While spending a short weekend in Auckland, I wanted to challenge myself by climbing three of Auckland’s unique volcanoes. Although Auckland is filled with more than 53 volcanoes, Rangitoto Island, Mt Eden and One Tree Hill are among its most popular and accessible volcanos. With a Sunday available to explore the city, I took off on my volcano adventure by boat, bus and by foot.
A short 30min ferry ride across the Hauraki Gulf, Rangitoto Island is a distinctive landmark in Auckland with its symmetrical shield volcano cone that rises 260m above the sea. Now a public reserve managed by the Department of Conservation (DOC), the island has been uninhabited since the early 20th century but remnants of old ‘baches’ can still be seen from the shore.
The rugged volcanic coastline shows evidence of old lava crops now surrounded by lush native bush and sandy coves. Although there are several paths around the island, the main summit track is the quickest and most direct route to the top (1hr). The path cuts through the fields of black lava stones before transitioning into lush forests near the peak.
Just before the summit sits a now overgrown crater where the last eruption some 600 years ago exploded. The track to the summit has two options – one straight up a series of stairs, the other looping around the edge of the crater to the top. One of the highest points in Auckland, it provides a 360 degree view of the city and surrounding harbour. Just stunning on a beautiful Spring morning!
On the way down, a side track leads to a series of lava tubes. These long caves were left behind after the passage of molten lava carved its way through the rock. Luckily I was able to use the flashlight on my phone to navigate my way through two of the accessible and signposted lava tubes.
There are even more paths to explore on the island, ones that leads to old ship wrecks and lighthouses, but just be sure to watch the time as to when the last ferry leaves as there are no food, water or places to stay on the island!
A short bus ride from downtown, Mt Eden is an icon on Auckland’s isthmus as its dormant eponymous volcano is the highest natural point in the city at 196m. Although there are roads that allow you to drive to the top, I opted to venture on foot, finding my own path along the grass to the top.
When I reached what I thought was the summit, I saw another peak in the distance and made my way up the bank. To my surprise I saw not one but two more peaks in the distance to what was the true summit signaled by a monument. The view at the top provided another amazing 360 degree view of the city, with Rangitoto in clear view in the distance.
The large 50m crater was the most impressive aspect of the volcano as it was an erie reminder that you are walking on a dormant volcano that is expected to erupt again in the next ‘tens of thousands of years’. If only Auckland had snow in the winter, I could image this would be a pretty popular sledding location with its epic steepness!
One Tree Hill
Deceiving close to Mt Eden, I decided to make my way there on foot, passing through the stunning (and very busy) Cornwall Park. Filled with cherry blossoms (and surprising cattle!), the park provides an oasis where people can enjoy the outdoors and feel worlds away from the busy urban city.
Originally named for the single tree that stood atop the hill, One Tree Hill’s iconic tree was sadly cut down in 1852 by a group of angry workmen who were upset over not receiving their rations. After several failed attempts to re-plant another tree, an Obelisk was erected at the request of Sir John Logan Campbell as a memorial to Māori people.
On the way up I also came across what might be the creepiest dead tree ever. Completely hollow inside, I feel like it would make for a pretty good tree house if it didn’t look like it might come alive and eat you at any moment!
The monument can be seen from all corners of the city and is a popular spot for visitors. In typical New Zealand fashion, no good land goes unused, therefore sheep can be seen grazing over the hill, frolicking freely amongst the tourists and locals alike. Given it was spring time there were heaps of little lambs running around, many of which seemed unphased by the people and even allowed me to get closer than I ever have been to a sheep here in New Zealand!
What other volcanoes should I visit in Auckland? Would you take the ‘3 volcanos in a day’ challenge?