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Welcome to Rangitoto Island, Hauraki Gulf, New Zealand

The youngest of the islands in the Hauraki Gulf, Rangitoto emerged from the sea around 700 years ago in a series of volcanic explosions. Rising to a height of 260 metres the circular island presents the same uniform appearance and is visible from most parts of the mainland. Rangitoto's name has been translated to mean the day the blood of Tamatekapua was shed, relating to a major Maori battle at Islington Bay about 1350. Rangitoto is an icon of Auckland city.

Situated about 8 km northeast of Auckland and connected to Motutapu Island by a causeway, Rangitoto is a large island of 2311 hectares with a wonderful volcanic landscape that supports over 200 species of moss, plants and trees including the largest Pohutukawa forest in the world. It was purchased by the Crown in 1854, set aside as a recreation reserve in 1890 and for over 30 years the island's volcanic scoria was quarried and shipped to Auckland. Between 1925 and 1936 prison labour built roads on the island and a track to the summit.

There are some 10 or so short and long walks around the island and from the summit there are magnificent views of the Hauraki Gulf, the Waitemata Harbour and Auckland city.

Rangitoto Islands' unique geological and natural attributes are of international interest. What is less known is that the three Bach Settlements of Rangitoto Wharf, Islington Bay and Beacon End are also of national importance.

The bach communities on Rangitoto Island were built in the 1920's and 30's and consist of private holiday dwellings and boatsheds as well as communal facilities such as paths, swimming pool, community hall and tennis courts. Built by families, using the scarce resources of the Depression era, the buildings demonstrate the 'kiwi' do-it-yourself, jack-of-all-trades attitudes of the times.

As a result of a prohibition order on further buildings in 1937, the remnants of the communities reflect this specific time in Auckland's development and as a result they are part of local history involving typical New Zealanders in a unique environment.

Because other bach communities, which were prevalent throughout the country, have virtually disappeared, the Rangitoto bach settlements are irreplaceable artefacts of New Zealand's architectural, and social history and therefore are important beyond their locality.

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Museum Bach Opening Hours

Bach 38 Museum at Rangitoto Wharf will be open by appointment
Opening times are from the first Fullers ferry of the day to the last ferry of the day.

Open other days by appointment -

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Latest Additions

Education Pages

New content added to the education pages here>>

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Rangitoto Scouts

Photos of the Scout Camps in the 1930s, 1948 and 1951 here>>

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Rangitoto Wrecks

Photos of the wrecks here>>

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Rangitoto Ramblings

The latest newsletter is available here>>

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Gareth Cooke Photos

Gareth has taken a series of photos of the Rangitoto Baches and wrecks view his online gallery here>>

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From the TVNZ Archives

A Summer Place

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Photos of Rangitoto Island submitted by the public on Flickr are here>>

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Rangitoto Island Biosecurity Standards. Find out what you need to know here>>

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The Environmental Care Code and Water Care Code can be found here>>

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New photos have been added to the galleries here>>

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Charitable Trust

The Rangitoto Island Historic Conservation Trust is Charities Commission registered - our number is CC28141 - so all donations over $5 are tax deductible. View certificate here>>
More information on societies and trusts here>>

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Major financial sponsor
AMP Financial Services Limited

Weather for Rangitoto today
Check out what the weather is doing over the Auckland area.

Tide reports -
Check out the high and low tide
for Auckland area

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Heritage Notes
Restoration / #38 / #114
Membership / How to join
Submit / Stories & Photos
Bach 38 / Open Day Images

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Key facts about Rangitoto Island

Maori name: Rangitoto, derived from the phrase 'Te Rangi i totongia a Tamatekapua - the day the blood of Tamatekapua was shed'.

Location: Auckland City, map reference NZMS 260: R11/762888

Height: 260 m

Age: Formed about 600 years ago
(ca 1400 AD)

Volume lava: about 2,300 million cubic metres (equivalent to 468,000 Olympic sized swimming pools)

Volume tuff/ash/pyroclastics: about 19 million cubic metres (equivalent to 3,800 Olympic sized swimming pools)

Story pages ( 1 l 2 l 3 l 4 )

Greetings All,
After many years I finally returned to Rangitoto Island. Started off by walking up to the summit and then went for a walk to find a bach that I used to visit when I was a youngster and yes there it was called Hartatease? The same as I remember it except the kitchen? had been added, the sleepout my father built was still there, the square concrete tank was still in place, I well remember aquiring the sand etc for that job, don't know if it still had water in it though. The open fire we used to cook on is still there. I well remember watching the men catch piper at night with a tilly lamp, a hand net after rowing backwards from the rear of the boat. I also seem to remember a shark being caught in Eric Hart's set line what a mess it had made of the line.
I can't say if it is the same one pictured on your web site (no dates)
My wife and I were at the bach on the Wed 2nd of March, 2005. There were some clothes on the line but no one around.
We left a note written in lip stick on a card board box. We were going away the next week We have not heard from anyone. I seem to remember a story about why people were stopped from going to Rangi. Down by the lighthouse sheets of corrigated iron were stood up painted white and the army at Narrow Neck & Mt Victoria used these for target practice sooooooooooo one day a shell-bullet or something landed in one of the bach's back yard, the occupant complained soooooooooo everyone was banned.We went around to Islington Bay a couple of times.
Hope this is of some interest to some. I enclose an attachment

