This is Rangitoto Island, a very recent addition to the archipelago in the Hauraki Gulf, just a few minutes on a Fuller's ferry from the centre of Auckland. The city is built on numerous volcanic cones, some count fifty, and Rangitoto, having been born in a series of eruptions around six hundred years ago is the newest. NZ Geographic notes that human footprints have been discovered between layers of ash on neighboring Motatapu island, so it was certainly born within the days of human habitation.
Rangi has a very special place in my heart. Ever since first coming to Devonport in 1980, I've been aware if it's austere symmetry, an impassive totemic guardian watching over the beaches of Auckland's North Shore. Late on Christmas Day 2006, it also served as the backdrop for a very special moment in my life, and I soon afterwards incorporated it's broad-shouldered silhouette into the design of that invite. Before that and since, it's provided benign shelter to Cheltenham Beach from Tasman Sea weather on so many special family occasions.
In the end, we decided not to swim (Ha!), and got the ferry instead. It is possible to kayak across - I did just that a decade or so ago, taking more than an hour, but it's a busy shipping lane and care must be taken. However, you could go with http://fergskayaks.co.nz/product/rangitoto-guided-trip/
The name roughly translates as 'Bloody Sky' a reference to the bleeding of a Maori warrior following defeat at a certain battle. I imagine the name predates the gradual growth of flora on the cooled lava that built the island, particularly the large number of Pohutikawa trees that flower blood red around Christmas time.
The view from the summit across to Auckland on the far left, and the North Shore centre and right.
Recent government intervention by trapping and poisoning now means that the island is free from pestilential non-native predators. Vsitors like us are now screened for smuggled stoats and concealed cats.
A closer view of the city from the summit. In the mid-ground the twin green Devonport peaks of North Head left of centre and Mount Victoria in the middle.