Auckland’s iconic Rangitoto Island is worthy of a day-trip, with kilometers of walking trails and landmarks to see, this guide details all the tracks on the island, with options for all fitness levels.
A lot of people that visit Rangitoto Island think that there is only one walking option – the summit track. Most will walk to the summit and then return to catch the next ferry out. But there is so much to see and do on the island, that you’d might as well spend a whole day there!
This guide informs you of all the options, so whether you are catching the ferry or taking your own boat to Islington bay, know all of your choices to plan the perfect day out.
Whichever route you choose to walk, these are essentials for you:
Bring your own food and water – there is no where to fill up
Don’t forget sunscreen and a hat
Wear closed shoes
Check the ferry schedule and don’t miss the last boat
Tell someone where you’re going and when you’ll be back
It’s also a great idea to use the toilets near the ferry terminal when you land, and bring togs if you want to take advantage of the beautiful swimming spots on the island.
Catch a ferry to Rangitoto from the Auckland CBD or Devonport ferry terminals. You will save if you book online. Check the Fullers website to be sure that you know the correct time of ferry departures.
Book your Fullers360 tickets here.
1. Rangitoto Island Summit
Highlights: Rangitoto Summit, Lava Caves
The most common walk that people will do when landing at the ferry wharf is take the Rangitoto Summit track. This is a 5.5km return track, with 227m elevation gain, and will take you approx 2 hours. As the most popular track, the path is well maintained and an easy walk – it’s not very technical and you have nice bush cover for much of the track, providing protection from the sun.
You can also do a side-trip to the lava caves, which are well signposted. And don’t forget to walk the short loop track around the volcanic crater!
If you are a beginner hiker or have limited time in the day, this is the track for you – you get to experience spectacular volcanic terrain, climb to the summit and see the stunning views of Auckland City across the Hauraki Gulf.
2. Rangitoto Island Loop
Time: 3hr 30mins
Highlights: Rangitoto Summit, Lava Caves, Mackenzie Bay, Rangitoto Lighthouse
The second option for a longer hike is what I like to call the quarter-loop-track. From the ferry terminal, head west along the road, following the road along the coastline. This path is much wider than the summit track, made for vehicular access, but also more exposed, with little shade along the path. There is signage for a few little detours towards the coast, don’t hesitate to follow these trails for an extra adventure.
The highlight of this route would be Mackenzie Bay and Rangitoto Lighthouse. The Rangitoto Lighthouse is striped red and white. Mackenzie Bay is a beautiful sandy beach, perfect for a swim, a picnic, or a spot to watch the sailboats in the harbour. It’s a secluded bay and you might get it all to yourself, as most visitors don’t walk this route to the summit.
After taking a break at Mackenzie Bay, the track has a gradual uphill towards the centre of the island and is more shaded than the first half of the track. You will then see signage for the Rangitoto Summit and there are a number of stairs on this section of the track, with beautiful views over the island towards Islington Bay.
To complete the quarter-loop-track, follow signage directing you towards the ferry terminal. This path is the well-travelled summit track and you will meet many more people than on the first part of your walk. I also recommend the quick side-trip to the Lava Caves as you make your way down the hill.
3. Rangitoto Island Coastal Track
Highlights: Rangitoto Summit, Lava Caves, Mackenzie Bay, Rangitoto Lighthouse, Islington Bay, Shipwreck Bay.
If you’re up for a full day of walking and want to experience the whole island, the coastal track is the one for you. Start this loop clockwise towards Mackenzie Bay or anticlockwise towards Islington Bay.
As the longest route that you can do on the island, it is essential that you take the first ferry to Rangitoto in the morning, if you want to do this 17.4km hike. The section of the track on the eastern side of the island is along a gravel road, with sections that are wide and exposed to the elements (read Rangitoto Island Loop above). The track between Islington bay and the ferry terminal is (in my opinion) the most difficult track on the island, due to the exposed volcanic rock and scoria that you will be walking over. Closed footwear is essential as this section of the walk can be hard on the feet and legs.
Two short detours from this loop track will let you experience the lava caves and Shipwreck Bay. Both of these are well sign-posted, so you can’t miss them!
I would definitely recommend this full day walk if you are comfortable with hiking. It makes for a great day out and you get to see each of the landmarks on the island, including the Rangitoto lighthouse, Mackenzie Bay, summit, lava caves, Shipwreck Bay and Islington Bay. Although it is a 5 hour track, this does not account for the stops and photo opportunities – make sure that you pace yourself well and keep an eye on the time so that you don’t miss the last ferry back to Auckland.
Want to stay overnight on the island?
Did you know that you can book a historic bach?! The 1920s heritage buildings have been restored and are off-grid, with solar-power electricity and gas for cooking and heating. For the first time in over 100 years (maybe ever!), these are available for public bookings.
Did you know that you can camp on Rangitoto’s neighbour – Motutapu Island? If you want to stay overnight, then bring a tent and walk across the land bridge at Islington bay to stay at the Motutapu DOC campsite.
I hope this guide helps you plan the perfect day on Rangitoto Island. It is truly one of Auckland’s gems and makes for an epic day trip! Comment down below if you have any further questions or if you did one of these hikes, I always love to hear from you.
Looking for more epic Auckland walks? Try the Te Henga Walkway!
Thank you very much for this review! It was exactly what I was looking for!