Sitting at the Belgium beer café drinking our Hoegaarden and Cherry beer we looked out to the horizon of Mission Bay. It was there that we started talking about Rangitoto Island. Living in Auckland for the past 27 years I had never visited Rangitoto. B had also never visited the Island and that was where our decision was made: the following weekend we would catch the ferry to Rangitoto.
Rangitoto's name is derived from the phrase "Te Rangi i totongia a Tamatekapua" - the day the blood of Tamatekapua was shed. Tamatekapua was chief of the Arawa canoe which arrived about 1350 and was engaged in (and lost) a major battle with the Tainui at Islington Bay.
The week pasted slowly and we were looking forward to going on a day trip together. We woke up Saturday morning and I packed a massive lunch including French bread sandwiches, chocolate, drinks and chips. B began to pack our bags and hurry me along so we didn’t miss our ferry.
In town we parked the car and ended up running to the ferry terminal. Why did we run? Because I made us late … whoops sorry B! The ferry tickets cost us $29 return. We boarded the ferry from the Downtown Auckland Ferry Terminal and enjoyed a 25 minute cruise across the Waitemata Harbour to Rangitoto Island. On the ferry we read that Rangitoto was a pest free island and had a variety of protected native wildlife.
Rangitoto and neighbouring Motutapu Islands were officially declared pest-free with both islands now also boasting populations of newly translocated saddlebacks.
Arriving on Rangitoto we followed the crowd and walked to the summit of the island. On the way up we discovered lava tube tunnels that you could explore. This was fun without a torch … but most had enough light so you could see where you were going. The walk to the top is about 1hr each way. At the summit there was a short walk along a wooden boardwalk and some steps to the very top. Once at the top, we looked out over Auckland City taking in the panoramic views. We sat down and decided to eat our lunch. Lucky I packed yummy sandwiches.
Lava tubes are formed when low-viscosity molten lava known as pahoehoe flows and cools on the outside due to contact with the ground and air, to form a hard crust allowing the still-liquid molten lava to continue to flow through inside. At Rangitoto the large tubes are cave-like. A torch is needed to explore the caves. The longest known cave is about 50 m long.
After lunch we followed a loop track around the crater rim. This gave fine views of the extinct crater on the island. On the way down we walked through rugged lava crops and native bush before making it to the bottom again. As we were quite early for the ferry, we decided to walk around the path by the water’s edge. Along the waterfront are many small old baches with signs describing their history. Soon it was time to board the ferry and head back to Auckland CBD, ending a great day on the Hauraki Gulf.
Baches (small holiday houses) were built around the island's edge in the 1920s and 1930s. The legality of their existence was doubtful from the start and the building of further baches was banned in 1937. Most have since been removed because of the ban and because the island has become a scenic reserve. However some 30 of the 140 baches remain as of 2010, and some are being preserved to show how the island used to be, once boasting a permanent community of several hundred people, including a good number of children.
Kia Kaha, Rangitoto!