In the Hauraki Gulf, Rangitoto Island is just a short, and not to mention highly enjoyable, 25-minute ferry ride from Auckand. The unpopulated island is actually a shield volcano that is the youngest (only 600 years old!) in the Auckland Volcanic Field.
To me, Rangitoto Island is like an almost unspoiled wild world - so far removed from the city, but just under an hour away. The summit walk takes you up the side of the volcano, passing this odd landscape of black rock and green trees that have managed to grow out of it. It's recommended you give yourself at least an hour to make it the 2 km uphill to the crater. There are a number of interpretive signs and interesting things to see along the way.
As you make your way farther up the side, you can catch some great views of the Auckland skyline and the surround islands in the Hauraki Gulf.
Once you conquer the never ending up hill part of the walk, you'll find yourself at a a nice viewing platform for the crater.
One of the things I really enjoyed about the Rangitoto Island was the pathway that actually circles the crater. Along the way you'll find more amazing views, a few great lunch spots along boardwalk pathways, and old lookout towers from World War II. So much to explore!
Before you head back down to the water, a short distance from the summit are the lava caves and it's most definitely worth checking them out! There area a few large enough to walk though, like the one above, and a few more that you can crawl into. If you visit the Island on a hot day, the caves are a wonderful place to beat the heat.
If you have some time before you need to catch your ferry, take the short walk towards Flax Point to pass by the historic baches (holiday homes). Built in the early 1900s, only about 30 of the baches remain but are being preserved to maintain the islands history.
To get to Rangitoto Island, you'll need to take a ferry and make sure you keep track of the time so you don't miss your return ride! There are a number of other short and long walks around the island and I hope someday to make it back to spend more time exploring this wild island.