For all the time I managed to visit many islands in different countries, seas, and oceans. In many ways, the islands are similar to each other: Traditional people, not particularly…
Last Updated on April 13, 2023
Urupukapuka Island, situated in the Bay of Islands, is undoubtedly one of the most cherished destinations in New Zealand. Its breathtaking scenery, encompassing verdant green hills, awe-inspiring cliffs, charming coves, and sandy beaches, never fails to captivate its visitors.
Moreover, the island boasts of being pest-free, making it an ideal habitat for rare native birds, which can be spotted in abundance across the vibrant forests that echo with their sweet melodies.
The serene waters surrounding the island offer the perfect environment for swimming, snorkeling, and kayaking. Furthermore, the island remains relatively uncrowded, except during the summer holidays, ensuring a peaceful getaway for its visitors.
Personally, I have visited Urupukapuka Island just once spending a night there while doing all the hiking available on the island and enjoying the blue waters and pristine beaches with almost no people.
If you happen to be exploring the Northland region, I highly recommend taking a day to indulge in hiking, kayaking, or simply unwinding on the beaches of Urupukapuka Island. In this post, I will provide insights into how to get to the island, the various Urupukapuka Island walks available, and other activities that you can enjoy.
Urupukapuka Island is the largest island in the Bay of Islands, New Zealand. The island has a rich cultural and historical significance, with evidence of Maori settlements dating back over 800 years. The island is a popular destination for visitors, with its beautiful beaches, walking tracks, and stunning panoramic views. It is also a wildlife sanctuary and home to a range of native birds and animals, including kiwi, penguins, and dolphins. Visitors can explore the island on foot, by boat, or by kayak and experience the natural beauty and rich history of this special place. The island has a range of accommodation options, including campsites, backpacker lodges, and self-contained cottages, making it a popular destination for both day trips and overnight stays.
To reach Urupukapuka Island, you can board the Explore Passenger ferry from either Russell or Paihia, which takes approximately 40 minutes. The round trip costs NZ $60 per person and disembarks at Otehei Bay, where you can find a lovely cafe and rent kayaks to explore the pristine waters surrounding the island.
Traveling to Urupukapuka Island from Russell or Paihia is made easier with the availability of smaller water taxis. These taxis operate on-demand throughout the year. The cost for this kind of trip would be NZ $300 return, so it would be convenient for a group of 4-5 people. The cost would be down to only $60 per person return for a group of five.
According to the Department of Conservation, the Urupukapuka Island Walk covers a distance of 7.3km and takes about five hours to complete. However, the island actually features a series of interconnected loop walks instead of a single trail, giving visitors the flexibility to choose the distance they want to cover.
Here are the main hikes on the island:
During our overnight visit, we walked to almost all the bays on the island (excluding Sunset Bay and a part of Pa Cliff walk), covering a distance of 11.5km (7 miles) in 3.5 hours of walking (4.5 hours including breaks). It’s possible to reduce the distance by skipping some of the more remote areas. We also camped in the beautiful secluded Cable Bay.
The hike wasn’t too challenging for us. While there were plenty of ups and downs, the steep sections were generally short. The highest point on the island is 106 m.
If you only have a couple of hours on the island, the best option would be to climb up to the center (the highest point). From here, you can see the whole island and also capture some picturesque views of Urupukapuka Bay on the way. Then you would continue down to Paradise Bay (and maybe Otiao Bay) to come back up to the top and go back down to Otehei Bay ferry. So, you would complete Paradise Bay and (partially) Urupukapuka Bay loops.
The trail to Paradise Bay goes through a beautiful little forest with all possible summer sounds. I forgot to mention, we visited Urupukapuka island during Christmas time.
If you have a few more hours, after visiting Urupukapuka Bay, continue on to the Pateke Loop (and if time permits, the Cliff Pa Loop) for some of the most breathtaking views.
However, don’t miss the chance to explore the entire island as each bay offers its unique charm. Akeake Bay is another stunning beach that we loved, which provides a tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle.
On one side of the island, you’ll find serene bays and sandy beaches, while on the other, rugged cliffs stand tall, surrounded by a sea of trees and rolling hills in between. I highly recommend experiencing both sides to truly appreciate the island’s natural beauty.
Urupukapuka Island is a popular destination for camping enthusiasts. There are several camping spots on the island where visitors can enjoy the stunning views and the island’s natural beauty. Here are a few options:
Urupukapuka Bay Campsite: This is the most popular camping spot on the island, located on the eastern side of the island. The campsite is equipped with basic facilities such as toilets, water, and picnic tables. It’s a great spot to relax and enjoy the beach and the scenic views.
Sunset Bay Campsite: This campsite is located on the southern side of the island. It’s a great spot for hikers and provides basic facilities such as toilets and water.
Cable Bay Campsite: This campsite is located on the mainland and accessible by boat. It’s a popular spot for kayakers and provides basic facilities such as toilets and water.
Snorkeling on Urupukapuka Island is an unforgettable experience for nature lovers and adventure enthusiasts alike. Urupukapuka Island offers crystal clear waters filled with a diverse array of marine life, including colorful fish, sea stars, and even dolphins. The island has several secluded bays and coves, making it the perfect spot for a peaceful and secluded snorkeling experience. With its stunning underwater landscapes and vibrant sea life, snorkeling on Urupukapuka Island is a must-do activity for anyone visiting the Bay of Islands.
Urupukapuka Island is home to a diverse range of marine life, including many species of fish. Snorkelers who explore the waters around the island can expect to see a variety of colorful fish species such as blue maomao, red moki, parore, and snapper. Other common species include blue cod, leatherjackets, and trevally. In addition to fish, snorkelers may also encounter other marine animals like stingrays, octopuses, and occasionally dolphins or orcas. The island’s unique and vibrant ecosystem makes it an ideal destination for underwater exploration and nature observation.