Rangitoto is a scenic island just off Auckland, New Zealand, in the Hauraki Gulf. It is just a short ferry ride from the city and Waitemata Harbor. But you can also take a luxury cruise or sail to the island. 3.4 miles or 5.5 kilometers wide, the Rangitoto Island is visible from Auckland. It has a volcanic core at the center that rises 850 feet or 260 meters from the gulf. Extremely popular with the locals and tourists, Rangitoto Island is a day trip from the city of Auckland.
There are many activities to enjoy on the island – swimming, kayaking, seeing the lava tubes, bird watching, and hiking. There are quite a few hiking trails to explore on the island. Lush green, explore the pohutukawa forest here, which is the largest in the world. Many also visit the neighboring Motutapu Island. This is a hilly island, separated by the narrow Islington Bay and the Gardiner Gap.
The island emerged in the sea 600 years back from volcanic activity. It has an area of 5700 acres and its highest point is 260 meters above sea level. Rangitoto Channel separates the island from the mainland. However, there is a causeway, so you can walk between the two islands.
Rangitoto Island – Quick Facts
|Rangitoto Island||A volcanic island in the Hauraki Gulf just off Auckland. A dormant volcanic peak is at the center. This lush green island rises steadily from the sea.|
|Size||3.4 miles or 5.5 kilometers|
|Highest Point||260 meters above sea level|
|Distance from Auckland||8 kilometers northeast of Auckland. Ferry rides take 25 minutes. The last ferry leaves at 5 PM.|
|Activities||Swimming, kayaking, sailing, hiking, bird watching, seeing the lava tubes, climbing to the top of the peak, sunset views|
|Accommodation||Now you can stay in a bach or modest house on the island for a night.|
Rangitoto means ‘Bloody Sky’ in the Maori language. It was obviously named so after the volcano and its flowing lava streams.
Studies have revealed that repeated volcanic activities stopped about 550 years back. The island was formed because of them. But these findings have been questioned by newer research. It has thus sparked a geological debate. Learn more about the volcanic activities on the island.
Climb to the top of the shield volcano summit to see the ring-like formation that occurred from lava cooling. There are also seven known lava tubes or channels on Rangitoto, formed by lava flow. These are like caves that you can explore.
How To Reach Rangitoto Island
There are 2 wharves from where you can take a ferry or cruise service –
- Rangitoto Wharf for public ferries
- Islington Bay Wharf for private boat tours
There are 3 public ferry services from Monday to Friday and 5 services during the weekends and on public holidays, except on Christmas Day, when there are no ferries.
Rangitoto Island has the world’s largest pohutukawa forest.
What To Do
Summit Climb – Climb to the top of the volcanic peak. For this, you have to walk through the island’s native forest and lava fields. Once at the top, you will get panoramic views of the entire gulf region with Auckland at a distance. The track is a gentle incline, an easy climb for most. It should take you about 1 hour.
Road Train – There is a road train on the island for those who don’t want to explore Rangitoto on foot. The train will take you to the summit’s base. From here, you have to climb 300 steps to reach the summit. There are operators who run 4-hour trips to the island with the ferry and road train included.
Lava Caves – You can explore the many lava caves on the island. These caves are located 200 meters from the volcano’s summit, about 45 minutes away once you have started the hike. These tubes were formed by the passage of liquid lava when it was an active volcano. The caves are quite dark. So carry a torch.
Walking Tours – Summit walk is the most popular. But there are others too at Rangitoto. For instance, you can walk from the summit to Boulder Bay, a shipwreck site. It will take about 2 hours. You can also walk on the southern coastal track through the forest. Here, you will see a mining base from WW2. This track leads to Motutapu Island crossing the causeway. There is also a track to McKenzie Bay where there is a small beach. This is a good place for swimming.
The two islands of Rangitoto and Motutapu are separated by Islington Bay and the Gardiner Gap, with a causeway joining them. There are walks on Motutapu as well.
Motutapu Walkway – It will take 1 hour and 30 minutes walking from the causeway to the Motutapu ferry point. Also, visit Emu Point to get a fantastic view of the gulf. This is an easy walk.
Islington Bay Track – These are some small tracks at the northern end of Motutapu Island. There are some very good beaches here like Sandy Bay, Pigs Bay, and Administration Bay. Visit the Billy Boat Point to get good views of the gulf. Administration Bay has the Motutapu Camp. There is also a campsite at Home Bay.