Rangitoto Island is visible from almost everywhere in the eastern part of Auckland, so it should come as no surprise that all of eastern Auckland is visible from Rangitoto Island. But this was my second visit, and I was surprised a second time.
That’s just a small part of the view from the top. But let’s start at the bottom.
The day started cloudy, and there was a fair chance of rain, but I decided to go for it anyway.
Rangitoto often looks a bit 2 dimensional from a distance. As you get closer it begins to take shape. There used to be holiday houses on the island, but people can’t live there now, or even spend the night. You can see some of the buildings if you zoom in on the picture below.
The waharoa o Peretu – the gateway of Peretu – welcomes thousands of visitors who enjoy the 35 minute ferry ride from Auckland’s downtown ferry terminal to visit the island.
Peretu, the spiritual ancestor of Rangitoto, is reflected in the beautiful carving. The waharoa itself reflects the rich Māori heritage of pest-free Rangitoto and Motutapu Islands. Ngāi Tai ki Tāmaki carver Reuben Kirkwood tells the story of the wahaora in the following video.
– DOC website
Rangitoto Island is the worlds largest pohutukawa forest. I should have waited a couple of weeks to visit, in order to see it all in bloom.
The plant life grows over the black volcanic rock that makes up Rangitoto Island. It gets hot out there. This is one reason I decided to go on a cloudy day. The skies cleared, but unfortunately the air stayed a bit hazy.
The landscape is beautiful, but it can’t really compete with the views that appear through openings in the bush the whole way up.
Near the top the path gets steep. There’s a shady picnic area before this ascent. Just before the highest point you get a view of the crater.
I haven’t explicitly mentioned in this post that Rangitoto is a volcanic island. Let’s get some details from Wikipedia:
There’s a view of the crater from a walkway between the viewing platforms along the rim that makes it easier to take it all in.
Here’s a cool old airplane I saw from the top.
Ok, I think I’ve built enough excitement, so here’s the view of the city from the top of Rangitoto Island, from Waiheke, Motutapu and Motuihe islands in the east, through the city center, to the Whangaparoa Peninsula and Tiritiri Matangi and even Kawau Island in the north. It’s a big file, so be sure you’re on WiFi, zoom way in, and enjoy!
I’m thinking of using that picture as a way to navigate many of my blog posts on eastern Auckland. I’ll see what I can come up with.
I took a relatively early ferry and had plans to get in another walk around the island, but I was captivated by this view. I had a long leisurely lunch and waited for the platform to clear so that I could try to shoot panoramas. I was asked to take many pictures of people against the stunning background and thus met and talked with many of the locals and tourists visiting Rangitoto that day.
I spent a little time on the other viewing platform, taking in Rangitoto’s crater, northern Auckland, Motutapu and Waiheke and Motuihe islands and southern Auckland. This file is pretty big too.
I walked back down the way I had come, with just a little time to spare before catching the last ferry off of the island. The weather got pretty windy on the ride back to the city, and rained just a little.
Rangitoto Island is a great day out in Auckland, and the summit does offer some of the best views in the region. If possible, do it in December when the pohutukawa are in full bloom.
Enjoy the full gallery of ~22 pictures below. To view on imgur click here.
At the east end of St Heliers Beach are the remnants of some structure that appear to have been stairs up to the rock shelf. Climbing up was just a bit tricky, with some holes that probably once held posts offering footholds to supplement what nature provided.
The high rock shelf, along with the cliffs and the view of Rangitoto Island, looks like everything I love about walking the foreshore. In the distance you can see the walkway down to Ladies Bay Beach.
This is the most dangerous part of the walk. I started about 3 hours before low tide. Closer to low tide maybe that I could have walked along the shore below these rocks, but I had some distance to cover and a window of maybe 6 hours, so I pressed on.
Before I continue, a warning about walking the foreshore:
Do you know the sound of thunder, Dear Reader?
Can you imagine that sound if I ask you to?
I have warned more than one companion that the conditions on the foreshore can be extremely slippery (and dangerous in other ways as well) moments before they hit the ground, hard.
But I didn’t say it in thunder.
Dear Reader, listen to the thunder.
Be very careful when walking the foreshore!
Note that this most treacherous part of this walk is easily avoided by walking up Cliff Road from St Heliers, and then down the paved path to Ladies Bay.
It seems clear that there was once a series of bridges allowing visitors to walk from St Heliers Beach to Ladies Bay Beach along the shore, probably even at high tide. Each broken bridge now marks the site of some especially challenging terrain to cross.
There is challenging terrain not marked by the remains of bridges as well. It’s a short walk from St Heliers Beach to Ladies Bay Beach, but the going is slow.
It didn’t yet know what lay around the corner, but at this point my way forward was clear.
It is an un-researched theory of mine that that the foreshore walkway was has not been maintained to make it harder for the uninformed to accidentally wonder from St Heliers Beach onto Ladies Bay Beach. Auckland Council makes it clear that there are no clothing optional beaches in Auckland, but Ladies Bay Beach is known as one all the same.
As you can see below, there was no nudity on Ladies Bay Beach on the day I visited. But that may be because police activity near the beach has pushed that demographic around the point to the much longer beach at Gentlemens Bay.
A simple Google search offers lots of interesting reading on the reputation of Ladies Bay Beach, and on nude beaches in Auckland.
Just around Achilles Point, the long beach at Gentlemens Bay offers a feeling of seclusion, at least for a short while.
