Southern black-backed gull, Rangitoto
Bird and wildlife watching
Look out for saddleback/tieke, whitehead/popokatea, kaka, NZ parakeet/kakariki, tui, bellbird/korimako and tomtit/miromiro in the forest around the cone and crater on Rangitoto.
Flax Point, a 30 minute walk from Rangitoto Wharf, is a good place for spotting NZ dotterels/tuturiwhatu and gulls. You may also see native skinks basking on the rocks.
Rangitoto is a popular destination for boaties. Boats can be landed at the Rangitoto or Islington Bay wharves. Small boats can also be landed at the beach at Islington Bay (on Motutapu Island - walk across the causeway to Rangitoto), and this bay also provides a sheltered anchorage.
Child/family friendly activities
Bunker on the summit of Rangitoto
Take the family for a walk to the Rangitoto summit. It takes about 1 hour to get to the top. Once there, you can enjoy the spectacular views and the kids can explore the WWII fire command post.
For smaller children or less able walkers, Fullers operate a 4WD road train to the base of the Rangitoto summit, from where it is a short walk up a boardwalk to the summit.
Another popular family activity is to explore the lava tunnels and caves. The tunnels and caves are reached by a short diversion off the Rangitoto Summit Track – remember to bring a torch.
Diving and snorkelling
Wreck Bay on Rangitoto’s northern coast was once used as a “ship graveyard”, a dumping ground for obsolete ships. At least 13 ships were dumped in and around Wreck Bay between 1887 and 1947. Some of the wrecks can be seen at low tide. Other wreckage just offshore attracts a variety of marine life and is a good spot for diving or snorkelling.
To get to Wreck Bay take the Wreck Bay Track from Islington Bay Road.
You can fish off the rocks anywhere round the island’s rugged coastline.
As with many other Hauraki Gulf islands, extensive defence installations were built on Rangitoto during WWII, and remnants of these remain to be explored.
Rangitoto has been a popular destination for picnickers for well over 100 years. A bach community sprung up in the early 1900s. Around 30 of these classic kiwi holiday homes remain today, largely unchanged since the 1930s. Many of the baches can be seen by taking the track from Rangitoto Wharf to Flax Point.
Bach 38, adjacent to Rangitoto Wharf, has been turned into a museum and is run by the Rangitoto Island Historic Conservation Trust. Visit the museum to learn the history of this unique piece of kiwiana. Visit the Trust's website for opening times.
Historic bach on Rangitoto Island
Rangitoto is accessible to experienced kayakers. It takes about 2 hours to kayak to Rangitoto Wharf from the mainland. You can also kayak to Rangitoto from the nearby islands of Motutapu or Motuihe, or as part of a tour of the islands of the Hauraki Gulf.
The following companies offer guided kayak tours and kayak rentals for Rangitoto:
Rangitoto hosts more than 200 species of native trees and flowering plants. Although most are common species, many have unique ways of coping with the harsh volcanic landscape. Rangitoto’s pohutukawa forest is the largest in the country. Visit the island in December to enjoy New Zealand’s Christmas tree.
Rangitoto emerged from the sea about 600 years ago, making it the ‘baby’ of all Auckland’s volcanic cones. Ninety-five percent of the island is covered in black basalt rock, which forms lava flows and fields, caves, pillars and tunnels, which are interesting to explore.
Rangitoto Island from North Head
Weddings and other special events
If you want an adventurous wedding or event, choose Rangitoto! The Stone Hall at Islington Bay is available for hire.
Weddings and events on Rangitoto
The island’s volcanic nature means there are few beaches on the island, but you can swim off the rocks around the island or off the Rangitoto and Islington Bay wharves between ferries.
The Rangitoto Island Historic Conservation Trust needs volunteers to help restore several historic baches on the island. Tasks include painting, general building maintenance, weeding and archiving material about the history of the baches.
Rangitoto Island Historic Conservation Trust website
You can also stay overnight on Motutapu and work alongside DOC rangers to help restore the cultural heritage of pest-free Motutapu and Rangitoto Islands. The work involves track and building maintenance, weeding and mowing historic sites. It may include sweeping, painting, sanding, shovelling, dusting and vegetation clearance
Rangitoto/Motutapu overnight volunteer opportunity
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