When deciding to hike in New Zealand, which is made up of two islands – the North and the South, you will have to ask yourself what is it that you’d like to see in your journey. Both islands are blessed with outstanding beauty, and offer different things. While the South is all about glaciers, temperate rainforests and river gorges, the North Island is where you go for lava fields, volcanic islands and extinct volcanoes, which is a beautiful experience.
What I like most about hiking in the North Island is its volcanic nature. The best hikes are undoubtedly those that showcase this (such as the Tongariro Alpine Crossing), or any of those that involve climbing volcanic cones – whether dormant or active, making the terrain and characteristics of hikes here totally unique.
So, if you’re planning a hike in the North Island and want to experience this, here are some of the destinations for a day hike to consider:
Rangitoto is a volcanic island that last erupted 600 years ago. Located off Auckland, Rangitoto’s surface is volcanic rock, parts of which have been smoothed out to form tracks for people to walk on. The sight of black lava fields surrounding you is something that will remain with you for a long time. The best views are when you hike up higher into the forests on the higher reaches of the volcano. The highlight? The 360-degree view of Auckland city and the Hauraki Gulf.
Getting there: Ferries to Rangitoto depart from Auckland’s downtown ferry terminal. For tickets, schedules and fares, go to https://www.fullers.co.nz/destinations/rangitoto-island/. Hikers must pay attention to the ferry schedule as it is the only way back to Auckland.
The tracks: Signposted, and requires a moderate fitness level. Off-track, the terrain is uneven and rocky. Rangitoto’s surface is jagged and hardened lava. There are six tracks, but the Summit track (3.1km) and the Coastal track (4.5km) are the two main ones. The Summit Track brings you to the crater rim while the Coastal track goes around a section of the island and back to the jetty. I would classify the tracks as moderate and suitable for anyone who is reasonably fit. For a more challenging hike, I would suggest combining the Summit track with the Boulder Bay track, which runs in the wilder northern part of the island, adding another 2.5km to your total.
Practical info: Allocate at least 4-5 hours for your visit, including the return ferry ride. Rangitoto has been designated a pest-free island, and to prevent the spread of pests, the island has no food outlets. Visitors should therefore bring their own water, lunch and snacks. Neither are there rubbish bins on the island- all rubbish, including unfinished food, must be taken with you when leaving.
What to wear: Warm layers (regardless of season), a rain jacket, sunblock, a sun hat and good walking shoes.