Tucked close against the southern shore of Whakaraupō (Lyttelton Harbour), the small island of Ripapa was an ideal site for a fortified pa for Ngāi Tahu and later, a fortress to defend against possible Russian attacks.
Small island – big history
The fortified pa was built on Ripapa Island in the early nineteenth century by Taununu, a Ngai Tahu chief who had moved south from Kaikoura.
Two pā on Banks Peninsula were fortified against musket attack during the 1820s and 30s. Ripapa was one of these.
A sketch made of Ripapa in 1872 shows bastions that would protect the defenders and provide them with a clear line of fire. Deep ditches were dug behind earth ramparts, and a second line of ramparts and ditches protected an inner section of the pā.
Several skirmishes were fought on the shores and slopes surrounding Ripapa. Ngāi Tahu occupied Ripapa until about 1832, when the chief Te Whakarukeruke left to help defend Kaiapoi against Te Rauparaha.
This island is therefore of special significance to Ngāi Tahu as a place of memories and traditions associated with these skirmishes and the ancestors who died in them.
Displays on the island provide more information about its history.
We are delighted to be able to offer trips to Ripapa Island this summer.
Each departure is limited to 30 passengers
Each trip will last two hours including cruise time
Advance booking online is recommended.
Please note no food or smoking is allowed on the island.
Schedule and price
16 years and up
how to find us
How to Get to Lyttleton
Lyttelton is around 15 to 20 minutes drive from the centre of Christchurch. See http://maps.google.com/ for detailed information about how to drive yourself. Print this map out to help you navigate.
We are located at B Jetty, Lyttelton Harbour. At the end of the Lyttelton tunnel turn left onto Norwich Quay. The 2nd turning to the right is the Oxford Street overbridge, you will need to park on Norwich Quay and walk over the bridge. Follow the footprints on the pavement and signs to Black Cat ferries and Quail Island.
Alternatively you can catch the number 28 bus. A regular bus service runs between Christchurch and Lyttelton and a ferry service operates to Otamahua/Quail Island from Lyttelton.
Schools & Groups
For group bookings and school groups please call (03) 328 9078 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Know before you go
For exploring the fort, a torch is recommended.
This is a historic site and there are multiple hazards. Care is required.
As this is a marine environment, pay attention to adverse weather and sea conditions.
Respect this special place
The significance of the urupa on Ripapa and nearby, where these ancestors rest, and the place of the island in tribal history were acknowledged by the designation of Ripapa as a Tōpuni in the Ngāi Tahu Deed of Settlement with the Crown in 1998.
Ngāi Tahu wish to encourage understanding of and respect for the values of this special place.
Do not eat on the island as this denigrates its tapu (sacred) status.
No dogs are permitted on the island. No smoking or vaping is allowed on the island.
There is reasonable cell phone coverage on the island and an emergency phone is available
Bring a torch to explore the tunnels as they are not lit. Bring a camera to take some fantastic photo’s. We also recommend that you should also bring warm clothes as it can be cool on the island especially with the prevailing sea breeze.
The Ripapa Island trip departs Lyttelton at 9.15am and takes approximately 20 minutes to reach the island. The boat does not stay at the island whilst you are there. You will have approximately just over 90 minutes on the island before returning to the jetty for your return departure time of 11.15am.
We don’t recommend Ripapa Island for anyone in a wheelchair because there are no tracks on the island and no wheelchair access to the fort, outbuildings or upper terrace. In addition the jetty steps are steep for those in a wheelchair.
The Award Winning Black Cat Group is internationally recognised as one of the success stories of the New Zealand tourism industry and an eco-tourism pioneer. We were the first to offer cruises in Akaroa and we are recognised as New Zealand’s first Eco-tourism operator.
Our Nature Cruises and Dolphin Swimming experience depart from Akaroa which is only a 90 minute scenic drive from Christchurch. The Diamond Harbour and Quail Island ferry depart from Lyttelton in Christchurch.