Ah, Rangitoto. Picturesque, majestic, and nearly as iconic as the Sky Tower itself. This dormant volcano presides over Hauraki Gulf and silently watches all the activity in Waitemata Harbour.

01 rangitoto 2

You can also totally get there by boat, which is neat. A couple of friends and I did just that.

Much of Rangitoto is made up of this sort of scoria, rough volcanic rock. I hear the Hawai’ians call it ‘a’a, pronounced ah-ah, possibly named after the noise you make if you fall on it.

The volcano has been dormant for long enough for scrubby overgrowth to cover parts of it. There is a walking trail, which at the point this photo was taken we chose to disregard.

Rangitoto is connected to Motutapu, another island in the gulf. Motutapu is the older of the two, and I hear there were Maori settlements on it destroyed by the eruption of Rangitoto. The two islands are not naturally connected above the water, but when the military started fortifying Motutapu and, somewhat, Rangitoto, they built a connection between the two islands.

The distinctive bulge of Devonport’s North Head gives a clue as to which side of the mountain we’re on. And I do believe that’s Auckland there on the other side!

Tearing our eyes from the view for a second (don’t worry; we’ll get back there), Rangitoto also features some lava caves. As Tyson here is demonstrating, the caves are big enough for exploration!

I tried a variety of camera tricks to get the optimal photo from in the caves; I think this is the best of the several I took. You can see root systems hanging down from the ceiling; these are quite wet and make the whole cave a bit moist. At its highest point the roof is probably three to four meters up! Most of that is covered in dangling root fibers, of course, but that’s still quite impressive. I do wonder if one day the roots will reach the bottom of the cave and possibly even close it up…that would be pretty amazing. Tourists like us will probably prevent that from happening too quickly though!

The hike to the summit is not long, but it does get quite steep near the top. Once you reach there, you are rewarded by a large observation platform and one of these “achievement unlocked” things.

There’s also one of the ubiquitous WWII observation stations on the summit. We climbed onto the roof of the station (something not expressly forbidden, but probably not encouraged). Taylor chose to celebrate this moment by doing…whatever that is he’s doing.

From the summit you can also look down into the volcanic cone. Last time I was atop Rangitoto, the track around the cone was closed. But on this day it was open! I was stoked since walking around the cone would be a new experience.

Much like eating lunch on the roof of the observation post, climbing down into the cone is not expressly forbidden. I’m not even sure it’s discouraged, though there is not what I would call an actual trail down there. If you Zoom and Enhance right at the horizon, you can see a bit of the observation deck showing how far down we had to go.

And here’s Auckland!

More Auckland!

Here’s a great view of the Harbour Bridge.

Another view of Motutapu.

You might think that we’re done now, but on the trip back the Hauraki Gulf still had one more treat in store for us.

A few playful orcas decided to follow us back to the ferry terminal and give an impromptu show in the harbor. So that’s another first for me…I’d never seen orcas in the wild before! So cool.

And that was Rangitoto. It’s such a fabulous trip, and it was lovely to share it with friends. I hope you enjoyed reading about it!


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