“North Island or South Island?” A typical question asked of those visiting the picturesque ocean bound country of New Zealand. But have you ever heard about the other islands of New Zealand? Venture off the beaten track and uncover remote wilderness, unique natural landscapes and embark on a remarkable voyage of pleasure and discovery. Where there are more kiwis than humans, you’ll feel like you’ve arrived in a land lost in time.
The Chatham Islands are located 800 kilometres east of NZ, and offer an unforgettable experience, immersed in wilderness and community culture. The Moriori people, are of Polynesian descent with similar origins to the Maori people of New Zealand. The Moriori culture is still very much alive and well in the Chatham Islands today. The islanders are laid back and welcoming, and operate a host system, meaning when you come to stay on the island, you are looked after by a local and taken in as one of their own.
The area is known for its abundance of seafood, ranging from crayfish to groper, and cod. In the winter, you will witness the orca migration and you can always catch dolphins from the shore. On the Chatham Islands, the fur seals outnumber the humans, so be sure to stop by and say hello to the locals. Or relax on the vast beaches, go kayaking and swimming in the lagoon and have a fish, or head to Pitt Island – the first inhabited place in the world to witness the sunrise in the morning.
Head for a day on the greens at the Chatham Islands Golf Course, or get a touch of history with the Chatham Islands Museum, or check out the awesome topographic wonder of the basalt columns, located on the eastern coastline of the island.
You can access the Islands via the local airline, Air Chathams, running direct flights all week.
Southern Royal Albatross, Campbell Island | Source: flickr
Remotely isolated in the Southern Ocean, the New Zealand Subantarctic Islands are comprised of five islands- The Antipodes, Auckland, Bounty, The Snares Islands and the Campbell Island group. Collectively, they form a UNESCO World Heritage site, and the area is frequented for scientific observation and discovery. Due to the abundance of rich and unique native flora and fauna gracing these islands, there are restrictions on the number of people allowed to visit the island each year, so secure your heritage or wilderness cruise to visit one of the most untouched and pristine natural wonders of the world.
The most remarkable aspect of the Subantarctic Islands, is that much of the bird life and plant life has become endemic – meaning that due to the harsh conditions in which they live, these species have adapted to the specific environment in which they live. The Snares is home to three endemic types of land birds, and Campbell Island has become an integral breeding ground for many of these subspecies and home to the renowned mega-herbs – thriving, giant wildflower communities up to a metre tall.
The wildlife seem undisturbed by human interference, making this experience, extraordinarily otherworldly, treasured and unique. Interact comfortably with the variety of seal and penguin species and witness the Campbell Island Teal, a nocturnal and flightless dabbling duck!
New Zealand Fur Seal | Source: flickr
The Maori’s dubbed Stewart Island as the land of glowing skies. Which makes sense, as the Southern Lights or the Aurora Australis often appear off the shores of Stewart Island. Be sure to catch this unmissable light show put on by Mother Nature.
The Island is 85% National Park, making it an ideal sanctuary for the beloved kiwi. But the island is generally swarming with birdlife, and has a predator free bird sanctuary to promote conservation of their beautiful wilderness. Fishing is a popular activity around the island so long as you avoid the protected areas of the Marine Reserve and the Mataitai. You can also indulge in scuba diving and snorkelling, as warm currents circulate down from the Great Barrier Reef, creating wonderfully, colourful reefs for exploring. In the Marine Reserve of Paterson Inlet, there are 170 species of seaweed and over 50 species of reef fish to be discovered! And make sure you head out on a day trip to Ulva Island to observe extremely rare plants and birdlife and learn about the wonderful heritage of the island.
The proud, eccentric and friendly community of Stewart Island is located at Halfmoon Bay, with a population of 390 people, practicing conservation, fishing, aquaculture and tourism.
The island is accessible via both ferry and flights.
Sawdust Bay, Stewart Island | Source: flickr