Motutapu (meaning 'sacred island' or 'sanctuary island') is older than its more famous neighbour. In fact, it's one of the oldest islands in the Hauraki Gulf, dating back to the Jurassic period, and the signs of its history can be seen on a visit to its shores.
Maori were living on Motutapu at least 600 years ago, before Rangitoto erupted, and the two islands have completely different geological profiles, despite being right next to each other. You can see important archaeological sites like villages, fortifications and gardens when you visit Motutapu.
European settlers took the island over in the 19th century and cleared much of the land for farming. In the Victorian era it was fashionable as a picnic spot and visitors came in great numbers, travelling over on steamer boats or sailboats.
Motutapu functioned as a military base before and during WWII, with around 1,000 military personnel camped there. During this time gun embankments, underground tunnels and military barracks were built on the island, and the causeway that connects Rangitoto and Motutapu was created.
While much of the island is still pasture, extensive work has been carried out over the last few decades to replant trees and replenish the wetlands. Pests like wallabies, possums and rats have been removed and in 2011 both Rangitoto and Motutapu were declared pest-free.
Motutapu is now a great place to see New Zealand native flora and fauna, including takahe, kakariki, saddlebacks, and most recently pateke, a rare native duck released in May 2015. In future kiwi and tuatara could be released onto the island.
Visit Motutapu and take advantage of the many walking tracks around the island to explore its fascinating history and meet the local wildlife.
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