Urupukapuka Island Track

Urupukapuka Island Track

Urupukapuka Island Track


6 Rankers Reviews

5 Face-to-Face

4 Bay of Islands

Your Nature Guide

Marios Gavalas's avatar

Marios Gavalas

Author And Researcher

Nau mai, haere mai

Nau mai, haere mai

I'm Marios, delivering the best of Aotearoa's nature walks to your device.

I've personally walked hundreds of New Zealand's tracks and spent months in libraries uncovering interesting information on New Zealand/Aotearoa. And you'll find a slice of that research on this page - enjoy!


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7.3 km return | 5 hours return

The intimate island views are a microcosm of the Bay of Islands, with cliff top pa sites capped in coastal vegetation, steep hillsides, idyllic sheltered beaches, rocky islets and reefs and clear turquoise water.

The complete Urupukapuka Island Archaeological Walk (5 hr) is designed in a clockwise direction, and may be joined at most of the larger bays. This track generally follows the outer edge of the island passing various archaeological features.

The southern loop covers more sites and overlooks calm, sheltered bays. The northern loop visits fewer sites, but includes some interesting sites and offers dramatic views from high, rugged cliffs.

The route can be divided into shorter walks of 2.5 hours each.


The information centres in Russell and Paihia can advise on the tour operators running services to Urupukapuka Island. Most will stop at Otehei Bay, from where the start of the walk is signposted at the southern side of the bay.


The track forms two loops, both are marked with green poles with a yellow band at the top. Climb the hill behind Otehei Bay to the signpost. Right is the shorter loop and takes 1½ hours via Cable Bay. Left explores the main portion of the island and takes approximately 3 hours.

Both tracks follow the perimeter of the island, with occasional short detours to information panels explaining the archaeological interpretation of pa sites and other features of interest.

The walks undulate over worn grassed tracks and the shorter loop is grazed with sheep. The main section of the walk weaves between open grassed areas and regenerating tea-tree, occasionally dropping to the beaches. Near the northern part of the island it follows the cliff top.

After passing through Otiao Bay (Indico Bay) there is a 30 minute return detour to Oneura Bay (Paradise Bay). The track rejoins the main route over the hill to Otehei Bay, where there is a café with toilets.

Polynesian History

In a relatively confined area are a series of Maori archaeological sites with noticeable associations. The archaeological walk circumnavigates the islands with interpretive panels at many location bringing to life the visible remnants of the past.

Two centuries before the crew of the Endeavour became the first Europeans to enter the Bay of Islands, a thriving Maori community lived on Urupukapuka. They were a hapu (sub-tribe) of the Ngare Raumati tribe who occupied the southeast Bay of Islands. The very first settlers of Urupukapuka, distant ancestors of the modern Maori, may have arrived here around 1000 years ago.

Very little is known or recorded about pre-European life on Urupukapuka. Our best record of the past is provided by numerous archaeological sites visible on the present-day landscape. By interpreting these sites it is possible to see into the daily lives of ancient communities.

At the height of pre-European settlement, there were kainga, or villages of extended families, living in all the large sheltered bays. Most of the time life was probably peaceful. However, when an attack from another tribe or hapu threatened, the people could withdraw quickly to the security of an adjacent headland pa (fort). Several of the highest hills along the inland ridges were probably also pa or lookout stations, protected by circles of strong palisades.

European History

In 1772, Marion du Fresne and his ill-fated French expedition noted many villages with palisades. These were probably inhabited by Ngare Raumati people. In the early 1800s after skirmishes with Ngapuhi and Ngatirehia, kainga, or unfortified villages, still abounded on the island.

During the late 1800s the land was cleared for grazing, an activity that still continues today to minimise the fire risk.

There are 66 archaeological sites on the island, including 8 pa. The terraces, ditches, storage pits and remnant fortifications are clearly distinguishable and 14 sites are spread around the 208 hectares. 8 sites have interpretive panels.

In 1926, American fisherman extraordinaire and writer Zane Grey established a fishing camp at Otehei Bay. He set up tents and ventured into the bay with locals to catch the elusive marlin, a fish hereto little caught. A more permanent fishing camp was later established, which attracted a list of wealthy clients.

Indico Bay was named after Doro Indico, an Italian immigrant married to a New Zealander. They lived in a shanty beside the creek in the 1920s and 1930s, fishing and growing vegetables and tomatoes.


Feature Value Info


DOC Northland

Central government organisation


North IslandNorthlandBay of Islands


  • Walking
  • Free


Ann-Kathrin's avatar



Ranking: 9/10

Impressive landscape and possibilities to camp on their island. Ferry also a good price, not too expensive.

Reviewed over 6 years ago

Jade Cownley's avatar

Jade Cownley


Ranking: 10/10

Amazing! Beautiful serene beaches around the island and various different walking tracks for different fitness levels. Great snorkelling spots.

Reviewed over 6 years ago and experienced in February 2015

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Laurie's avatar


United States

Ranking: 8/10

We took the Otehei Bay Ferry to get the island. It was a great ride through the Bay, and there is little café and some cultural events on the island.

Word of warning: the trails run through sheep pasture and are covered in sheep dung! You need good boots that you can thoroughly wash. Views are amazing, although we finally gave up on the dung and opted for a long kayak trip.

Reviewed over 7 years ago

Barry Digby's avatar

Barry Digby


Ranking: 8/10

Informative information boards. Good signposting once on the track. Interesting archeology and views.

Reviewed over 11 years ago

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Mark Robinson's avatar

Mark Robinson


Ranking: 10/10

Stunning 3-4 hour walk. Being able to watch dolphins from the clifftops was a bonus.

Reviewed over 11 years ago

Richard Spore's avatar

Richard Spore

United States

Ranking: 10/10

We have our own boat so we could stay or go as we pleased. The island tramps were wonderful.

Reviewed over 11 years ago and experienced in March 2010

DOC Managed

Thanks to all the good people working for the NZ Department of Conservation - for all your hard work - making NZ more beautiful, accessable and healthy! Cheers 😍

Cymen Crick's avatar

Cymen Crick

Rankers Owner