We learn how they make Barrier Gold balms and oils

November 16, 2011

Day two in our perfect little harbor off Great Barrier Island, but suddenly the sun and warmth are gone. We bundle up for the short jaunt over to shore and the quirky homestead of Trish and Sven Stellin.

Sven Stellin and manuka

For more than 18 years, they’ve been making Barrier Gold balms and oils from the manuka and kanuka plants, better known in the States as tea trees. The plants, once reviled as weeds, now are the source of healing elixirs and bold-flavored honey.

Sven walks us through his distillation process, from harvest to the final drop coming from his Rube Goldberg still. He uses all the waste oil on Great Barrier Island to fuel his fires, and the Island Passage even drops off her waste fuel oil to help with the effort.

This is one of the few shopping opportunities on this Hauraki Gulf journey, and we all make the most of it. There shouldn’t be an ache or pain in the U.S., Australia or New Zealand after we all tote Barrier Gold home.

Capt. Maurice and snapper

The al fresco lunch on the aft deck is the last of our angler’s snapper, this time in the form of fish and chips. Chef Mabee dips the filets in Corona beer and flour and fries them up. The spinach salad gets its sweetness from manuka honey.

With the fish gone, it’s time to send Katherine Madill and Shane Silver back to the sea with their rods, under guide Poppa Hughes’ tutelage, and sure enough, they reel in our starter. It’s trevally sashimi topped by razored grapes and a mist of gingered sesame oil. “Four hours from sea to plate,” Shane marvels, and he’s absolutely right — it is a marvel.

Tomorrow: We visit the fantasy world of Sir George Grey

Betsa Marsh is the president of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW)



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