Formed by volcanic eruptions around 600 years ago, Rangitoto Island is the newest in the Hauraki Gulf island group situated around 8km northeast from Auckland, and is considered a natural icon of the capital city. The large circular island is connected to Mototapu Island by a causeway but can only be reached for a day trip by ferry or water taxi from Auckland.
Rising 259m above the sea, the most popular activity on Rangitoto Island is the two-hour return hike from Rangitoto Wharf to the summit of the extinct crater for 360-degree views of Hauraki Gulf, Auckland city and Waitemata Harbour. There are also several short and long walks around the island to take in the unique volcanic geography of the island, which includes flowing lava fields, native bushlands and the largest pohotukawa tree forest in the world with over 200 species of plants including moss, ferns, flowering varieties and trees. The island is home to native seabirds and whales and dolphins can be observed throughout the Hauraki Islands.
Due to its unique natural attributes, Rangitoto Island is considered a treasure island for conservation purposes and visitors are asked to ensure this public reserve remains pest-free. Accommodation is not available on the island however there are a few bach (small beach house) communities which were built around Rangitoto Wharf, Islington Bay and Beacon End which date from the 1920s and '30s with private holiday homes and boatsheds as well as a community hall, tennis courts and swimming pool. Visitors can swim in the pool located at the wharf or at Islington Bay.
Fullers ferries make the 25-minute trip to Rangitoto Island daily at set times. The ferry terminal is located at 99 Quay Street in downtown Auckland, and tickets for the return trip are NZ$28 for adults and NZ$14 for children. The Rangitoto Volcanic Explorer Tour is also available for NZ$60 for adults and NZ$30 for children aged five to 15, and under-fives are free if sitting on an adult's lap. The five-hour tour includes the return ferry trip and a guided tour around the island by 4WD road-train.