Chatham Islands In New Zealand

There comes a time in our lives, when the daily grind and hustle gets a bit too much. It’s moments like these when we wish we had a secluded island to escape to, a corner of peace and serenity, a place where our issues and petty problems vanish. Well, that place exists, and it’s known as the Chatham Islands. It’s a place where the locals are friendly and warm, the landscapes are lush and lovely and where the rest of the world fades away.


Location:

The Chatham Islands are an archipelago located in the Pacific Ocean – roughly 800 kilometres east of New Zealand’s South Island. It consists of about 10 islands – the largest of which are Chatham and Pitt Islands. 


Highlights:

J.M Barker National Historic Reserve: Learn a little bit about the locals of this land – the Moriori (Polynesian people who originated from the Māori settlers who live in the mainland). The reserve contains treasures like the “momori-rakau” - tree carvings done by ancient Moriori ancestors. 

Nunuku’s Cave: This cave contains ancient and authentic rock carvings and is said to be the home of the legendary Moriori chief Nunuku. He was known for outlawing killing amongst his people, and his pacifist laws were upheld for hundreds of years by locals. 

Pitt Island: A haven for nature lovers, the island is home to gorgeous scenery, rare birds and offers fishing, diving and great trails to trek. Take a flora and fauna tour, learn about the early Moriori and European settlers of the island, climb to the peak of Mt. Hakepa to see the sunrise, take farm tours, geology tours – this secluded small island has a big heart and too many activities to handle.

Point Munning Seal Colony: Just a short bush walk will take you to the beach where a large seal colony awaits. Stand back, stay quiet and watch these gorgeous creatures in their habitat.

Basalt Columns: One of the natural wonders of Chatham, these hexagonal columns of basalt were formed by waves. Not only are these columns incredible, the surrounding scenery is nothing to sneeze at either!

Apart from these sights, the Chatham Islands also include activities such as beach walks, bush walks, lakeside walks, bird watching, plant tours, surfing, great dining options, charter fishing, diving, snorkelling, horse riding, shopping and the chance to visit remote settlements in the area. 


Recommended For: Iconic locations, gorgeous scenery, fascinating history and heritage.


How to get to the Chatham Islands:

Air Chathams is the only regional, domestic carrier that offers flights to the islands. You can catch a flight from Wellington, Christchurch or Auckland. Flights are available four to six times every week. The flight duration is around 90 minutes. 

If you’re looking to visit Pitt Island, you must charter a plane or boat to take you there. The flight duration is a quick 20 minutes, while the boat ride can take between 1-2 hours. 

Driving in Chatham Island: Chatham Island – one of the biggest islands in the archipelago – boasts of smooth, well formed roads. However, be careful of animals wandering onto the roads. Maintain an average of 40 kms in the populated areas, and 60 kms on the open road. You can rent out a vehicle from Chatham motors to get around the island.


About Chatham Islands:

The Chatham Islands are known for their warm and hospitable locals, gorgeous scenery and quiet way of life. This is a chance to explore some of the most isolated communities and cultures in the area, including Māori and Moriori locals, sealers, whalers, missionaries, farmers and other settlers. The islands are a haven for those seeking a simpler, more serene things in life. A holiday to Chatham Islands means rest and relaxation. You can decide where you want to go and what you would like to see without the worry of large crowds. Rugged coastlines, majestic cliff and boulder strewn beaches are all yours for viewing and enjoying yourself.. 

Although there is no structured public transport, your local hosts will happily arrange for your transport, any guided tours or activities you’d like to participate in. Locals take the safety and enjoyment of their guests very seriously. 

Spend your vacation exploring local tourist highlights like the ancient Moriori tree carvings, the gorgeous Te Whanga Lagoon, bushwalking, hiking and platter after platter of delicious seafood. For all nature lovers and bird watchers, these islands offer many rare species of flora, fauna and birds. 


Do note,

  • Most shops and cafes here accept credit cards, but carrying cash is always a good idea.
  • You can call Mainland New Zealand from Chatham Islands, however, there is no cell phone coverage, making this a true escape! (High-speed WiFi is available, though, so you won’t be cut off completely)
  • The weather on the island is mostly mild (and occasionally moody). Summers offer clear and warm days, while winters witness mild frosts. It can be windy and cold at times and you might experience the occasional shower of rain, so come prepared. Carry a waterproof jacket or wind cheater, sunscreen and your swimsuit – you never know when you might need them!


Interesting facts about Chatham Islands:

  • The archipelago is called Rehoku (“misty sun”) by the Moriori natives and Wharekauri by the Māoris
  • Chatham Island was named after a survey ship, known as HMS Chatham, which was the first European ship to locate the island in 1791
  • The Moriori people arrived in the 1500s and have lived peacefully on the island since
  • Pitt Island is the first place in the world to see the sun rise everyday
  • Chatham Islands are 45 minutes ahead of the rest of New Zealand 
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