins, the Mabey boys.”
We asked her what she enjoys most about her role at the gallery. “The Arts Village is a real social hub and I’ve met some amazing people... the trustees, volunteers, artists and of course the visitors. It’s a challenging position, but it’s also very rewarding.” She was quick to point out that although she’s been coming to Great Barrier Island for most of her life, her experiences were mainly limited to north of the Okiwi airfield. "Working for the trust has enabled me to get acquainted with a much wider section of the community."

Nell Williams has been the Finance Coordinator for about 3 years. She’s recently put together a great little website and according to Shona… she’s worth her weight in gold. “Look-out anybody that’s contemplating poaching Nell. It’s not going to happen!”

Nell Williams - Finance Coordinator

Nell is an artist herself and works with a real mix of materials.  "I use recycled fabric to make egg cosies, tea cosies, bags and  hot water bottle covers. I also create mosaic chickens, pottery carrier pigeons, fused glass jewellery, woven baskets and more."
She’s very enthusiastic about her involvement with the village. “Its a really amazing project to have on the island,  I love being part of it, and seeing it grow. There’s  so much potential and some great plans in the pipeline. I'd like to see more people on the island involved, not just artists, but other community members who are interested in the museum/ heritage side, or want to help develop the grounds, or do art with kids.”

Great Barrier Island Community Heritage and Arts Village Trust 2

On the horizon…
There are some exciting developments in store for the Heritage and Arts Village. The completion of the museum is an obvious example. “We hope to have at least a couple of rooms finished and operating as a museum by the end of 2015” says Shona. “And then there’s the Sculpture Trail. Eventually Claris will have an amazing sculpture trail weaving it’s way from the Claris Airport all the way to the Claris Commercial Centre”.

The Great Barrier Island Community Heritage and Arts Village has become a ‘must do’ for visitors to the island and like art centres around the country, it has become an integral part of the local community experience.

What: Great Barrier Island Community Heritage and Arts Village
Where: 80 Hector Sanderson Road, Claris
Phone: 09 4290 570

Great Barrier Island Community Art Gallery
Go Great Barrier Island

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Hi, just wanted to let you know we had a truly wonderful time on GBI. The house was perfect, dry comfortable and we loved the quirky decor. We couldn’t have asked for better. What a beautiful place this Island is. We’ve all fallen in love with it. I was so lucky to discover it.
Thank you for everything.
Julianne, Pedro and Charlie
March 2024

We’re at the airport in Claris, very reluctantly preparing to leave.
Just want to say a huge thanks for getting everything so perfectly right. That accommodation was just stunning – views, sunlight, bird life, ripe figs, proximity to store and Gooseberry Flat swimming, really well stocked kitchen. Absolutely gorgeous in good weather and bad.
This place is magic!
February 2024

Kia Ora team,

Just a quick email to say thank you for all your assistance in organising our recent trip to Great Barrier Island.
Our group had a fantastic time – visiting various places around the island, and walking the Aotea track.
We had an amazing few days at Pitokuku House – what a fantastic place – with some of the team looking to come back and visit again with their families in the future.
We are also keen to come again and perhaps do some of the other walks, and do the Dark Sky experience (although we had some nice evenings just lying out looking up at the stars anyway).
Norm and Fleur were great – and it was fun to be able to give them some Róse which they really appreciated. We were able to communicate with them, and drop off and pick up was seamless…

So again, thank you for all your help and for making a very memorable week away.
Ngā mihi,
Louise Morgan
February 2024

I really want to thank you for all your help with our bookings!
We had a fabulous time, and your advice re. accommodation nights, car rental, and the Aotea track was spot on. Being able to run ideas past you was really much appreciated. Great Barrier Island is so amazing – I didn’t want to leave.
Many thanks,
Michelle Ashbury
July 2023

Just wanted to say thank you for organizing my trip to Great Barrier. I loved everything about the place – the flights, the people, the landscape, the peace and quiet, the fresh air, the amazing scenery, the welcome, the quirky business and the talented artists. What a brilliant trip. I’d like to come again, in winter, and perhaps stay up at Port Fitzroy. Will be in touch. Thanks again, all the best,
Julie Macdonald
May 2023

