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.



December – February

Saturday & Sunday

9.00am until 11.30am

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 up to two and a half hours (including cruise time)

Advance booking online is recommended.

Please ensure you book both your Lyttelton to Ripapa Island and Ripapa Island to Lyttelton trips separately

Please note no food or smoking is allowed on the island.