An insiders’ guide to Auckland’s volcanoes
Forget the City of Sails, Auckland was once very much the City of Volcanoes. It has a long history of volcanic activity that has shaped the mounded hills and troughs of the Auckland that we know and love today.
A short history of Auckland’s volcanic activity
Somewhere between 200,000 and 250,000 years ago, volcanoes started appearing in the area that would become known as Auckland. Some of the oldest are Onepoto Domain and Pupuke, and the oldest within the city are most likely Albert Park and the Domain.
In total, there have been 48 active volcanoes in and around Auckland city in that time, all of which are within 20 kilometres of the city centre. Fortunately, the volcanic field is now dormant, with only a 0.001 per cent chance of an eruption in any given year, according to the Auckland City Council.
Here are three of the most notable dormant volcanoes in the region that each make for a popular Auckland tourist attraction.
Rangitoto Island casts an impressive silhouette against the harbour skyline, and has its roots as both the largest and most recent volcanic eruption in Auckland.
It erupted just 600 years ago, and according to Te Ara, Rangitoto expelled as much lava in one volcanic event as all other volcanoes combined. Translated, the name means ‘sky blood’.
Today, Rangitoto Island is a popular attraction you can visit for hiking and Auckland sightseeing trips. It is home to New Zealand’s largest pohutukawa forest, as well as more than 150 species of native trees and plants.
In 2009, the Department of Conservation began work to eradicate the seven pest species on the island. On August 27 2011, Rangitoto was officially declared as pest-free, which is why you can now hear saddlebacks around the summit, and see tuis, tomtits, whiteheads, bellbirds and other fantastic species around the island, making for an ideal Auckland birding spot.
To most Aucklanders, Mt Eden is a family friendly domain, with some challenging walks due to its steep incline.
While it is both of those things, it is also the tallest volcano in the Auckland area at 196 metres tall, and has three beautiful overlapping cones at the top. You can even look down into the crater, which is about 50 metres deep.
Mt Eden is also known as Maungawhau, and last erupted 15,000 years ago. In some places, the lava flow was 60 metres thick.
If you’re going on a tour in Auckland and visit Mt Eden, be sure to look out for the native bush life, which is still in abundance on the old lava flow at the Almorah Road section. Here you will find bush such as whau, karaka, pigeonwood, kohekohe, mahoe, puriri, titoki, karamu and rangiora.
The domain itself is protected from damage by the Historical Places Act as an archaeological site.
Affectionately known simply as ‘the Waitaks’ to locals, the ranges here are the result of volcanic activity millions of years ago, dating back much further than the relatively recent volcanoes of Auckland city.
This began in the Miocene period, which was roughly 15 to 22 million years ago. The Waitakere Ranges were initially under water, but when the Pacific and Australia tectonic plates collided, it resulted in the massive Waitakere volcano rising from the ocean. Now deeply eroded, the remnants of this volcano create some of the most beautiful landscapes in New Zealand, making for unforgettable day tours from Auckland.
Only 40 minutes from Auckland city, the Waitakere Ranges offer 16,000 hectares of native rainforest and coastlines, with more than 250 kilometres of walking tracks and enchanting features such as the Karekare Falls. It’s where you will find regenerated kauri trees, nikau palms, and New Zealand’s iconic silver fern.
Tristan Cullen - Passionate Conservationist