pic taken about 1942

This would be dated about 1942. Eric of course is standing in the water, my father is on the left, that is me sitting in the boat. The girl would be one of Eric's daughter's, there were 2 I think, the boy holding the boat I am not sure Eric had a brother in a bach next door I think? The boat ramp in the foreground is from the still existing boat shed. It would seem a second boat shed has been added that I remember.
If the original photo is of any use to anyone they are welcome to it.
After noticing that Eric died in 2002 (On the notice board in the information shelter) I really wish I had taken the trouble to go back sooner My father passed away in 1982
All the best
Ron Hanley

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Rangitoto and its baches are the heritage of all Aucklanders, but I've always felt like they were my personal, private heritage too. Four generations of my family have enjoyed bach life on Rangitoto Island. I have listened for years to the charming, romantic, and nostalgic stories of my forebears. I would like to share my own here. 

One of my earliest memories is set at Islington Bay ... walking around the shoreline one summer afternoon, the scoria hot beneath my feet, old ladies with parasols, my grandmother pointing out the snapdragon flowers, eating iceblocks from the store. I must have been only two or three years old. As I grew older, there were weekends down at the bach (which my great-grandfather built), sitting hunched up in raincoats in the front room as the roof leaked ... playing card games as we waited for the ferry to arrive (and the ferries deserve whole pages of stories all of their own), our parents harvesting oysters from the rocks.

The wallpaper in the house breathed as the pohutukawa wind wafted through the rooms. One bedroom door had a lock on the outside (oh, the scandals we imagined!). The hallway to the kitchen had an old, damp smell that I can still sense now, thirty years later ... I can hear the floorboards creak as I run down towards the stone kitchen and the door leading outside to where my mother once saw a deer. I can see the ancient magazines we children read when we were bored, and the Enid Blyton books I loved, and the music on the ancient gramophone that my father played at top volume.

There were summer holidays as we clambered barefoot over the piles of scoria, and encountered wallabies while out for a late-night stroll, and met the very old lady who lived alone on the other side of the bay. She fed the wallabies late at night on the road that linked Rangitoto with Motutapu, then somehow found her way home, a long confusing way through bushes and darkness, to her house next to the naval base. We visited that base long before it was dismantled, climbed on the rusty equipment and ran, our voices echoing, through the hollow warehouses. We watched the baches being smashed down, one by one, and the gradual creep of vines and trees over their ruins until only a memory was left. The store closed, was moved into one room of a bach, and eventually disappeared altogether. The tennis court disintegrated. We saw blackness spread through the trees, a disease that was going to ruin the trees and the idyllic human summers as DOC began their plan to saving the natural habitat. The new wharf was built at Islington Bay. When knew it even then - we could see the inevitable end of the wonderful old life in all these new things.

As teenagers, we relished our freedom to wander and play in a paradise where no one watched over us. Skinny-dipping in the night, lazing away the hot days, eating cold sardines and baked beans, playing drinking games, climbing down the chimney to get into the bach because some idiot forgot the key ... The songs of the eighties are forever illustrated with those memories.

As a young adult, I spent months living there on my own. Just me and one black cat. I lived on cold pizza and canned food because I never could work out how to light a fire in the stone hearth. I'd walk barefoot and in long dresses up to the summit, passing tourists who must have thought I was mad. Those were real Kiwi feet I developed, able to withstand the ragged rocks! Other tourists would tramp past the bach and do a double-take at my washing hung over the trees, my weird music coming from the battery-operated record player ... more than once I opened the front door to find a few Americans eating their morning tea on my porch. I read Wuthering Heights there, and imagined Cathy's ghost running over the moonlit hills of Motutapu. I said goodbye to the old lady from the far side of the bay who was now too frail to stay there alone. Her bach light went out forever and I knew then the very special magical summerlife of Rangitoto was closer to going out forever for all of us.

I last visited my bach during a university geology field trip. I didn't have a key; I couldn't get in. I ate sandwhiches on the front porch. I knew there was no stopping DOC's plan, and that a very amazing part of my history, Auckland's history, was going to be dead soon. My daughter has never visited the bach, although it still stands. You can't catch a Blue Boat to Issy Bay on one afternoon anymore and come back the next day, surrounded by people with animals in cages, music playing, the ferry driver kissing his girlfriend in the cab, the spray coming up over the old wooden edges, the secret worry that the ferry won't quite last the distance of the trip.

I had always been warned, when my grandmother died, that the bach would come down. We planned to be there that day, to pull it apart ourselves. But our bach was saved. Its a bittersweet victory for me, though. The house is still there, but that idyll is long gone.

Nadine Elwell.


Story pages ( 1 l 2 l 3 l 4 )