30 minutes ferry-ride from downtown Auckland took us to the island that casts its majestic silhouette over the harbour. Rangitoto is an dormant volcano that erupted 600 years ago and most recently reopened to the public in 2011.
The island really is other-worldly and mostly covered in black lava rocks. It has no natural soil or surface water and yet, thanks to a water source deep beneath ground, it is covered in trees and bush. We visited on a very hot day and joined the volcanic explorer tour. This was a bumpy, tractor-pulled train that takes you on a loop of the island, stopping halfway at the base of a boardwalk leading to the summit. This was definitely the most gentle way to see the island and reach the summit, which (from a higher point than the Sky Tower) gives cracking views across the Hauraki Gulf.
The crater itself is now completely covered in trees – thanks to the porous ground, which also stops it from flooding.
The tour was a great introduction to the island and its history. There are no permanent residents on Rangitoto, just a few remaining ‘baches’ (holiday homes) that have been passed down through generations and survived various government disputes. There are also no shops on the island, so you need to take all supplies with you.
We returned to the wharf at lunchtime. Wanting to feel like intrepid explorers, we then headed out on a 3 hour coastal walk to a bay across the island. Along the unforgiving rocky terrain of the track we saw more fantastic views and a chance to see the resident seagull colony up close.
Rangitoto is remote and you knew that in the (very possible) event that you twisted an ankle on the rocks, you’d be stuffed. As we were about to surrender to the midday heat and turn around, a passing man reassured us that we were only 20 minutes away from the wharf. Reaching the sea felt like the equivalent of our Ironman (happening in Auckland on the same day).