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The Hauraki Gulf is home to more than 15 islands, with several of them situated only a stone's throw from Auckland city, making for perfect for a day trip out on the water. Earlier this month I hopped on a short ferry ride over to the 600-year-old Rangitoto Island – the closest island to Auckland and the youngest island in the Hauraki Gulf. It’s incredible to think that this was around the same time as the arrival of New Zealand’s indigenous people.
The island is a natural sanctuary that prides itself in being pest-free and filled with verdant-green bush.
The island is inhabited by many species of beautiful native birds that can be easily seen and heard when exploring Rangitoto. The island is connected to Motutapu Island, a much older island situated on the Hauraki Gulf.
The day starts with an easy bus, train, or walk to the Downtown ferry station in the heart of Auckland city. From there, I took a short 25-minute ferry ride to Rangitoto at 9.15am. There’s several boat times to choose from, making it easy to fit into your day’s schedule.
The ferry will drop you off at Rangitoto Wharf, located at the Southern tip of the island. There are shops or rubbish bins on the island to protect the natural state (so pack a lunch and bring a bag to take rubbish out with you). Aside from toilets at the wharf and most of the destinations on the island, you will not find any luxuries on the island. It’s an amazing way to escape from the busy city.
From the wharf you can pick from several different day hikes. The Summit Track is the shortest and most popular, following a well-maintained track up the face of the dormant volcano to the top. About 2/3 of the way up is a detour loop to lava caves formed when the volcano was still active. I highly recommend taking the time for it, it’s truly breath-taking!
I wanted to see the entire island so I chose to bypass the typical route, and followed the McKenzie Bay Road along the South West coast of the island. This was an easy and flat walk with the sea on one side and jagged rock fields on the other. After about an hour, I reached McKenzie Bay. A beautiful black sand beach dotted with small volcanic rock islands, one of which is home to the old, red and white striped McKenzie Bay lighthouse.
After a quick stop, I turned back to the east and followed Summit road up the volcano to the peak. About halfway along the bush opens to a stunning North East-facing panorama overlooking the sea and Motutapu Island. Soon after that is the summit, you can look down into the crater formed by the volcano.
Looking over the edge of the viewing platform to the south you will have views of Auckland City and Waiheke Island. This is a great spot to stop and have lunch, and often marks the halfway point for many hikers.
Nearly six hours and twenty kilometres later, I arrived at the harbour with plenty of time to catch the 4pm ferry back to Auckland. It’s truly amazing to experience such a beautiful untouched landscape so close to the city. It’s a fantastic way to escape, reflect, and appreciate the beauty of Auckland!
USA Student on exchange in Auckland