When we’re able to take a day off, there’s nothing we enjoy more than getting out on the Bay. Our favourite island destination is Urupukapuka, The Bay’s largest and a Department of Conservation recreation reserve.
The indented coastline and undulating topography of Urupukapuka’s 208ha have created the perfect Bay of Islands day-trip destination. Whichever way the wind’s blowing there’s a sheltered bay to relax and play in, with beaches as good as you’ll get. After a picnic lunch there are plenty of walks to choose from, short strolls above the beach or a longer hike right around the island on which to enjoy fabulous views of the Bay (Ipipiri to the Maori people).
The earliest Northland settlers saw Urupukapuka as an attractive place to live, and the island has a long pre-European history. There is archaeological evidence that the island was central to Northland’s early economy and politics, and the place is culturally significance to this day. On your walks you’ll come across evidence of some of the eight pa on headlands, numerous garden sites and storage pits.
With European settlement the island was farmed while remaining in Maori ownership. Its recreational appeal soon grew, and American author Zane Grey helped put the island on the map using it as his base for big game fishing vacations.
The Government bought the land in 1970 and today the whole island is a reserve with three DOC campsites. There are some magnificent pohutakawa stands around the shores, with the rest of the island being mainly grass and native shrubland. A wetland was created in the 1980s and more recently Project Island Song has been doing great work restoring the biodiversity on the now predator-free island.
When visiting any of the motu of Ipipiri, please ensure you play your part in keeping them pest-free. As the slogan goes, take only photos, leave only footprints.
If you don’t have your own boat, you can get to Urupukapuka Island from Paihia by daily ferry (peak summer season only), or by water taxi. The wharf is at Otehei Bay, once playground of the rich and famous and now everyone’s to enjoy.