Poor Knights Islands: top dive site in New Zealand

Two clown nudibranch in the coral reef off
Poor Knights Islands. Photo: Jon Radoff

Just twenty three kilometres off New Zealand’s Tutukaka Coast are a cluster of islands that are a top international site for diving as well as snorkelling and kayaking. Despite their name, the Poor Knights Islands are anything but, and should be on every keen divers' to-do list.  

The islands are washed by warm currents swept south from the Coral Sea and are part of a complete marine and nature reserve - and pending World Heritage Site. The islands have an astounding Maori history and their 11 million year old volcanic origins provide spectacular drop offs, walls, caves, arches and tunnels to explore. 

The whole area is full of unique plant and animal life both above and below the waterline. Over 125 species of fish can be found in the waters off the islands along with soft corals, sponges, vibrant anemones, large kelp forests, sting rays, gorgonian fans and many others. The islands’ famous arches are fascinating to explore, with countless animals competing for space on the walls and in the warmer months, squadrons of stingrays can be seen in the waters of the archways.

Diving the Poor Knights can truly be called a once-in-a-lifetime experience as the area is very different to other diving coral reefs or even the nearby New Zealand coast. Many of the subtropical fish living in the marine reserve are found nowhere else in New Zealand.

Nursery Cove and some of the shallower parts of South Harbour are great venues for novice divers but experienced divers can find spectacular and challenging dives all around the islands.

If you are not a diver there are still plenty of ways to explore islands, including a simple sightseeing cruise or a combination cruise of sightseeing along with snorkelling and cave explorations. A number of charter dive boats operate from Tutukaka Harbour, which is 30 kilometres from Whangarei.

The Whangarei Official Tourism Website can help with more information. Visit: http://www.whangareinz.com/

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