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Waiheke Island
Waiheke Island is nineteen kilometres from Auckland . The ferry journey takes approximately 45 minutes and ferries generally operate hourly from the ferry terminal, usually on the hour in both directions. The fare is $26 return. The first ferry from Auckland is at 5:20 on weekdays, 6:30 on Saturdays and 7:00 on Sundays. The last service back from the island is at 0:30 on weekdays and Saturdays, and 22:15 on Sundays. There are also services from and to Half Moon Bay.

Waiheke Island covers 92 square kilometres and is the second largest island in the Hauraki Gulf . It was inhabited by Europeans soon after Auckland and livings were made from farming, fishing, timber and ship-building. The Coromandel Steam Boat Company was formed in 1879 and operated the steamer Coromandel between Auckland and Coromandel via Waiheke. In 1895, the route was taken over by the Northern Steamship Company, which built a wharf on Waiheke and started running excursion services from Auckland . From that time, tourism became one of the island's most important industries, an importance increased by the introduction, in 1987, of a fast catamaran service. Now thousands of people every day cross to the island for pleasure. However, there are also 7,500 residents of the island, of whom nearly 20% commute to Auckland to work.

The island offers beautiful sandy beaches, ocean kayaking, fishing, bush walks, vineyards and wineries, olive groves, mountain biking and horse riding. There are also Second World War fortifications and tunnels. The main town is Oneroa.

Waiheke Bus Company runs two regular bus services. These two routes are Matiatia (where the Fullers ferries arrive) – Oneroa – Palm Beach – Ostend – Rocky Bay, and Matiatia – Oneroa – Blackpool – Surfdale – Ostend – Onetangi. Buses meet every ferry arrival and take approximately half an hour to reach their destinations by either route. Fares range from $1.20 to $3.50, or a day pass, available after 9:00 on weekdays and all day at weekends, costs $10.

Fullers operates tours of the island. There is, for example, a Waiheke Island Explorer Tour at 10:00 and 12:00 daily, costing $46.40 including an all-day pass for the bus services, or a Vineyard Tour at 11:00, at a cost of $85, including lunch. There are also tours operated by other companies.

The alternative ferry service, from Half Moon Bay, is operated by Subritzky Line, supplemented by some Fullers services at weekends. The Subritzky service is generally hourly, on the hour in both directions, with the first ferry from Half Moon Bay at 6:00 and the last from the island at 19:30 on weekdays, 20:30 on Fridays and 20:00 on Saturdays and Sundays. The crossing takes 50 minutes and costs $14.50 single or $26.50 return. The arrival point for Subritzky vessels is Kennedy Point.

It is not necessary to limit a visit to a day trip, for there is plenty of accommodation available on the island, including two backpackers hostels and a wide range of more opulent options.

Rangitoto Island

Rangitoto Island is quite different from Waiheke. It is a volcano – the youngest of the volcanoes in and around Auckland , being a mere 600 years old. It suddenly erupted from the sea bed and left behind a cone 259 metres high. The island is roughly circular, five kilometres across, and almost entirely made up of black volcanic basalt. Its cone can be seen on the horizon from Auckland and becomes more spectacular as one approaches.

The island was evidently not much used by Maoris, except as a lookout. However, there are some burial caves, presumably for those who lived and died on neighbouring Motutapu Island.

Rangitoto was purchased by the crown in 1854 for the sum of £15, and in 1890 it became a recreation reserve and was used for picnics. Prisoners were brought here to construct some basic roads in the 1920s and 1930s. The also constructed the stone walls by the landing points and built a swimming pool. From 1890 onwards some sites were leased for baches (small holiday homes), and a few of these leases still continue, although no new ones have been issued since 1937. During the Second World War, the island was used for defence purposes, and there was a lookout at the summit of the volcano. Rangitoto is well vegetated, and has, in fact, the largest remaining forest of native pohutukawa trees in the country. It also has several species of orchid and some unusual hybrid plants. It has colonies of sea birds, but relatively few land birds. Possums and wallabies, which had been introduced here, have been eradicated to protect the trees.

The main attraction, though, is the volcano. One can walk to the summit. The return journey takes about two hours, plus whatever time one chooses to spend at the top. A path runs right round the rim of the crater, giving splendid views all round, and inside as well. Fortunately, the volcano is now extinct. Note that there is no water available on the island, so be sure to bring an adequate supply.

Several companies run tours here, but the cheapest way to come is on a Fullers ferry service, which costs $20 return. Be careful, because this is not a frequent service. Ferries leave Auckland from the Ferry Building in Quay Street at 9:15, 12:15 and 15:00 and from Devonport ten minutes later. The crossing takes thirty minutes. Ferries leave Rangitoto for the return journey at 9:45, 12:45 and 15:30. There is a later ferry back from Rangitoto, at 17:00, on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays. Fullers also operates a tour of the island to coincide with the arrival of the 12:15 sailing from Auckland (and also the 9:15 sailing at weekends only). The tour costs $29. It takes one most of the way to the summit of the volcano, but there is still some walking to be done.

Remember not to be left behind by the last ferry, although there is a camp site on neighbouring Motutapu Island . The two islands are connected by a causeway. There is no accommodation on Rangitoto Island.


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