The Chatham Islands are a remote ocean-bound wilderness and are most famous for plentiful fresh seafood and fascinating marine and wildlife.
With outstanding scenery and welcoming hosts, these islands will leave a lasting impression on you.
The Chatham Islands consists of two main islands, Chatham Island and Pitt Island located approximately 800 kilometres east of New Zealand.
Chatham Island is just a two-hour flight from Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch airports with domestic airline Air Chathams(opens in new window) operating regular weekday flights to Chatham Island Airport (Tuuta Airport).
Air Chathams also operates flights from Chatham Island to Pitt Island. This is a small six-seater plane and is also the islands' freight plane. Booking in advance is essential.
Auckland to Chatham Island, 2hrs 15min
Wellington to Chatham Island, 2hrs
Christchurch to Chatham Island, 2hrs
Chatham Island to Pitt Island, 20 minutes
Families, businesses and regular flyers can take advantage of the Air Chathams Multi-pass tickets.(opens in new window)
When you visit the Chatham Islands you are at the remotest eastern point of New Zealand and the furthest internal flight possible.
Here are some handy things to know;
- There are only 660 local residents
- The islands get approximately 2,000 visitors per year
- The time zone is 45 minutes ahead of the mainland
- There is no cellphone coverage on the Chatham Islands
- Passports aren't required to fly to the Chatham Islands
- The currency on the islands is the New Zealand dollar
- Taxis don't exist (organise transport with your accommodation hosts)
As most goods, including fuel, must be transported to the island by ship or plane, expect your visit to be a little more costly than on the mainland. You can be sure that is well worth the extra investment.
Accommodation and transport are limited on the islands and with most of the land privately owned, is it essential to book tours well in advance.
The Chatham Islands were first inhabited by the Moriori people. European sealers and whalers were the next to arrive, followed by Māori from the New Zealand mainland.
Descendants of Moriori still live in the Chatham Islands and visiting Kopinga Marae will give you great insights into the culture.
The overall shape of the uniquely designed marae represents an albatross in flight, a bird that has great cultural significance to Moriori. It is the base for the revival of Moriori language, cultural traditions, wānanga (meeting together to learn) and community and school events.
Visitors will hear stories of the Moriori people and their ancient covenant of peace and view intricate carvings and artwork.
A trip to view the statue of Tommy Solomon (Tame Horomona Rehe), the last full-blooded Moriori, at Manukau east of Owenga, is also worthwhile.
The Kiwi saying "Four seasons in one day" rings true for the Chatham Islands. You can enjoy the outdoors on the Chatham Islands year-round but being prepared for all types of weather is vital.
The summer months have an average temperature of 19 degrees celcius (°C) and the nights can drop to an average of approximately 12°C.
February is the warmest month on the islands and also the busiest, so make sure to book accommodation and tours well in advance.
The autumn months are also pleasant times to visit.
March weather is similar to February. Temperatures range from 12°C to 18°C and the sea temperate still enjoyable for swimming.
Things start to cool down in April and May. Daily average temperatures range from 8°C to 15°C.
Winter on the Chatham Islands can be wild and beautiful with fascinating cloud patterns.
June is similar to May with averages temperatures of 8°C to 15°C.
July and August are the middle of the winter months and cool temperatures range from 5°C to 10°C.
Moving into the spring months the air is still fresh in September with average temperatures ranging from 7°C to 11°C.
Towards the middle and end of spring and heading into summer average temperatures are between 9°C to 15°C.
No matter which time of the year you chose to visit the Chatham Islands knowing what to pack is a must.
Before you head out, check the weather or ask a local about the conditions.
A waterproof jacket and comfortable walking shoes are essential items for all seasons.
During the spring and summer months use suncream, a sunhat and sunglasses and carry a reusable water bottle with you. The ocean temperatures should be warm so remember to pack swimming costumes. Pack cool summer clothing and footwear but also warm attire for the evenings.
In the autumn and winter months pack additional rainwear and warm clothing. Extra waterproof jacket and trousers and thermals are essential, as is a warm hat and gloves.
You'll find outdoor activities aplenty on the Chatham Islands.
Discover genuinely unique plant and bird life such as the Chatham Islands Forget-me-not which grows in clumps in the most barren terrains. Delicate blue flowers are in bloom in September and October and can be found in Henga Scenic Reserve and at Kaingaroa Point.
Relax on deserted beaches, hike through wild landscapes, take a fishing charter, wander along the lagoon shores and you'll likely find ancient fossils.
A short journey to neighbouring Pitt Island(opens in new window) is a must-do as you'll visiting the first inhabited place on the planet to see the sunrise from Mt Hakepa. While on Pitt take in historic Glory Bay and Glory Cottage and the unusual rock formations at Kokowai and the Mars Lookout with a view to the nature reserve of Mangere Island.
Explore the fascinating geology of the basalt columns, the many impressive volcanic cone vistas, Splatter Rock and the red tuff cliffs.
Visit the Taiko Trust and Gap Sanctuary and view the site and work of protecting some of the world’s rarest seabirds.
Take a trip to the abundant seal colony at the remote Conservation Covenant site of Point Munning and the remains of the first German mission settlement at Mission Bay.
Enjoy a fishing charter for the Chathams renowned blue cod and hapuka. Tour the Chatham Island Food fish processing plan, view paua, kina and other species in the live wells. Visit Admiral Garden, created for birds, bees and butterflies.
Visit the Go Wild nursery and taste the island’s special freeze-dry honey.
Enjoy picturesque Port Hutt where the wreck of the Thomas Currell (a WW2 mine sweeper turned fish freezer) lies. Journeying to the historic Maunganui Stone Cottage.
View the restoration of the Sunderland Flying Boat(opens in new window).
Like most destinations, the Chatham Islands offers a range of accommodation. Hotel Chatham(opens in new window) is the largest hotel and offers dining, bar, gift shop, rentals and guided tours and Chatham Rise Motels(opens in new window) is also a great place to stay.
Awarakau Lodge(opens in new window) offers luxury accommodation, meals, rentals and tours. The Black Robin Homestay(opens in new window) offers quality, quiet, comfortable accommodation. The outlying villages of Owenga, Kaingaroa and Port Hutt also have baches that are able to be rented.
For those wanting to spend some time on Pitt Island, Flowerpot Lodge(opens in new window) offers a quality stay and access to all the attractions on this remote location.
For more accommodation visit Tourism Chatham Islands(opens in new window) website.
There is no camping or freedom camping on the Chatham Islands.