A little further along I chose a fallen tree at the back of the beach and sat down to have lunch. It was near a ladder that apparently provides access to the beach. I’d guess it leads up to Glover Park.
I didn’t realize at the time that I had stopped just before a very nude, very gay stretch of Gentlemens Bay Beach. As I got out my sandwich and apple (actual lunch items, not slang terms for something else), I had a conversation that I could have done without. During my lunch nude men strolled past. A few clothed men ascended and descended the ladder.
I walked the rest of Gentlemens Bay out at the edge of the tide, with the shellfish, to avoid similar encounters. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Around the next point is Karaka Bay.
Although the public is allowed access to the foreshore throughout New Zealand, some parts of the coast are just difficult enough to reach that they seem to be sort of semi-private beaches for the use of residents of the houses along the shore. A small group of houses line the shore of Karaka Bay here, and their rowboats wait inverted at the back of the beach.
The foreshore always has interesting rock formations.
This part of the coast is close to Browns Island, and also to the ferries coming and going from Half Moon Bay.
By this point there is mud on top of the rock shelf even near to the shore.
The green grass of Roberta Reserve offers a nice break from an especially muddy part of the coast.
Across a stream lined with mangroves lies the Tahuna Torea Nature Reserve, and I was back on the beach.
Here’s a nice view of Browns Island over the low-tide mudflats from Sandspit Beach.
The Spit extends most of the way across Half Moon Bay, and it looks like you could walk most of it at low tide. Check it out on Google Earth.
But it got really windy at this point, as I suspect it often does, so I just rounded the point and headed south.
It soon got muddy again, so I took the path through Tahuna Torea and crossed the road to Wai O Taiki Nature Reserve.
I struck out along the coast, but I only got a short distance before I was forced to turn inland.
It was a very inviting ascent, and I discovered a path half-way up the hill, before the back yards of the houses visible above.
I’m not sure how open fields make a nature reserve, but that’s what most of Wai O Taiki Nature Reserve seems to be. This made it easy to see the path following the coast ahead.
Mount Maunganui rises in the distance over the pastures of this reserve, and of Point England.
Point England is also mostly open pastures. A couple I spoke with said that these fields were a habitat for the endangered New Zealand dotterel.
Point England has beaches also, so I was able to get back to the foreshore.
On the beaches of Point England I had my unexpected wildlife encounter of the walk – a group of royal spoonbill. These are more common on the south island.
During breeding season these birds get really interesting haircuts to impress the ladies.
I got too close, and they flew away.
I could see on Google Maps that a strip of grass extends south of Point England along the coast, so I decided to keep walking. It starts as a narrow strip of grass between the coast and backyard fences, then gets wider, with a path and some picnic tables. I came to a boat ramp, so I went back down to walk just a bit more of the muddy foreshore. This area is called Tamaki, and the water is still part of Tamaki Strait.
I reached Mount Wellington War Memorial Reserve, and decided to call it a wrap. I consulted Google Maps again, and caught a bus back to the ferry building.
There are hazards of a diverse and sometimes homoerotic nature on this part of Auckland’s coast, and lots of mud, but this is a good walk all the same.
You can view the full gallery of 51 pictures below. To view on imgur click here.
Click here to see the area on Google Maps (note that this is not the exact walk, although it’s reasonably close).
You can view the full gallery of 17 pictures below. To view on imgur, click here.
I drove to St. Heliers on a beautiful Sunday morning, and it was so busy that I drove right on through and up the coast a short distance to Achilles Point. I walked along St. Heliers Beach later that evening, after taking a bus from the end of my walk.
St. Heliers has a nice beach, but Achilles Point is situated atop coastal cliffs, and has a viewing platform with nice views of central Auckland and Tamaki Straight, including Browns Island, which was looking especially photogenic that day.
Glover Park is a nice enough little local park, but following the path shown below leads back to the cliffs and more great views of Tamaki Strait (the picture of Browns Island, above, was actually shot from Glover Park).
Churchill Park is mostly pastures, cows and tree stumps, but I’m sure it’s great for locals looking for a break from the roads and sidewalks. It serves that same purpose for the Point to Point Walk as well.
After Churchill Park a short walk takes you back to the coast, and just a bit further the Tahuna Torea Nature Reserve begins. Tahuna Torea is beaches much of the way, with great views, surrounded by green, and extends a great distance along the coast.
I followed the beach to a sand spit that extends out into Half Moon Bay.
I found that sand spit interesting enough that I had to walk to the very end.
The picture below looks back along the sand spit toward Tahuna Torea. The body of water to the left is called Wai O Taiki Bay.
I had made it this far along the low tide route, but the tide was not low. I was quickly stymied when I tried to continue along the coast, and had to backtrack a fair distance in order to make use of a boardwalk across a stretch of mud and mangroves and continue south.
It looks like Tahuna Torea transitions into Wai O Taiki Nature Reserve, then into Point England Reserve. I followed another boardwalk for a short Tahuna Torea walk, but when it reached a carpark I decided to call it a day, and catch a bus back to my car.
The walk from St. Heliers back up to Achilles Point offered a dramatic early evening view of the Auckland CBD.
I plan to go back and finish this walk, but next time I’ll do it at low tide. I think that I can do the whole thing along the coast, below the cliffs and along the beaches, avoiding the roads entirely.
You can view the full gallery of 17 pictures below. To view on imgur, click here.
Steppin' the miles, enjoying the view, bringing it all to you.