Rangitoto island was just an idea that popped into our heads while G and I were chilling on the lovely stripped deck chairs near Auckland’s ferry terminal. We spotted this name among a handful of brochures from the visitor information office and quickly decided a visit to the volcanic island the following week.
It was a bright and beautiful Tuesday morning when we left for Rangitoto island. G and I took an early train from Ranui to Britomart station and walked along the promenade to look for Pier 4 which sit at the west end of Quay street. Still we spared some time to indulge ourselves in the morning view of seascape. Around nine, a young lady in Fullers uniform headed to the pier’s front with a small ticket scanner and let us board. We settled into two seats in the open deck to soak up the salty breeze and sunshine whistle enjoying the unobstructed view of Auckland.
The relaxing ferry ride brought us to Rangitoto in less than half an hour. Black lava fields dotted with small patches of grass and young forests were strikingly visible from the wharf. A seabird was standing on top of the water pole to welcome us when G and I joined dozens of tourists to stream into the deserted island. There were no permanent residents, no campsites or convenience shops here — nothing but well-formed tracks and a couple of lovely little houses which were probably meant for island caretakers.
While the utmost destination was the summit of Rangitoto island Scenic Reserve, there were heaps of routes to choose. We took a one-hour coastal track to McKenzie Bay and approached the summit from the west. It was an easy walk along the straight gravel road which started narrow and well-covered with trees but soon got wide and bare. Fortunately the rest of the crowd went the other way, leaving us alone with the raw and quiet nature.
Last erupting 600 years ago, Rangitoto is the youngest, largest and best preserved volcanic island among dozens of cones and craters in the Auckland region. Restoring the island to its native beauty has been a serious mission of the New Zealand Government since 2009, involving a complex project to eradicate seven animal pests from the island, including rabbits, hedgehogs, and rats. Rangitoto became a pest-free zone within two years, enabling native plants to regenerate and create a natural habitat and food source for native species. Today it’s home to 200 native plants and the largest pohutukawa forest in the world.
We stopped at McKenzie Bay around mid-day to rest and eat lunch. It was entirely empty when we came, so we had the pristine beach all to ourselves. The black sand beach was created when lava flowed into the ocean, making it just an unique natural delight. G found us a dry and clean tree trunk in the shade, where we sat down to enjoy our smoked salmon sandwiches. After a hearty lunch, the soothing sound of the ocean lulled me to sleep for half an hour, and by the time I woke up we only had two more hours to reach the summit and return to the wharf. There was a little rush as we climbed up the wooden steps weaving through the lush native forests to see the crater. Still we made time to appreciate the cheerful birdsongs drifting down from the canopy overhead and watch a little bird casually ‘walking’ across the pathway.
Rangitoto is just a 25-minute ride from downtown Auckland but definitely a world away. As usual here are my quick little notes that hopefully will come in handy for you:
- Ferries leave Auckland for Rangitoto everyday but the time varies. A return ticket would cost you $30 and can be booked online here
- Wear strong sunscreen, and bring swimsuits along if it isn’t too cold.
- Pets and bicycles are not allowed
- Bring your own food and water. There are no restaurants and supplies of drinking water on the island. Food must be packed in sealed containers.
- You have to catch the last ferry back to the mainland within the day. There is no overnight accommodation on the island and alternative transport to Auckland is expensive.