The summit of Rangitoto is a large plateau which has been boardwalked, with places to sit and relax after your climb. The view, of course, is superb, with views out to the Hauraki Gulf and beyond - from here you can see Great and Little Barrier Islands in the distance, nearer Waiheke island, Browns Island, Motutapu, and Auckland itself.
All this I expected (and have put suitable pictures in a travelogue). What I hadn't expected was to be surrounded by tiny birds begging for scraps. The Wax-Eye (or Silver-Eye) is common to North island gardens, but they a fast, darting little birds, dashing about to collect nectar from blossoms before moving on. On Rangitotos summit, they have learned that visitors bring lunch, and that lunch means crumbs. So there I am, surrounded by these tiny birds who are all bold enough to steal a crumb from your sandwhich as you eat it, or to land on your hand in the hope of a piece of bread.
As a keen birdwatcher, this was probably the highlight of my visit!
Favorite thing: Auckland took great care to defend itself from enemy attack during the Second World War, and Rangitoto was fortified along with neighbouring Motutapu Island, Devonport, Waiheke Island (at Stony Batter) and Aucklands Bastion Point. There is still a great deal of evidence left from this time on Rangitoto. There was an ammunitions and mines store on the island. Army Bay with it's large slipway seeming out of place in such a tranquil environment can be visited as part of a walking tour of the island, and there are what seem to be old stores buildings and huts all over the island, mostly open so that you can peer inside and explore.
For generations, families have been building small holiday homes on Rangitoto - recycling bits and pieces to create a family retreat from the city. In New Zealands North island, these holiday homes are known as baches - on the South island they are more commonly known as cribs.
At one point, there were around 140 baches on Rangitoto, but over time, many of these have fallen into disrepair or have vanished altogether. The few that are still in private hands will be so only until the present generation die out - the family tradition of handing the bach down to the next generation is over on Rangitoto. As present owners die out (and there has been a fair bit of contention over this), the baches are now turned over to the Rangitoto Island Historic Conservation Trust. They in turn work to restore the baches for future use by the public, conservation groups and other organisations.
On the one hand, I think this means that a piece of kiwi history is made available to the general public. However, on the other hand, I suspect this places the long-held kiwi dream of a seaside holiday home further from the reach of the average New Zealand family.
You can see these old baches all over the island, some restored and some in crumbling disrepair. The Trust welcome volunteers to help not only with the restoration of baches but with general maintenance on the island. More information, not only about the Trust but about the island generally can be found at www.rangitoto.org