Rangitoto Volcano – The Newest of Auckland’s Volcanoes

rangitoto volcano
The distinctive silhouette of Rangitoto volcano island – Auckland’s newest volcano attraction.
ferry to rangitoto volcano
Leaving the city of Auckland, bound for Rangitoto Volcano
auckland city skyline
The skyline of the city of Auckland, New Zealand

It’s taking every fibre of my being to refrain from typical travel writing terms like “majestic”, and “magnificent”. In the distance I can see the largest city in the South Pacific, Auckland. Almost every hill around is one of  50 or so suburban Auckland volcanoes, all located within the city limits. I’m in New Zealand, and on my first day outside of my home county, at the beginning of the biggest journey of my life, I’m standing on a the dormant Volcano known as Rangitoto. 600 years ago right where I am standing, the water began to boil.

Auckland Volcanoes – The Downtown Ring of Fire

It’s not everyday you get to walk around a Volcanic island that is just 600 years old. But in Auckland, the City of Sails, Rangitoto volcano is just a quick boat ride away.

It’s birth was witnessed by the local Maori’s as a series of dramatic explosions. Rangitoto volcano remains the youngest, and largest, of all the volcanic islands in the Hauraki Gulf of New Zealand. Geo-science experts agree, it will not be the last new volcano that appears in Auckland.

A few minutes from downtown Auckland, Rangitoto is a unique Volcanic island that boasts a fascinating landscape of rugged lava crops, lush native bush, and beautiful sandy coves. Rangitoto has no permanent human population.


A Rangitoto volcano bach
A “Bach” on Rangitoto volcano island – it’s New Zealandish for “holiday home”.

In the early 1900’s a small community was living in “baches” (pronounced “batches” – the local name for small, simple, holiday homes) scattered along the shoreline of Rangitoto island. In 1937 all building was prohibited, and just a few examples of the baches remain today. Notably, convict labour was used in the early 20th century to build local amenities such as toilet blocks.

On Rangitoto Volcano , it’s Christmas Every Day

Famed worldwide as a botanical gem, Rangitoto volcano is home to New Zealand’s largest Pohutakawa forest. These trees are known colloquially as New Zealand Christmas Trees due to the flowering period that coincides with, well, Christmas. There are now more than two hundred species of native plants on Rangitoto volcano, including forty species of fern. Many of the plants are unusual hybrids, and extremely rare.


Rangitoto Volcano flora
The walk up Rangitoto Volcano is green and serene.
the walk to the Rangitoto Volcano summit
Phillipa, walking up the final ascent to “bag the summit” of Rangitoto.
View from Rangitoto - one of the 50 Auckland Volcanoes
The view from the top of Rangitoto – you can make out downtown Auckland on the right of the photo.

From where the ferry docks on Rangitoto island, the hike to the summit and back can be completed in a leisurely 2 hours or so. The track isn’t steep, but can be a little strenuous for those who are not, shall we say, in peak physical condition. It’s easy enough to be done by anyone with a little bit of determination. Bring water – there are no shops at all on the Rangitoto volcano.

Above Rangitoto Volcano, Blood is In the Sky

Rangitoto literally means bloody sky in the Maori language. The word is derived from the phrase te rangi i totongia a tamatekapua – “the day the blood of tametekapua was shed”, a reference to the injury of a Maori chief during a battle fought on Rangitoto volcano island.

click to see an interactive map showing the location of this article


Today the news is awash with word from Tongariro – the volcano mountain park in the center of the North Island of New Zealand, famously known as Mordor from Lord of the Rings. After more than one hundred years laying dormant, the 3000 meter high Volcano has just burst into life, and erupted.

Rocks a metre across were thrown a kilometer into the air. Highways were closed, as the volcanic ash covered everything in sight and reduced visibility to zero. Reports of “red lightning” at the center of the plume last night, combined with an expert assessment that the next new Volcano could appear in the middle of Queen Street (a minutes walk from where I am staying in downtown Auckland), the welcome mat has well and truly been laid out in New Zealand.


Rangitoto volcano crater
The view into Rangitoto volcano crater – as you can see, it’s dormant….at the moment!
north shore tramping club
Cool logo – Auckland North Shore Tramping Club
rangitoto volcano base camp
I call this “Rangitoto Base Camp”. Makes the climb sound a lot more impressive, no?
auckland volcanoes view
Panoramic view from the top of Rangitoto volcano. Auckland in the distance.
Auckland volcano - Rangitoto
More nature of Rangitoto – a 600 year old eco-system.
rangitoto volcano view
One more panoramic – I was captivated by the view from Rangitoto.

Tomorrow, I’ll be on a train crossing the North Island of New Zealand. Over the next few weeks, I’ll travel from one end of New Zealand, to the other. It should be choice bro.


BTW, I would love to send you the next dispatch, posted from some-where random around this planet (and you'll soon find out why YOMADIC email followers are my favourite followers):

8 thoughts on “Rangitoto Volcano – The Newest of Auckland’s Volcanoes

  1. I think this is such a cool aspect of Auckland. Will you guys be doing the Tongariro Alpine Crossing? I highly recommend it if you’re into volcanoes – was a highlight of our trip to NZ.

    1. Hi Andrea…probably not…Tongariro erupted a few days ago! I am now near Napier, and was cleaning ash off the car today (several hundred km’s away from Tongariro). But, you never know…I’ve heard it is an amazing trek!

  2. I had no idea there was an eruption in New Zealand so recently – and they reckon a new volcano will pop up in the middle of Auckland?! It sounds like that movie about the volcanoes. Y’know the one. Volcano. The view from the top of Rangitoto is gorgeous, by the way – and I had no idea that there are volcanic islands in the world that are so young!

  3. It’s amazing and almost surreal seeing the verdant crater which one day would erupt again. As for Indonesia which also lies in the ring of fire, volcanoes have been continuously shaping the life of the country. Beautiful photos. Nate!

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