My daughter and I had a lovely time at Great Barrier over Easter – thanks for organizing everything for us.  Pigeons Lodge was really nice, the Rav 4 was great and we even had dolphins escorting the boat which was lovely.  The cafe’s and restaurant’s we visted provided excellent food and the beaches were gorgeous.  So all in all an awesome weekend.
Thanks again
Kind regards
Averil Naumai
April 2023

Good afternoon Go Great Barrier Island Team,
Sincere thanks for the four night holiday package you arranged for us for last week.  All the bookings you put in place for us were exactly what we needed and flowed seamlessly together.  The location of the accommodation was perfect and the Sundancer cruise (which was awesome!  Thank you Chris) was easily rescheduled when the weather demanded a change.  Everyone we met on Great Barrier Island was so friendly and helpful and we would dearly love to return again sometime soon.
Thank you again.
Kind regards
Hilary McNaughten
December 2022

Just wanted to say thank you so much for your very good service helping us arrange (with some rearrangements) our great visit to the Island last week. Everything went perfectly, flights, car, and we just loved the Beach House. Could you please pass on our very sincere thanks to the owners and property manager – the house was in perfect condition and we would have loved to have stayed with the kaka and the swimming for much longer. We enjoyed the local cafes and pub (including a memorable Thursday night there !), and had a wonderful time exploring all over the island.
Keep up the good work.  We’ll certainly recommend your organisation to others.
Best wishes
Sally Marx
November 2022

Go Great Barrier performs a very valuable service for visitors looking to travel to Great Barrier Island and connect with suppliers of accommodation and travel services.

Initially I was unsure about how to make and coordinate direct bookings but after contacting GGBI they were handled quickly and the outcomes were just what we were looking for, so thank you, Laura and Steve.

We did not expect to alter the bookings made but when we asked to stay another night and fly back to Auckland, Steve arranged these quickly along with transport connections to cover for having no rental car on the final day. Thank you, Steve.

With thanks and kind regards
John Bedkober
October 2022

We just wanted to take a moment to say a massive thank you for the most unforgettable holiday we’ve just had on the Barrier.

It wasn’t the holiday we originally booked, this one was a thousand times better. We saw the whole island spent a lot of time at Medlands, loved the Good Heavens star experience, Sunshine Cottage was off the hook, what amazing views and the attention to detail throughout the cottage was mind blowing and all just added to the holiday. We walked some of the tramway track, saw the art gallery and bought home a very cool painting, walked to the hot pools, and generally enjoyed ourselves the rest of the time. We will be recommending your holidays to everyone we meet.

Again thank you so much for against all odds putting together the perfect holiday for us.

Sarah & Tim
March 2022

Just wanted to say a big thank you for sorting out our weekend.
I can honestly say we had a blast, the island is absolutely stunning, the people were so nice and friendly we really loved everyone we met.
The Irish pub was awesome. We were lucky enough to be there for Thursday night open mike, and we took full advantage of the fun. We met Pete and Terry who so kindly took us out on their fishing boat, we loved it.
We couldn’t believe how amazing the food was. The whole experience is going to be a huge talking point for us all for a long time.
Thank you once again for everything.
Cheers Nicki

Just to let you know that we had an absolutely wonderful stay. Everything went well – like clockwork.
The rental we had was wonderful and Muriwai was just beautiful – we’re so pleased we stayed there.
We ate at Tipi & Bobs and the Irish Pub – both wonderful evening meals. We visited the Social Club at Tryphena and watched the Super Rugby game.
Lunched at My Pat Puku, visited the crafts and gallery places (the little Museum is wonderful – so much history and displays). We went right to the top of the island by road, and the bottom and to the hot pools.
The signposts and the great well maintained walks and information posts were just superb. The people are so friendly – everyone waves!
Thanks again
Well done Great Barrier Island!
Jenny & Ces Horan

