FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Rangitoto

Posted in Auckland, New Zealand by folkestonejack on March 25, 2013

A bright morning promised much for our trip out to Rangitoto Island, a volcanic island in the Hauraki Gulf that last erupted around 500 years ago. It is both the largest and youngest of the volcanic cones and craters in the Auckland volcanic field, as well as being a nature reserve.

The Auckland Harbour Bridge and Rangitoto

Auckland Harbour Bridge and Rangitoto

The island is home to the largest Pohutukawa forest in the world and a programme to re-populate the island with native wildlife has seen a number of species gradually re-introduced, making this a rather remarkable place to visit.

The island has many attractions for sightseers – the distinctive looking lava fields, the lava caves, the lighthouse in McKenzie Bay, a few remaining historic baches, a controlled mine base and a military observation post at the summit of the volcano – not to mention, the further attractions across the causeway on Motutapu island.

The summit path cuts through the lava fields

The summit path cuts through the lava fields

The view from Rangitoto

The view from Rangitoto

It’s not possible to cover all of the island’s sights on a single day trip so we settled for a combination of a walk to the summit, the lava caves and a wander around the baches near Rangitoto wharf after arriving on the 9.15am ferry. The walk to the summit took us just under an hour from our arrival point at Rangitoto Wharf. Initially, the track takes you through lava fields of black rock but switches to forest as you get closer to the summit.

The summit

The summit

Once you get close to the top a viewpoint gives you a fascinating view into the crater, now completely covered in vegetation. It’s so lush that it is hard to believe that at one time it was completely barren (as the illustrations on a nearby display board show). A further short climb from here takes you up to the summit where another track circles the rim of the crater. The summit includes wonderful views out over the gulf and back towards the centre of Auckland city, as well as more information about the military history of the island.

The lava caves

The lava caves

On the way back down from the summit we made a detour to visit the lava caves, effectively two short stretches of interconnected tunnel left behind after the passage of molten lava. Although a fair amount of natural light filtered in to the cave today, we did need a torch to get a good view of the loose and rocky tunnel floor.

Rangitoto Wharf

Rangitoto Wharf

At the time of our visit some construction work was taking place at the wharf which limited the degree to which we could wander around the island’s perimeter, but this was probably for the best as it focused my attention on the remaining historic baches (small holiday homes, mostly built in the early 20th century) around the wharf and the rather incredible natural wonders in this small area. Indeed, I spent a good hour or so wandering round taking photographs before it was time to board the last ferry back to Auckland at 3.30pm.

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