Sunset at the summit on the kayak tour to Rangitoto

Amazing Sunset Kayak Tour To Rangitoto Island

Looking for an amazing adventure in Auckland? Take the sunset kayak tour across the bay to Rangitoto Island, an uninhabited volcanic island, hike to its peak, watch the sunset behind the Auckland skyline, and kayak back to Auckland in inky-black darkness. I did this on the last day of my trip in New Zealand and it was amazing. I absolutely loved it! If you do this, make sure to book it early though, as space fills up quickly!

St Helier’s Bay

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Sunset Kayak Tour To Rangitoto

The sunset kayak tour to Rangitoto Island takes about 6-7 hours total. It operates year round, starting at 4 PM in the summer and 2 PM in the winter, which means you get back to Auckland a few hours after sunset.

The tour is run by great people that have been doing this for a long time and really know what they’re doing. This means you will feel safe and learn a lot about the area. Plus, they provide all the gear and make a Kiwi-style BBQ for you to fuel up for the hike and the ride back!

If you’re lucky, you may even get to see bioluminescence in the sea at night when you kayak back to Auckland. I, unfortunately did not get to see this, but I still thought kayaking back at night was really cool. In fact, I was surprised to find this to be one of the coolest parts of the trip! The entire trip is great though, and all perfectly orchestrated.

Kayaking From Auckland To Rangitoto

Your sunset kayak adventure to Rangitoto starts at St Helier’s Bay, which is east of central Auckland (more on that and how to get there below). Rangitoto, the volcanic island you kayak to, is directly across the Gulf of Hauraki from the beach here.

You will kayak out to Rangitoto in the Waitemata harbour, which means “sparkling waters” to Rangitoto Wharf on the south side of Rangitoto Island. It generally takes about a hour to kayak out, but this depends on the wind and your paddling skills.

We had a headwind when I kayaked here, so we had to work for every forward movement of our kayaks. The kayaks are tandem kayaks, so there will be two of you paddling together, which makes the kayak ride a little bit easier. Don’t worry if you sign up as a solo person as they will pair you with someone else.

In addition to the kayaks, they also provide skirt covers, which help keep you dry from the waist down, a water jacket, life jacket, water shoes, and a dry bag. The dry bag is where you can store your personal things to keep them dry (like your cell phone and hiking shoes).

They give you a quick lesson on paddling, so there’s no need to have much experience. After this, you’re ready to go. As you kayak, make sure keep an eye out for wildlife along the way. You may be able to see Little Blue Penguins and possibly dolphins.

Arriving At Rangitoto Island

When you arrive at Rangitoto Wharf, you all help to carry the kayaks to dry ground.

Arriving at Rangitoto island on the sunset kayak tour to Rangitoto
Rangitoto Island

You get a little rest after this as your guides cook you a well-earned kiwi-Style BBQ after the paddle out here. For us this was a delicious grilled steak, coleslaw, sweet potato salad, and bread.

While you’re waiting for your dinner, you can change into your hiking shoes or anything else you want for the hike.

If it’s cold, I suggest bringing some dry clothes (in your dry bag) to change into on the island. Although I wore the provided spray skirt, and it was properly connected to the opening of my kayak, I still got pretty wet on one side.

I was wearing yoga leggings, which dried pretty quickly in the heat of summer, but I did take off an extra top layer and let it dry in the sun while we hiked. It’s best, however, to wear official quick dry clothing.

Hiking Rangitoto Volcano

After you finish your dinner you start your hike up Rangitoto to see the sunset beyond the Auckland skyline. This is the youngest and largest of Auckland’s volcanic cones, erupting from the sea about 600 years ago. It’s considered a dormant volcano due to its young age and the fact that there is some geothermal activity here. Today, most of the island is covered with lush, dense greenery, so you can barely tell it’s a volcano.

The hike from the wharf to the peak and back is 3.5 miles (5.6 km) according to AllTrails, with 797’ (243 m) of elevation gain. It takes about 2 hours round trip, so it’s a pretty good workout, but not difficult.

The trail to the summit is made of scoria, which is a lightweight volcanic rock. It’s small to medium sized and with its light weight, it can sometimes shift under your feet. Because of this, it’s best to wear good shoes.

The first stop is a lookout point of the Auckland skyline about mid-way up. I would say it took us about a half an hour of hiking to get to this point.

First viewpoint on the hike up Rangitoto volcano on the sunset kayak tour to Rangitoto
Auckland Skyline

From there, you continue up towards the peak. You’ll make a brief stop to see the caldera of the volcano along the way, which is also full of greenery.

When you finally reach the summit you’ll see the panoramic view of the Hauraki Gulf and the sun will be setting behind the skyline of Auckland. There’s a boardwalk at the summit to walk along to see it from different angles. It’s nice to spend a little time here looking at the view from the different perspectives.

It can be a little breezy up here, so if it’s a chilly day, bring a jacket.

Sunset at the summit on the kayak tour to Rangitoto
Sunset Over Auckland At The Summit

Kayaking Back To Auckland 

As you leave the peak after sunset, you hike back down Rangitoto at twilight. By the time you get back down to the water, it will be starting to get dark. As it gets darker, the lights from the buildings along the coast of Auckland with be getting brighter and brighter. These lights provide a luminescent light in the jet-black sky for the kayak ride back. It’s really quite beautiful.

