This is my fifth visit to New Zealand in the eight years since I started living in the UK, and the first time I’ve really had some time to just treat it as a holiday. Usually, I’m here to work. So I thought I’d make the most of things and be a tourist.

Despite having lived for the first 37 years of my life in Auckland, there are just so many things I’ve never done before. The first, and perhaps most obvious of these was the fact that I’d never set foot on Rangitoto Island.

Rangitoto is an absolutely iconic part of the landscape here – geographically and symbolically. It is the most perfectly formed island volcano on earth – almost precisely circular, so it looks identical from whatever side you view it from. It’s out in the Hauraki Gulf – a 20 minute ferry ride from downtown Auckland, and it’s shape has become shorthand for Auckland itself.

Essentially, not having visited made me a bad Aucklander.

Me and scenery

So I talked Mum and Dad into joining me for the return journey, and made the decision to hike to the summit. It was an overcast day, though a fairly warm summertime one – and the black, volcanic rock that the island is entirely made out of retains the heat, which made the warmth coming from the ground more tiring than the heat of the sun.

Mum took a tractor-pulled cart thing that went around the island on its way to the top, but Dad and I took the main hiking route. We’d considered doing the longer, 4 hour hike that went via one of the other bays, but more sensibly headed directly for the summit, which took just over an hour to get there, and just under to get back.

Of course, we stopped to take a few photos on the way, but made it to the top just as Mum and her fellow buggy riders arrived.

I plan to do more of this sort of thing while I’m here. Visiting iconic places, catching up on things I’d kind of taken for granted, getting outside, walking around – and just generally getting a better handle on my home town.

It’s kind of a lovely placeā€¦ and actually, a little inspiring.