Ripapa Island

History and culture

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.

Black Cat ferry on Saturday and Sunday from December to February 9.15 from Lyttelton, returning at 11.15.

Advanced booking is advised as each departure is limited to 30 people. 

No food or smoking is allowed on the island.

Download Brochure on Ripapa Island