A Rangitoto Island tour is an absolute must when exploring Auckland’s attractions. Rangitoto volcano is the youngest and largest of Auckland’s volcanic field and has something very special to offer.
Rangitoto Island is a volcanic island in the Hauraki Gulf near Auckland. It was formed about 600 years ago. It has a distinctive, symmetrical cone shape and can be seen from most of Auckland. It’s the youngest and largest of the 48 volcanoes of Auckland’s volcanic field. Cooling lava has formed a moat-like ring around the crater summit which can be viewed from the paths leading to the summit. The island is considered particularly different from the others in the field because of the sparse forests covering much of the island which formed from raw lava.
Getting there is easy. The Rangitoto ferry runs daily from either downtown Auckland or Devonport Wharf. It takes approximately 25 minutes to be transported to the majestic lava-covered island.
The famous Rangitoto walk to the summit is steep but only takes an hour at an easy pace and is manageable to most. The scenery along the way is simply stunning as you take in your surroundings of luscious greenery, sandy coves and lava fields, not to mention the world’s largest pohutukawa forest. Pohutukawa is one of the first plants to take hold on fresh lava with a fascinating succession from bare lava directly to forest. These unusual, large coastal trees now cover about 80% of the island creating an exceptionally distinctive landscape. Take a slight diversion off the track for a 30 minute round trip to the lava caves. The caves are natural tunnels formed by lava and really add to the adventure. Be mindful that they are very dark – bring a torch to explore!
If you prefer a more challenging walk, there are plenty of other tracks to cover. The Lighthouse Walk to McKenzie Bay is a longer walk taking approximately two and half hours along the coast and will lead you to one of the two natural beaches on the island, McKenzie Bay. Another option would be the coastal track from Rangitoto Wharf to Islington Bay Wharf which takes around the same time and displays some historical structures such as Yankee Wharf which was built during World War II, old quarry sites and ruins of storage bases for mines from war times.
Walking not for you? No problem! You can take the guided tour option on the 4WD road train which will give you a commentary about the history and geology of the island as you take in the scenery.
Another way to see Rangitoto Island is by kayak which takes approximately two hours. Several kayak operators offer kayak rentals and guided tours. The tours typically start at Waitemata Harbor and take you across to the island, taking in the panoramic views from the water. It’s not uncommon to see wildlife along the way such as Cooks Petrels and Little Blue Penguins.
If you’re the adventurous type, you may be interested in the night kayak trip which takes you out across the water in the evening to see a spectacular sunset from the summit of the volcano. Some tours include an evening dinner. You’ll then get to kayak back under the stars with the city lights as your backdrop. What a treat!
What you need to know
There are no shops or restaurants on Rangitoto Island so be sure to take enough food with you to last your trip. Bring plenty of water, especially if you’re planning on doing a walk. If you want to take an adventure through the caves it’s advised to bring a torch as the caves are dark and the ground is uneven underfoot. Be sure to time the ferry trips well as you don’t want to miss the last ferry and not get back to your Auckland accommodation. Proper walking shoes/hiking boots are recommended, especially if taking a longer track. Sun screen and hats are also advisable to make your trip as pleasant and safe as possible
After an adventurous and awe-inspiring day on Rangitoto Island, take your boots off and put your feet up at one of Best Western’s Auckland accommodations. When it comes to things to do in Auckland, Rangitoto Island must not be missed! If you’re interested in Island tours then you might also enjoy a visit to Waiheke Island.