I just wanted to say thank you for the package you put together for us to visit Great Barrier Island.
We had a fabulous time and really enjoyed exploring your stunning island.
You made it so easy, taking care of all the bookings and putting together the things that we wanted to do.
We were met off the plane and handed the keys to our rental car. Norm at the information desk at the airport gave me great maps and recommended some good day walks for us to do (we did most of the day trips he recommended too).
Angeline was at the Great Barrier Lodge when we called in to drop off our bags.
Amongst other things we enjoyed the kauri bridge at Glenfern and the view of Port Fitzroy from Sunset Rock.
We walked to Windy Canyon and beyond into the Pinnacles area for a few hours before walking back out the same way – this was so visually stunning and a real highlight for me.
Hilde was fabulous when we did the Good Heavens Experience.
We thoroughly enjoyed our day on the Sundancer with Chris. We felt very privileged as he still took us out even though we were the only ones.
Our accommodation was just right for us and it was so lovely to spend each evening out on the deck admiring the Whangaparapara Harbour. We ate dinner at the Great Barrier Lodge restaurant each night because it was so good (and we could have a drink and not worry about driving).|
The info sheet you sent through beforehand was useful and the list of places to eat was also helpful – especially for breakfast and lunches.
Thank you again for putting this all together for us – flights, accommodation, rental car & activities.
We had a fabulous trip and really enjoyed exploring the island.
Deborah Malcolm

We would like to thank you for the wonderful holiday we had on the Barrier.
We absolutely loved The Bach, and felt we were in paradise being so close to such a beautiful beach!
We made the most of having some lovely meals out, and all within walking distance.
The swims in the bay were so lovely.
It created a wonderful memory for my husband and I for out 30th Wedding Anniversary. Just perfect!
It was great flying over from Dairy Flat, and we were impressed with the service we received.
Thanks again, we would love to return sometime.
Kerry and Janice Sinclair

We’re back home now and I wanted to say we all had the most fabulous time on Great Barrier Island. Thanks for organising the trip for us, everything was perfect (even the weather!). We went star gazing, did an early morning Astro photography workshop, fishing charter and walked up and over Mt Hobson via the hot pools. We packed all we could into and 5 days and we all hope to return for more exploring.
Helen McMahon

My partner and I just wanted to thank you for booking such an easy holiday for us. The flights were hassle free, along with the accommodation and at the airport the car rental was an easy process. (I loved the sign with my name on it). Also, a special mention to Steve and his trike ride. Steve was such a great host, he picked us up on time, gave us a lovely island tour and even welcomed us back to his house to use his kayak’s anytime. The entire trip was such an easy experience and I highly recommend your service. Thanks again for such an amazing weekend away.

We will definitely be back!

We are here and enjoying this beautiful island of yours. It is truly spectacular!
I only have one gripe.. You must add a suggestion in all your bookings that a 2 night stay is not enough – a minimum stay of at least a week should be recommended as once you are here, you never want to leave.
Thank you so much for your help, I’m already dreading tomorrow when we leave 🙁

Just wanted to say thank you very much for your help and advice when organising our recent visit to the Barrier. While the weather wasn’t always perfect, it didn’t stop my sister and I doing anything or from having the best time, including doing some of your fabulous walks. We needed more time to fit more of them in!
The accommodation was really comfortable and perfect for our needs; we were met by a charming young woman from the car rental company and the X-Trail was just the ticket for us to explore the length and breadth of the island (which we did), and we simply loved chatting with locals and restaurant owners while dining out. Your advice and wonderful service were just the icing on the cake, so thank you very much.
You live in a magical place and we’ll be back!

We all just wanted to say thank you so much for organising a great Christmas holiday for us on Great Barrier Island! We had a very special time and made wonderful family memories after being apart in different countries for years. Thank you for all your help and advice, we have recommended you highly to everyone we know.
Thanks again,

I just wanted to thank you for organising everything for us for our weekend. We had a fabulous time! Everything was great – we loved staying at Tipi and Bobs and Marjorie made us very welcome, the units were great, lovely views and the food was fantastic! The cakes were wonderful, Phaedra had done a great job. It’s amazing how much we managed to pack into such a short time, the first time I’ve been there but will certainly come back for a longer stay next time. Once again, thanks for a wonderful job.