As I mentioned before, I was a little nervous about kayaking back to Auckland in the dark before the trip, but it was so beautiful, and so peaceful, it actually was one of my favorite parts of the adventure. Plus, the wind was not as strong on the ride back, so the paddling seemed easier.

When you get back, everyone pitches in again to get all the kayaks out of the water, get your personal stuff back out of your dry bags, and get the gear you just borrowed sorted and put away in the truck/trailer.

By the end of the trip, all the strangers you met a few hours ago will feel like friends.

Sunset Kayak Tour To Rangitoto Trip Requirements

As you can probably guess, this tour requires a moderate fitness level. You don’t need paddling experience, but you do need to be able to paddle for up to 75 minutes and walk 1.5 miles (2.4 km) with elevation.

If you find the activity a bit too much, you may be able to stop at the first lookout point on Rangitoto rather than going all the way to the summit. This, however, only saves about 30 minutes of elevation hiking.

Sunset Kayak Tour To Rangitoto Island

To learn more and book your trip, see Sunset Kayak Tour to Rangitoto Island here. As noted above, these trips are popular and often book up quickly, so it’s best to reserve in advance.

Starting Location

The trip starts near the St Heliers Bay central boat ramp located at 384 Tamaki Drive, St Heliers. If you drive here, look for free parking around St Heliers.

If you don’t have a car, they also offer free pick up at the front of the Auckland Museum (google map here). You can take a taxi here from central Auckland (about a 10 minute ride) or walk (about 30 minutes).

It will be very late when you get back, so the museum will be closed. One of the guys in our group made the mistake of parking his car in the garage below the museum, so his car was, unfortunately, locked in for the night.

I felt bad for him as he was young, so tried to help. We tried finding a guard to help get his car out, and calling the number on the gate, but we ended up walking back in the dark together. Honestly, we were both still pretty hungry after all the activity, so we found a place to eat along the way back to central Auckland. I was surprised at how many places were open near midnight, so walking back is not a bad option.

Best Time To Do A Kayak Tour To Rangitoto

Although you can do a sunset kayak tour to Rangitoto Island year round, the weather is the most pleasant in the summer, December through February. Of course, a sunny day is best to see the sunset, but the trips go rain or shine.

They cannot promise seeing bioluminescence on your tour, but this is most common during warmer weather, between October and April.

Other Ways To Get To Rangitoto Island

If you want to get to Rangitoto Island in your own, can also get there via ferry from Auckland and Devonport.

Fullers Ferry makes limited trips during the week, and a couple on weekends. See fullers.co.nz for details. The last ferry leaves at 4 PM, so it’s not possible to see the sunset from Rangitoto via ferry unless you stay overnight, which is feasible.

There are a few baches, which are modest holiday homes, on Rangitoto that you can rent (an interesting part of the country’s history and culture). As of this writing, there are only three available to rent, so book in advance.

Bach 78 and Bach 114 are located at Islington Bay and Bach 52 is located near Rangitoto Wharf. To learn more about each one and to rent them, see Rangitoto.org.

If you have more time on the island, you can also explore other trails. For example, there’s also a side trail at the summit to see lava caves (make sure to bring a torch for this).

To see a list of all trails on Rangitoto, visit the doc.govt site of Rangitoto. And for a map of the island, see doc.govt.nz.

View from the summit of Rangitoto island on the sunset kayak tour to Rangitoto
Sunset Over Auckland

Want More Of New Zealand?

For other great things to do in the North Island, visit Wellington, New Zealand’s cute little capital. There’s also can’t-miss Tongariro National Park to hike Tongariro. It’s not every day you can hike in a live volcano and the Crossing is considered one of the world’s best day hikes. Another amazing hike on the North Island is Cape Brett Walkway near the Bay of Islands.

For other great hikes in New Zealand, see my posts on Routeburn Track, Abel Tasman Coastal Track, Key Summit Track, A Day Hike on Kepler Track, Ben Lomond Track, and Queesntown Hill Walkway. Routeburn, Kepler, and Abel Tasman are 3 of New Zealand’s 10 “Great Walks”, but all of these hikes are amazing!

If visiting the South Island, make sure to visit stunning Queenstown, the adventure capital of the world, the unmissable Milford Sound, sometimes called the 8th wonder of the world, and all the stops along the way on the drive from Queenstown to Te Anau and Te Anau to Milford Sound.

There’s also incredible Wanaka, with the hidden gem hike up Roy’s Peak Track for an incredible view, amazing Skydiving, Franz Josef Glacier where you can walk on a glacier, and Marlborough, the premier wine tasting area in New Zealand for Sauvignon Blanc. Christchurch is also a delightful city on the South Island to explore.

To help plan your trip, see my New Zealand Travel Guide. It covers the top destinations above, how to get around, when to visit, safety tips, and more.

Safe Travels!

Julie

Hello! I resigned from a corporate career in product development to explore the world. Although my goal was to travel for a year, 8 years later, I’ve been honored to have explored more than 60 gorgeous countries and met some unbelievably amazing people. Our world truly is a beautiful place! Follow me into the gorgeous unknown by subscribing below. You’ll receive details on fabulous destinations, comprehensive travel guides, travel tips and tidbits, and information on travel trends, like experiential, sustainable, and transformational travel. Where is your next gorgeous unknown? Julie

2 Comments

  • Paula Cullison

    What a great idea … kayaking to Rangitoto! We went by ferry .. and hiked a bit. Definitely worth a visit.
    Thank You!!

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