New Zealand Travel Guide: Rangitoto Island

February 28, 2009

Day Two

I love ferry rides. Cities always look prettier from the water.

I love ferry rides. Cities always look prettier from the water.

After a good night’s rest I was ready to see something outside of Auckland’s city center. I hopped the Link Bus down to the wharf again, just in time to get on the Fuller’s boat to Rangitoto Island. Rangitoto was formed by a volcanic explosion 600-ish years ago and is still covered in crunchy black rock. There’s no soil or grass on the island, although trees and some bushes and ferns seem to thrive there.

I opted to take Fuller’s Volcanic Explorer tour, which drives you around the island and up almost to the summit. The drive is bouncy – you’re in a tram driven by a tractor sort of thing – but I like rides of any kind, and I enjoyed the driver’s commentary about the history of the island.

One of the last bachelors on Rangitoto.

One of the last bachelors on Rangitoto.

Rangitoto was used as a summer retreat around the turn of the century, with people paying three or four pounds to purchase a tiny cottege, known as a bachelor. Even now around New Zealand you can find baches for rent. Eventually the government took the island over for use as a public park, but there are still about 30 privately owned baches there, their owners having petitioned the government to give them lifetime leases.

Lava field on Rangitoto. (Could also be the road to Mordor.)

Lava field on Rangitoto. (Could also be the road to Mordor.)

The landscape of the island is wild. I’ve never seen big lava fields before, and the amount of big, black rock everywhere was impressive. Repetitive, but impressive.

Once we got to the summit climb I was ready to stretch my legs. It’s 365 steps to the top, not straight up, but circling around, with places to stop for photos or to take in the view. There were a few senior citizens who made the climb, so you should be able to do it just fine. (Ok, I huffed and puffed a little, but I still beat a couple of little old ladies to the top.)

I’ve never seen the inside of a volcano before. Not up close anyway. It was much greener than I expected. Sure, the volcano hasn’t been active in hundreds of years, but I still thought it would be more black and sooty, or have a hole going deep into the earth. Instead, it looked like a big green leafy bowl.

The big, green volcano's crater.

The big, green volcano's crater.

You could tell it was a volcano, but it was hard to imagine that it was ever dangerous.

From the top of Rangitoto

From the top of Rangitoto

I snapped some photos, like a good little blogger, then made my way back down, stopping a couple more times to admire the view of Auckland. You really can see the Sky Tower from everywhere.

The ride back to the wharf was just as bumpy, but enjoyable. New Zealand is hardly the third world, but it is very Middle Earth, and the rough landscapes you encounter here are a good reminder of what the planet was like before humans started to overrun it.

Next: Gambling at Sky City


  1. Hi,

    I have booked the said tour and just like to ask , how long was the stopover at the climb? We are taking my 5 year old daughter (disabled but walks with crutches) so I’m a bit worried yet want to be prepared (should she demand we take her up). Are there any rest stops in between the foot & the top? Thanks. Your posts about auckalnd was very helpful.

    • Hi Joni,

      I think we had about 45 minutes to get to the top and back down. If you don’t want to go all the way up, there are benches about halfway up where you can still sit and enjoy the view. It’s not a steep climb, there are spots where you walk straight along a walkway before getting to the next bit of stairs, but there are 365 stairs altogether, which left me winded.

      It’s a small tour group though, and I’m sure if you need a little extra time, the guide would be fine with that. I don’t think they would leave without you.

      Hope you have a great trip!

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