36. Discover and dive the Poor Knights Islands
When it comes to unadulterated outdoors and authentic wildlife experiences, New Zealand over delivers: here is No. 36 of our 101 Reasons To Stop Dreaming About New Zealand And Go.
The legendary Jacques Cousteau rated the Poor Knights Islands as one of the world’s best dive sites. Located in a marine reserve 45-minutes’ boat ride off the Northland/Te Tai Tokerau coast, the jagged islands are the remnants of an ancient volcano. While this might be remarkable enough to lure you there, the islands also happen to lie in the meeting place of cold Pacific waters and warmer flows from the tropics, creating a particularly nutrient rich habitat that supports more marine species than anywhere else in New Zealand.
While landing on the islands is not allowed, diving, snorkelling and sightseeing trips offer a chance to see an amazing array of wildlife, both above and below the waterline. Rocky nooks and crannies shelter shearwaters, petrels and kororā/little blue penguins. Beneath the waves are sculpted rock gardens festooned with kelp, coral and sponges and inhabited by weird and wonderful sea creatures including blue maomao, moray eels, coralfish, scorpionfish and stingrays. In summer, tropical visitors such asmanta rays and turtles pass through along with orca, humpback and pilot whales.
Trips to the Poor Knights Islands depart from the beautiful, beachy Tutukaka Coast, half an hour’s drive northeast of Whāngarei. Dive Tutukaka is a longstanding conservation champion and runs small-group dive trips and PADI courses for learners to advanced divers while Perfect Day runs family-friendly sightseeing and snorkelling tours on a comfortable cruise boat.