Visit Auckland’s youngest volcano

Insider's guide

Having lived in Auckland all my life and working in downtown Auckland, I see Rangitoto Island almost every day. So it’s with some embarrassment I admit I’ve never ventured out to the island, despite it being just a 25-minute ferry ride away.  

Its symmetrical cone is also visible from my local beaches, Saint Heliers and Kohimarama; as well as numerous other spots in the region, including Takapuna Beach and Waiheke Island. No wonder ‘Rangi’ is Auckland’s most iconic natural landmark.


My first visit starts with enthusiastically packing sandwiches, nuts, muesli bars, water and sunscreen – there are no shops on the island, so come prepared. Packing done, I head out with my workmates on the morning ferry from downtown. Arriving at the Rangitoto wharf, the landscape is like nothing I’ve ever seen before, with ‘lava fields’ of sharp, charcoal-coloured volcanic rock and the largest pohutakawa forest in the world.


After checking out the maps and information by the wharf, we hop on the Fullers Volcanic Explorer four-wheel drive road train. As we roll along the dusty volcanic rock path, our friendly guide tells us about the island, its history and the bird and plant life around us. Soon enough, we reach the summit track, a 15-minute walk that must be done on foot. The boardwalk makes it easy and the views out across the Hauraki Gulf and to neighbouring Motutapu Island are superb.


Shortly before reaching the top, we stop at the lookout that sits over the crater in the centre of the island. It’s nothing short of amazing. This is the biggest volcano in Auckland and much larger than anything I’ve seen from the top of Mount Eden and One Tree Hill, two of Auckland’s most visited ‘mainland’ volcanoes. The crater is perfectly round and very deep, filled with a forest of beautiful pohutakawas and ferns, unlike the grassy terrain of Auckland’s other volcanic cones. After standing in awe for a while, we walk the last few minutes to the summit.

The 360-degree views from the summit are absolutely breath-taking. Not only is it a great way to see the beautiful surrounding islands, the outlook stretches right across the city to the Waitakere Ranges in the distance, with the North Shore beaches between us. There’s plenty of room up here and a few platforms and seating to stop and enjoy a snack while you admire the view.


After getting snap happy with the cameras pointing in every direction (and with many a selfie), we’re soon back on the road train back down. We’re also lucky enough to fit in a quick stop at a lava field to carefully walk over the sharp rocks and then a stroll out to McKenzie Bay, a magnificent north-facing beach. Not every trip stops here, but if you can get the summit trip done with time to spare, ask your guide nicely and you might be lucky enough.


The island’s landscapes are almost other worldly and it feels strange being back among the city streets so quickly. It’s been a special day and looking out to Rangitoto tomorrow, remembering standing right at the top of it, will be a great memory. It now seems unbelievable that I’ve never visited and there’s no doubt I’ll be back soon with friends and family in tow.

By Kate, Marketing Team - Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development