New Zealand

Chatham Islands Travel Guide

 |  22 September 2021

One of New Zealand’s most authentic destinations, the Chatham Islands feels like you have stepped back in time to a place with no supermarkets, retail stores, skyscrapers, traffic jams or McDonald’s.  Consisting of 11 Islands, mostly uninhabited, the Chatham Archipelago is a haven to birdlife and offers a mix of breath-taking scenery, diverse wildlife, unique history and rich culture.

The approximately 600 people who live there were mostly born on the island. The rest of the population are seals, the two island icons: Chatham Island taiko, the Buff Weka and a whole lot of native birds. The Chatham Islands is a paradise for wildlife lovers and those who enjoy wild and rugged scenery.

HMNS Thomas Currell

Travel back in time on Chatham Islands

Things to do in the Chatham Islands

1. The Unusual Basalt Column

The basalt columns, located on private land in Ohira Bay, these columns were formed from lava flows around 80 million years ago. The area was also once used as a quarry by Moriori for tool making purposes.

Basalt columns chathams sm

Basalt Column

2. J.M. Barker (Hāpūpū) National Historic Reserve

One of only 2 National Historic Reserves in NZ (the other is the Waitangi Treaty grounds). Hāpūpū  is culturally and historically significant because of the rākau momori on the kōpī (karaka) trees, and because of the Moriori archaeological landscape they sit within. Rākau momori are carvings incised or bruised into living kōpī trees by Moriori.

3. The Point Munning Seal Colony

Here you can get up close with one of the largest seal colonies on the island!

Chathams fur seals

Point Munning Seal Colony

4. Honey Apiary 

Producing the renowned honey, where due to a disease-free environment and endemic native plants for the bees, the result is red-coloured, uniquely flavoured, Chatham Islands honey. On a tour you take a walk to check out how the bees are getting on and learn about the honey production and queen bee exporting!

5. Wetlands Walk

A gentle 20 min loop walk with views of the wetlands and peat lakes. This walk provides a close look at endemic plants such as the Chatham Island spear grass and bamboo rush.

6. The Admiral Gardens

These gardens have taken over 20 years to establish and is home to an abundance of Chatham Islands native plants. The garden is made for birds, bees & butterflies and you can also enjoy a sculpture trail and walks through the coastal bush.

7. Kōpinga Marae

The only Moriori marae in the world, containing carvings and works of art by local artists.

9. Pitt Island

Acknowledged as being the jewel in the Chatham Islands’ crown, renowned for its spectacular scenery and atmosphere. Many visitors to Chatham Islands that make the trip over to Pitt Island say it is the highlight of their trip! The island is home to around 40 ‘Pitt Islanders’ and is one of the first inhabited islands in the world to greet the new day.

Pitt Island vista

Pitt Island

Chatham Islands Hospitality

Staying at the Chathams means you are instantly connecting with the locals, as the island operates a ‘host’ system. A lot of attractions are on private land so you have no choice than to be guided by a host to get to the sights.

The Chatham Islands also is home to some amazing local dishes and restaurants. With a small number of dining options and a chance to taste quality cuisine including blue cod and crayfish. The Hotel Chathams restaurant specifically specialises in local seafood delicacies or check out the Den Kitchen on Wednesday for lunch or dinner, a great place to meet locals.

How to get to the Chatham Islands

ATR 72

Travel by plane

4 to 6 times a week flights depart from either Auckland, Wellington or Christchurch. The flight is considered domestic with Air Chathams, on a Convair 580. Flying time from Auckland is 2 hours 30, from Christchurch, 2 hours 15 and from Wellington it is 2 hours. The flights will be one of the biggest costs to your trip to the Chatham Islands, expect to pay about $1,300 for a return flight.

If you are heading to Pitt Island you would need to board a smaller plane when you arrive at the main airport in Waitangi.

The Chatham Islands has no public transport however if you book a tour, we can arrange car hire or a local guide to drive you around.

Learn more about our Chatham Island tour here.

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