The low, conical shape of Rangitoto, 10km northeast of the city centre, is a familiar sight to every Aucklander. Yet few set foot on the island, missing out on a freakish land of fractured black lava with the world’s largest pohutukawa forest clinging precariously to its crevices. Alongside lies the older, and geologically quite distinct, island of Motutapu or “sacred island”, linked to Rangitoto by a narrow causeway.

A day-trip is enough to get a feel for Rangitoto, make the obligatory hike to the summit (from where there are magnificent views of the city and Hauraki Gulf) and tackle a few trails, but longer stays are possible if you pitch your tent at the primitive campsite at Home Bay on Motutapu.

Brief history

Rangitoto is Auckland’s youngest and largest volcano. Molten magma probably pushed its way through the bed of the Hauraki Gulf around six hundred years ago – watched by Motutapu Maori, who apparently called the island “blood red sky” after the spectacle that accompanied its creation.

The government purchased Rangitoto for £15 in 1854, putting it to use as a military lookout point and a work camp for prisoners. From the 1890s, areas were leased for camping and unauthorized baches were cobbled together on the sites. Over 100 baches had sprouted by the late 1930s when legislation stopped any new construction. In recent years, the cultural value of this unique set of 1920s and 1930s houses has been appreciated and the finest examples of the remaining 34 are being preserved for posterity, their corrugated-iron chimneys and cast-off veranda-railing fenceposts capturing the Kiwi make-do spirit.

 

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

New Zealand features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

24 breaks for bookworms

24 breaks for bookworms

1. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas In 1971, fuelled by a cornucopia of drugs, Hunter S. Thompson set off for Las Vegas on his “savage journey to the heart of …

02 Mar 2017 • Eleanor Aldridge camera_alt Gallery
Go solo: the 20 best places to travel alone

Go solo: the 20 best places to travel alone

Solo travel can be one of the most rewarding ways to explore the world. Whether you'd rather spend it on a desert island or in a frenetic new city, here are th…

21 Dec 2016 • Rachel Mills camera_alt Gallery
How to find the right New Zealand for you

How to find the right New Zealand for you

While it may not loom large on the world map, New Zealand feels incredibly vast and imposing on the ground, especially to those who try to visit the North and S…

23 May 2016 • Eric Grossman insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month