A major upgrade of Urupukapuka Island's 11km track network has been completed in time for summer.
Department of Conservation Bay of Islands area project manager Katrina Upperton said the work had opened up large parts of the island for exploration.
First-time visitors and people who had been holidaying on Urupukapuka for years would enjoy exploring the new routes.
The work had been carried out by Backcountry Construction Ltd, whose attention to detail produced tracks so good that walkers were more likely to notice the outstanding views than the benching, surfacing, bridges and steps that get them around the island. Their work would also protect the many fragile archaeological features across the island.
The contractors had removed greasy clay surfaces and erosion caused by past stock and pedestrian traffic around cliff edges.
The new track system was designed to provide walkers with steady grades and loops of various lengths connecting beaches with viewpoints.
From Otehei Bay, where most visitors arrive, walkers can choose from several 5- to 45-minute loop tracks, taking in archaeological sites and views of Rakaumangamanga (on Cape Brett Peninsula) and the islands of the Bay.
DoC Bay of Islands historic ranger Andrew Blanshard said an archaeological project with Otago and Auckland Universities was carried out alongside the track upgrade work. Their excavations had revealed extensive gardening soils and remnants of protective palisades, evidence of the large population that lived on, grew food and defended their island home.
The next stage of the upgrade is to design and install interpretative signs.
Patukeha master carver Moka Puru is working with DoC to produce an entrance carving for Otehei Bay.
Urupukapuka boasts the greatest density of archaeological sites in Northland.