Rangitoto at dawn
PHOTO: Chris Gin | Creative Commons

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Introduction

Emerging from the sea just 600 years ago, pest-free Rangitoto Island is the youngest volcano in New Zealand. An Auckland icon and deeply enriched with history, it's long been a favourite day trip for walkers, and a much loved boating destination.

Highlights

DOC completed a significant restoration programme on Rangitoto Island and its neighbour Motutapu Island. The islands are now a safe pest-free haven for precious native flora and fauna to survive and thrive.

The popular summit track climbs through the world's largest pohutukawa forest. The peak is 259 metres above sea level, so you can enjoy spectacular panoramic views of Auckland and the Hauraki Gulf.

Video

Place overview

Activities

  • Bird and wildlife watching
  • Boating
  • Diving and snorkelling
  • Fishing
  • Kayaking and canoeing
  • Swimming
  • Walking and tramping

Facilities

  • Information panels
  • Pest free
    Protect our wildlife
    • Check - your gear for pests, eg. rodents, insects, skinks
    • Clean - footwear and gear, removing soil and seeds
    • Seal - ensure your gear is zipped up (no open bags)

    See island biosecurity requirements.

In this section

Find things to do Rangitoto Island

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About track difficulties

Day visitors are welcome, and can explore the island via a network of tracks and roads. Rangitoto is joined to Motutapu Island by a causeway.

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.

Boating

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.
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.

Fishing 

You can fish off the rocks anywhere round the island’s rugged coastline.

Heritage sightseeing

As with many other Hauraki Gulf islands, extensive defence installations were built on Rangitoto during WWII, and remnants of these remain to be explored. Get more information on military defences.

Rangitoto has been a popular destination for picnickers for well over 100 years.Around 30 classic kiwi holiday baches 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.
Historic bach on Rangitoto Island

Kayaking

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.

There are commercial operators that offer guided kayak tours and kayak rentals for Rangitoto.

Specialist activities

Flora 

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.

Geology 

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.
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

Swimming

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.

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    About this place

    Getting there

    Rangitoto Island is in the Hauraki Gulf close to Auckland city.

    Waharoa/customary gateway.
    The waharoa weclomes visitors to Rangitoto Island

    There are two wharves – Rangitoto Wharf, serviced by public ferries; and Islington Bay Wharf, a popular anchorage for private boats. Private boats may use the wharves for loading and unloading passengers only.

    You can take a public passenger ferry or charter.

    Rangitoto is also accessible to experienced kayakers. It takes approximately two hours to kayak to Rangitoto Wharf from the Auckland's North Shore.

    Know before you go

    • Bring your own food and water. There are no shops on the island.
    • Wear sturdy walking shoes that can cope with the rugged lava surfaces.
    • Wear sunscreen and a hat. The heat reflecting off the ground can be intense.
    • Take care not to miss your ferry. There is no overnight accommodation and alternative transport back to the mainland is expensive.

    Hauraki Gulf Maritime Park bylaws apply. Do not light fires, or remove/disturb plants and artefacts. No bicycles or pets. Take your rubbish with you – there are no rubbish bins.

    Some activities require a permit, such as weddings and events.

    View of Rangitoto from Cheltenham.
    View of Rangitoto from Cheltenham
    Image: Andrew Wilkinson

    Contacts

    Tāmaki Makaurau / Auckland Visitor Information
    Phone:   +64 9 379 6476
    Address:  
    Email:   aucklandvc@doc.govt.nz
    Full office details
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