Hiking on Rangitoto Island, a perfect day trip from Auckland
Although this is my third time in New Zealand, I somehow never made it over to Rangitoto Island before. This small volcanic island just north of central Auckland is a relatively young volcano, its last eruption being 600 years ago and it happens to be just perfect for hiking. So after a 25 hour journey (plus travel time to/from the airport) followed by a long night of sleep in my hostel in the city, I figured it’d be nice to head out and grab some fresh air. Hiking on Rangitoto Island seemed like the perfect thing to do as well as a great start of my hiking trip. And so I headed over and was incredibly surprised by what I was about to see …
The main reason to visit Rangitoto Island is to climb the 250 meter high summit of the volcano. There are various access points and the actual route depends on where to boat will drop you off. In my case, the drop off was at Islington Bay Wharf since it was too windy to do the drop at Rangitoto Wharf, which is the main drop off point for trips to Rangitoto Island. From either wharf the way up is not too strenuous and on a well maintained trail. As I wanted to do more than just hike up the volcano I decided to go along with Lonely Planet’s suggestion to do the Rangitoto Island Loop, which is a 4-5 hour walk combining the Coastal Track with the Lava Caves and the Summit Look Out.
I started my hike in Islington Bay and was grateful that someone gave me two really great pieces of advise: wait until everyone’s gone and then walk in the opposite direction. Boats to Rangitoto Island can carry a few hundred passengers and just imagine the fun hiking on Rangitoto Island in a big group. A big NO for me, of course. And so I waited until most people had left for the summit and then left in the opposite direction, on the Coastal Track. The first part of this hike was truly stunning with great views over Hauraki Gulf and Motutapu Island. And even better: there was almost nobody else. On the two hour hike to Rangitoto Wharf I only ran into a handful of people and given the time of the year (I was there on December 28th) I could not believe my luck. After about half an hour the track went inland and became a little challenging, crossing various lava fields with loose rocks everywhere. This part of the trail is very uneven plus there’s not a whole lot to see because you are right in the bush. This stretch will be one hour and eventually take you back to a huge lava field right on the coast, offering amazing views of Auckland in the distance. Around Rangitoto Wharf there are plenty of places for a pick nick, interpretive signs and bathrooms.
After a short break I continued hiking on Rangitoto Island and took the Main Track to the Summit. It’s about an hour to the summit if you head over directly, however I decided to pay a visit to the Lava Caves along the way. This is a series of small caves where you can walk right through but remember to bring a torch because it gets pitch dark right in the middle. After seeing the caves, retrace your steps to the main track. From here it’s another fifteen minutes to the summit. Once I got there I was a little surprised by the number of people there, but I realized that comes with traveling in high season. I made the fifteen minute round-the-crater-walk and eventually reached the summit with some great views of the whole Hauraki Bay and Auckland.
Then I realized I needed to head down again as I wanted to catch the boat back in time. I had just over an hour for the descent and got a little scared when I noticed that the walk down is about 1h30 but I set a quick pace and made it in less than an hour. I’d say that the way down from the summit to Islington Bay Wharf was the least scenic of the tracks I did, but it may also have been because I was in a bit of a hurry. I arrived right in time for the 3.30 pm boat back to Auckland, along with hundreds of other people.
Practical tips for hiking on Rangitoto Island
When hiking on Rangitoto Island there are a few things to take into consideration. Here’s a few tips and tricks to prepare for your hike:
– The boat to Rangitoto Island leaves from the Auckland Harbour Building and has a few sailings a day only. I booked with Fuller’s the morning of my trip and especially in high season reservations are recommended. I paid NZD 33 for my return ticket but they also have an early bird rate of NZD 23 for their earliest sailing at 07.30 am.
– Make sure you inform yourself of the last return ferry as there are no overnight possibilities on the island. Also make sure where the boat departs from, it could either be Rangitoto Wharf or Islington Bay Wharf. And most important: make sure to be in time for your desired departure since boats tend to get quite full at the end of the day and not everyone could board my boat, so they had to wait for the next one.
– There are no services on the island when it comes to buying food and drinks, you will need to carry everything from the mainland. Drinking water is available at Rangitoto Wharf only. All rubbish should be carried out, there are no bins on the island.
– Keep in mind that it can get very hot on Rangitoto Island so bring plenty of water and salty snacks. It’s usually a few degrees warmer here than on than on the mainland, so that’s something to consider. If you plan on hiking make sure to have sturdy footwear, especially if you are doing the Rangitoto Loop including the Coastal Track.
– A simple hiking map is available for free at the Fuller’s office at the dock. This map is all you need to make your way around the island since the trails are well marked and it’s impossible to get lost. For more information on the hike you may also visit the Department of Conservation website.
And finally, I made a short movie of my hike on Rangitoto Island. Enjoy watching it!
Hiking on Rangitoto Island proved to be a great getaway from the city of Auckland and a great warm-up for all my New Zealand hikes to come. It can be done by anyone and I saw a lot of elderly people as well as families with young children, who will especially love the Lava Caves. So if you will ever make it to Auckland in New Zealand, make sure to put this day trip on your must-do list!
Want to read more about New Zealand? You may also enjoy there posts:
– The most beautiful unknown places in New Zealand
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– Hiking in New Zealand – the best places
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Thanks for sharing!