Rangitoto island is a gently-sloped cone-shaped volcanic island whose iconic shape can be seen from all over Auckland. It has a landscape made up mainly of rocky lava fields and forests.  Spectacular views of Auckland and the surrounding landscape can be seen from Rangitoto’s summit, 260 metres above the surrounding Hauraki Gulf. The island is a popular day or even half-day trip from Auckland’s CBD.

Auckland CBD from Rangitoto

Getting to Rangitoto Island

Fullers operate a ferry from Auckland’s Downtown Ferry Terminal (located here) to Rangitoto via Devonport. The return ferry costs NZ$30. The journey takes about 25 minutes and there are some great views of Auckland as well as some of the other islands in the Hauraki Gulf.

The ferries leave at 9.15am, 10.30am and 12.15pm on weekdays, with 2 extra sailings on weekends at 7.30am and 1.30pm. The return ferries leave Rangitoto at 12.45pm, 2.30pm and 3.30pm (changes to 4pm on weekends). The current ferry timetable can be found on the Fullers website.

If you get the first ferry at 9.15am then it is possible to climb to the lookout at the summit of the volcano and take the side trip to the lava caves before getting the first return ferry at 12:45pm.

Rangitoto ferry
The Fullers ferry at Rangitoto Wharf.

What to bring

There are no shops of any kind on the island so make sure to bring any water and food you will need, as well as sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat, and a torch for exploring the lava caves. Depending on the time of year, you may need to bring some warmer clothes or rain gear. Make sure to check the weather! The ground is quite rocky in parts so sturdy shoes are also a good idea.

It is important to be aware that Rangitoto is a pest-free island, so make sure that you are not bringing any pests (including small insects) in your bag, on your shoes, etc. You can read more about this on the Department of Conservation’s website.

History of the island

Rangitoto is a dormant volcano that was formed by a series of eruptions beginning about 6,000 years ago. It last erupted about 550 years ago, making it the most recent of the roughly 50 volcanoes in the region.¹ The first humans to visit Rangitoto were, of course, Maori. At the time of the last eruption there were Maori people living on the neighbouring Motutapu Island, and both human and dog footprints have been found imprinted in the volcanic ash that fell there.

The island was purchased by the Crown in 1854 for £15 and, in 1890, it was made a recreation reserve. It quickly became a popular place for people to visit from Auckland. In 1911, the local council that administered Rangitoto decided to rent out campsites for £4 a year to raise funds to develop facilities on the island. Over the next few decades this led to people building baches, small modest holiday homes, on their leased sites. The building of baches was prohibited in 1937 and most have since been demolished, but some have been preserved and restored.² Bach 38, near Rangitoto Wharf is now a museum. It was closed when I visited but according to the nearby sign, it is open “on many Saturdays during the summer.”

Bach 38 sign Bach on Rangitoto Island

Walking tracks

There are a number of different walking tracks on the island, but for a good walk with the reward of spectacular views all around, the Summit Track that leads up to the Summit Lookout is a must. For the most part the track is a relatively gentle incline, although it gets a lot steeper for the last part near the summit.

From the wharf to the summit should take from an hour and a half to 2 hours return. You can also add a side trip to the lava caves which will add on another 20 to 30 minutes.

Rangitoto mapRangitoto path Rangitoto path

The lava caves

A signposted turn off the Summit Track winds through some luscious forest and leads to the lava caves. At first it looks like you might not be able to go too far into the caves because they are so dark, but grab a torch (or your phone) and go right in. You can actually go the whole way through them which is pretty cool.

Lava Caves sign
The sign at the turn for the Lava Caves.

Rangitoto Lava Caves

Wildlife on Rangitoto Island

The Department of Conservation have done a good job of getting rid of the once-abundant pests and introduced species on Rangitoto, and these days there are lots of native birds on the island. I got the impression that they didn’t have many predators, as some of the birds would follow us along the track and come up surprisingly close to us.

Rangitoto bird Rangitoto bird

The summit

Once you reach the summit you will be greeted by some stunning 360 degree views of the Hauraki Gulf.

Rangitoto Island Rangitoto Island Rangitoto Island

Motutapu Island

The neighbouring Motutapu is actually connected to Rangitoto via a causeway. In contrast to Rangitoto, Motutapu is one of the oldest islands in the Hauraki Gulf, and therefore has a very different landscape. It also has lots of walks, as well as a campsite for those who want to extend their stay. There is no camping allowed on Rangitoto.

Motutapu Island seen from the summit of Rangitoto
The summit of Rangitoto with Motutapu Island in the background.


  1. https://www.eqc.govt.nz/sites/public_files/4618-Reconstructing-Rangitoto-volcano-from-150-m-deep-drill-core.pdf
  2. https://www.nzgeo.com/stories/rangitoto/