A new ferry service to Otehei Bay on historic Urupukapuka Island in the Bay of Islands offers tourists and locals a chance to explore some of New Zealand’s few remaining archaeological wonders – or just have a relaxing day trip to the beach.
Leading tourism operator Explore Group now sails four times a day from Paihia and Russell to Otehei Bay, extending to eight in the height of summer, which is the jump off point to everything from sandy beaches and prime fishing spots, through to cultural experiences such as flax weaving and a workshop teaching traditional Maori remedies.
One of the biggest drawcards on Urupukapuka – the largest island in the Bay of Islands which holds historic significance for local Maori – is the island’s archaeological remains.
Many of these can be seen along a 7km archaeological walk and includes pa sites, terraces, storage pits, and fortified and unfortified villages.
The relatively untouched nature of these sites makes the island one of New Zealand’s significant archaeological remnants, and gives an insight into how Maori communities carried out their daily lives in pre-European times.
Explore CEO Kit Nixon says the day trip to Urupukapuka is one of the best experiences both tourists and locals can do because of the range of activities available.
“It’s got everything, with the archaeological sites and traditional Maori experiences providing a fascinating historical and cultural focus, or else you can head over for the day with the family to enjoy the beaches.”
A return trip costs $20 or $75 for a family group of two adults and three children.
“We want tourists and locals to explore the Bay of Islands playground and we believe Urupukapuka is one of the most beautiful, and unique places not just in the Far North but in New Zealand,” says Nixon.
He says Explore’s service to Otehei Bay is unique because the company operates facilities such as a fully licensed café on the island, and runs the Maori cultural experiences in partnership with locals from Te Rawhiti.
Explore Group has a long history in the Bay of Islands starting in 2004 with its Dolphin Discoveries experience. It now offers a number of services including tours to iconic Bay of Islands landmark, Hole In the Rock, and a run to Cape Reinga in the Dune Rider bus.
The company also has a fleet of sailing boats on Auckland Harbour, which offers America’s Cup style racing for tourists and locals. Earlier this year the company hosted Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge, pitting the royal couple against each other in a match race.
Explore also recently started a Hauraki Gulf ferry service catering for both commuters and tourists on the busy Waiheke Island route, and also offers services to Motutapu.