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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Happily the second half of the summit track is all downhill