5 Best Things To Do In Chatham Islands If You Visit

Explore the fourth largest island in New Zealand, only 90 minutes from Auckland, but a world away none the less. Here's 5 of the best things to do in Chatham Islands.

With a tiny population, a sophisticated infrastructure, restaurants, bars and plenty of activities to do, it's no wonder why this is becoming one of New Zealand's best hidden secret holiday spots. 

But make sure you visit soon, before the tourists start flocking here. 

  • Population: 600
  • Currency: New Zealand Dollar
  • When To Go: Year Round 

5. Visit the Kopinga Marae

The Kopinga Marae sits beautifully on the Waitangi Wharf at Owenga Road. The structure serves as a cultural reference point built as a tribute to the ancient Moriori people and is one of the most popular places to visit in Chatham Island. From the building, you can get several stunning 180-degree views of the entire island.

4. Visit Waitangi Bay Beach

A walk along the quiet sandy beach of Waitangi bay towards the Red Bluffs and the Waitangi village is not just relaxing but also features some fantastic bird scene.

As you take in the scenic beauty of the bay, you will also catch views of fascinating sea birds like the giant ferrets and Chatham Island oystercatchers.

There are about 18 unique bird species of birds unique to the Chatham islands alone. A leisurely walk from the bay to the Red Bluffs and back may take up to 3 hours. Collect seashells and other beach treasures on your way and enjoy the view of the Nairn River too.

Another equally fantastic hiking experience is the Henga Scenic Reserve walk. Although this is more of a walk in the trees on the opposite side of the beach, it is similarly fulfilling. The hike features spectacular coastal dunes, an exquisite coastline and interesting tree carvings.

If you wander towards the south-west of the island, you can see the Chatham island pigeons called Parea in their natural habitat.

3. Go on a Fishing Tour

A lot of tourists will find that Chatham island is a fantastic place to enjoy some fishing. The Rehoku as Chatham island is also called is a seafood area, and one of the main activities of the people is fishing.

You may join a fishing tour or ask your accommodation provider for options. Fishing is exciting on the island. Catches include lobsters, Paula, blue cod, groper and several other amazing fishing games.

2. Connect with Maori Ancestors

It's probably not worth visiting one of the farthest parts of New Zealand without experiencing the rich culture and heritage. At the Hapupu reserve, you can get connected to the history of the Maori people through the tree carvings called Rakau Maori. 

The tree carvings are highly treasured as some of the lasting signs of the ancient Maori people who once inhabited the island. 

You can also find some of the Maori rock carvings at the Nunukus cave. These are called Petroglyph's and can also be found at the Te Whanga Lagoon that covers almost a fifth of the island. Have fun searching for the million years old shark teeth at the lagoon.

1. Visit the Basalt Columns

The Basalt columns at Ohira Bay are awesome rock formations that will blow your mind. Typically, you should seek permission or ask for a guide on how to access the columns because you have to go through private property.

Don't forget to hold a camera. The columns are too beautiful to leave without pictures.

How To Get To Chatham Islands?

Getting to the Chatham's is pretty simple with up to six weekly flights from Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. The flights take 90 minutes on fairly old, Convair 580 aircraft. 

Flights are operated by Air Chathams with some support from Air New Zealand, such as using the Air New Zealand check in counters. Flights are fast and offer light refreshments. 

The airport is located 20km from the local town of Waitangi so make sure to arrange a transfer, as there's no taxi service on Chatham Islands. 

Where To Stay In Chatham Islands?

There's a few options when it comes to staying in the Chatham Islands. The largest and most familiar place to stay is called Hotel Chathams.

This hotel is a stones throw from the ocean and offers executive suites, king and twin rooms as well as a wheel chair friendly room. Budget travellers can stay in the single room.

Room rates aren't the cheapest with a double room costing $250NZD per night, suites are $350 and the single room a more budget friendly $125 NZD. 

Rooms come with breakfast and the usual facilities such as an en-suite (excluding single rooms) and TV. Most have a sea view of some sort. 

The hotel offers a 7 day per week restaurant, although the hours are quite short so be sure to plan accordingly. You also have access to the Public Bar where you can get drinks or food. 

Some of the dishes include freshly caught seafood including crayfish, grouper and blue cod, as well as traditional pub classics and quick meals such as pies, sandwiches and cabinet food meals. 

For luxury travellers be sure to checkout the wonderful Awarakau Lodge which can cater for up to 8 people at a time in various queen or twin rooms. A true lodge style for the whole family. 

For backpackers or those on a budget there's no hostel, but there is a wide variety of homestays, where you can stay with local families in return for a small fee or exchange of something. Be sure to checkout Black Robin Homestays

Why Visit Chatham Islands?

The Chatham Islands can only be described as untouched beauty, offering stunning scenerary, deserted beaches and beautiful flora and fauna. There's also a rich history to these Islands, which are an archipelago of 11 Islands with only 2 being inhabited, Chatham and Pitt. 

With a super low population and closer to Auckland, than Dunedin, it's a haven waiting to be explored by the traveller who want's to see it all. 

During the warmer months you'll find amazing walking trails, swimming, sailing, kayaking, cycling, diving, hunting, fishing and camping opportunities, or simply escape hectic life. 

With only 600 full time residents and a handful of tourists, it isn't hard to find your own slice of paradise on Pitt or Chatham. 

For photographers, there's over 392 different species of flowering plants and ferns, of which a few are native and not found anywhere else. There's also an abundance of wildlife including the Chatham Island taiko, the black robin, red-crowned parakeets, tui, tomtits, mollymawks, oyster catchers and petrels. 

Chatham Islands is a bird watchers paradise for sure. 

Caleb McLaughlin