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Rangitoto Island

Home > Auckland > Animals and Wildlife | Day Trips | Escape the City | Family | Walks
Published December 31st 2016
Explore New Zealand's newest volcano
It wasn't there before. This island.

Rangitoto island
Rangitoto Island : New Zealand's newest volcano

It exploded from the ocean around 600 years ago, and this 'newness' I found difficult to comprehend as we tramped to the 260m summit.

newest volcano
The lava flows en route to the summit of Rangitoto Island

We had one day in Auckland and were keen for a location-specific experience. The zoo, aquarium, sky tower, shops, cafes, bars and museums looked to be terrific, but we'd visited such places before, many times. We'd never stood, though, on a new piece of land; a wildlife sanctuary with lava tunnels, caves, giant boulders and panoramic views of Auckland and the Hauraki Gulf Islands.

new volcano
Rangitoto Island : summit views of Auckland and surrounds

So, Rangitoto Island it was, and off we skipped to Auckland's main ferry terminal. Happy tourists wearing hats, sunscreen and clean walking shoes (the island is pest-free and plans to stay this way), and carrying water, snacks (there are no provisions on the island), bathing suits (we didn't use) and a wish we'd remembered a torch to explore the lava caves.

new volcano
No pets or pests and clean shoes please

Rangitoto Island is one of more than ten islands in Auckland's pretty Hauraki Gulf and is one of the closest, a 25 minute ferry ride from downtown. Ferries leave Auckland in the mornings every 1.5 hours, and return in the afternoons, again, every 1.5 hours. Check the current timetable here.

new volcano
Rangitoto Island : summit views of the Hauraki Gulf Islands

Rangitoto is connected to its older sister Motutapu Island by a causeway you can walk across. People were living on Motutapu when the sea violently spat out Rangitoto in enormous infernos in the late 1400s. Impressions of human footprints in the lava fields suggest early investigation of Rangitoto and I can't even image what these neighbours would have thought of the hot new turf next door.

newest volcano
Learn about the energetic beginnings of Rangitoto Island

There are several days worth of walks on the islands, including a network of hiking trails peppered with sites of historical, botanical and geological significant, and an inter-island walk from Rangitoto wharf to the main arrival point on Motutapu Island at Home Bay. We were travelling with two little people, though, five and two, and our exploration was limited to the Rangitoto summit main track (2 hours 4.6 km return). We gave even the side traverse to the lava tunnels a miss (30 min return from the main track). We say because we forgot our torch, but I doubt our two year old would have made it.

newest volcano
Walks around Rangitoto Island

Nevertheless, I can attest the main track to the summit is an impressive walk. It passes lava fields, kidney ferns and kowhai grove to reach the summit with its expansive views. En route, our girls climbed the lava flows, boulders and tree roots, picked (and gifted to fellow walkers) wildflowers, and inspected pest traps (empty). At the summit, we picnicked in the shade of a World War II telegraph and observation post from where Auckland harbour's minefields were operated. Then, we slipped and slid down the rocky track to the ferry terminal.

Rangitoto island
Happily the second half of the summit track is all downhill

Please don't miss the last ferry. There's no accommodation on Rangitoto Island and it's a long swim (or expensive water-taxi) home.

Rangitoto Island
Please don't miss the last ferry home
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Why? It wasn't there before
When: Ferries run between Auckland and Rangitoto from 9.15am to 3.30pm (weekdays) and 7.30am to 5.00pm (weekends & public holidays). Ferries also run between Devonport and Rangitoto
Where: Auckland's Hauraki Gulf, only 25 min by ferry from downtown.
Cost: Return fares: Adult $30 / Child (5-15 years) $15 / Family (2A 2C) $75. Discounts for early bird sailing at 7.30am on weekends & public holidays
Your Comment
What an interesting place, Jane - well done!
by Elaine (score: 3|8838) 1969 days ago
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