No trip to New Zealand is ever complete without adding in a visit to Rangitoto Island, one of the absolute best day trips from Auckland.
Located just a few kilometres east of Auckland’s North Shore district and 8 kilometres southeast of central Auckland, this unique volcanic island in the Hauraki Gulf is one of the city’s most iconic natural landmarks and among the best places to visit in Auckland for outdoor adventure.
In the 48-strong family of Auckland volcanoes, Rangitoto Island is the late-bloomer. Although formed “only” 600 years ago, the island’s volcanic cone is the youngest in New Zealand and the highest in the area, measuring an astounding 260 metres high and spilling 5.5 kilometres across.
Ready to experience Rangitoto Island to its fullest? Plan the ultimate day trip with this complete Rangitoto Island guide including ideas for what to see & do and tips for how to get there…
What to see & do on Rangitoto Island
Whether you’re visiting solo, as a couple, or with a family, there are plenty of fun activities & things to do on Rangitoto Island on a day trip. As you roam around the island, you’ll find everything from hiking trails & walking tracks to beautiful beaches to the world’s largest Pohutukawa forest. Here are a couple ideas to get you started…
Rangitoto Summit Track
If you only have time for one activity on your Rangitoto day trip, make it the Rangitoto Summit Track. This walking track is one of the best hikes & walks in Auckland, ascending from Rangitoto Wharf to the volcano’s summit.
At a fairly relaxed pace, the walk to summit should take you about an hour. When you reach the top, you’ll get to check out the volcano’s distinctive crater up close and swoon over incredible 360-degree panoramic views over Auckland City, Waitemata Harbour, the Hauraki Gulf. On a clear day, you’ll even be able to see as far as the Waitakere Ranges along the west coast, Waiheke Island to the east, and to the Hunua Ranges southeast of Auckland.
On the way up, there’s also an opportunity for quick detour to the island’s lava caves & tunnels. Don’t forget to pack a flashlight if you’d like to take a peek inside!
If you’re not keen on the climb and still want to check the amazing views from the summit, don’t fret: There’s a popular Auckland Explorer 4WD road train guided tour (with commentary) that’ll scoot you up to the top without a hitch.
For hikers needing a longer walk, grab your hiking shoes and tackle the Coastal Track. Starting at Rangitoto Wharf, this walking trail crawls alongside rugged lava fields on southern shore and through the island’s forested interior to Islington Bay Wharf.
Along the way, you’ll encounter not only beautiful coastal and forest views but several historical sites including baches (traditional New Zealand beach houses), quarries, mine storage bases, and the WWII-era Yankee Wharf.
Islington Bay Wharf at the end of the trail offers some limited facilities including washrooms and a picnic area. From here, you can continue east over the small causeway to explore history with the WWII-era bunkers, tunnels, and gun emplacements of Motutapu Island, head north towards Boulder Bay, or return to the wharf for your ferry ride home.
Hiking the Coastal Track should take approximately two and half hours each way.
Boulder Bay & Wreck Bay
Situated on the north side of this Hauraki Gulf island, Boulder Bay & Wreck Bay offer an interesting alternative to the classic Rangitoto walking trails.
The approximately 1-hour long Wreck Bay Track begins off of Islington Bay Road and heads northward to the coastline at Wreck Bay and the adjacent Boulder Bay.
These two bays are infamous for being a former ship graveyard. Between 1887 and 1947, several ships were left along the shorelines to rot. If you visit Rangitoto Island at low tide, you should have no problem spotting the shipwrecks!
Another alternative walking route if you’ve already tackled the summit is the coastal road to McKenzie Bay. Located on the eastern shores, this bay is home to a historical lighthouse and one of the only two sand beaches on Rangitoto Island. If you need a place to cool down in the lovely waters of the Hauraki Gulf after a long day on Rangitoto, this is your chance!
From Rangitoto Wharf, it’s a 2 hour and 30 minutes walk to McKenzie Bay. Travelling west along the Summit Road from the peak, it’s about 3 hours and 45 minutes by foot.
Compared to the popular volcanic island, Rangitoto’s easterly neighbour, Motutapu Island, feels like an entirely new world. Crossing the causeway, the jagged volcanic fields of Rangitoto transition into rolling green pastures.
While you’d be hard-pressed to fit in both Rangitoto and Motutapu in a single day, focusing on this smaller pest-free island would be a rewarding experience.
The island is home to a number of important Maori archaeological sites, easy walking tracks, sand beaches, as well as several World War II sites near Northern Junction in central Motupatu including three gun emplacements and underground shelters & stores.
The classic route between Rangitoto Island and Home Bay in Motutapu crosses much of the small island in about 1 hour and 30 minutes.
Other popular walks on Motutapu Island include routes between Northern Junction and Sandy Bay (35 minutes), Billy Goat Point (1 hour), Mullet Bay (20 minutes), and Home Bay (40 minutes) as well as the popular Islington Bay Track to Pig Bay where you’ll find an excellent sand beach.
The ferry between Downtown Auckland and Rangitoto Island departs 2 to 3 times daily and takes approximately 25 minutes. From Devonport in North Shore, it’s just a 10-minute ferry ride.
The current sailing times (as of October 2020) from the Auckland Ferry terminal on Quay Street in central Auckland are 9:15am and 10:30am. There’s an extra sailing on Saturdays, Sundays, and public holidays at 1:30pm. Only the 9:15am departures stop in Devonport. You can check the latest ferry schedules on Fullers 360 official website here before departing.
To return to Auckland City from Rangitoto Island, there are two daily sailings from Monday to Friday at 2:30pm and 3:30pm. On Saturdays, Sundays, and public holidays, the ferry from Rangitoto departs at 2:30pm and 4:00pm. Only the 3:30pm and 4:00pm departures stop in Devonport.
To avoid the queues and save time at the ferry terminal, you can conveniently book your Auckland-Rangitoto Roundtrip Ferry Pass online.
- Rangitoto Island is pest-free thanks to its vast conservation efforts. Be sure to check your bags and your clothing for any potentially invasive species before disembarking.
- The island has no amenities outside of the wharf. Make sure you bring everything you need for your Rangitoto trip with you including enough water & snacks for the day.
- Although most of the walks on Rangitoto Island are easy, wear suitable footwear to prevent the possibility of injury. The jagged lava rocks can be tough on the feet at times!
- The ferry service to Rangitoto Island is limited to 2-3 sailings per day. If you miss the last ferry you will get stuck on Rangitoto. And there’s no overnight accommodation on the island. Plan carefully!