Phoebe Falconer suggests a series of great summer holiday destinations within an hour's drive of downtown Auckland.
Where: Rangitoto Island.
What: A volcanic island in the Hauraki Gulf, covering 2311ha and 260m at its highest point.
How to get there: By Fullers ferry, three times a day, from their wharf in downtown Auckland, or by Reubens Water Taxis.
Cost: Fullers, adult $25 return, child $12.50, family $59. Reubens by arrangement. The ferry trip takes about 25 minutes. There is no charge for getting on to the island.
What to take: Water, a hat, sun block, snacks or lunch, and sturdy walking shoes. There are no shops on the island.
Things to do: The summit walk, about two hours return from the wharf. A loop track around the crater rim provides fine views of the crater and the Hauraki Gulf.
Lava caves, lava fields, pillars and tunnels are all part of Rangitoto's landscape.
As well, there are remnants of World War II defence structures, and a small number of privately-owned baches, or holiday homes.
There are also coastal and forest walks. Rangitoto is considered one of the world's botanical gems, and has the country's largest pohutukawa forest. There are over 200 different plant species on the island, including 40 fern species. A three-stage rodent baiting operation has been successful, and Rangitoto is now free of pests.
Dogs and other animals are not permitted to land on Rangitoto.
History: The island rose from the sea in a series of volcanic explosions 600-700 years ago, forming a cone. Further eruptions sent red hot lava flows down the sides of the cone, forming the black basaltic rock which makes up 95 per cent of the island.
The name Rangitoto is derived from the phrase "Te Rangi i totongia a Tamatekapua" - the day the blood of Tamatekapua was shed, referring to a major Maori battle at Islington Bay, between Rangitoto and Motutapu, in about 1350.