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Chatham Islands

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The Chatham Islands, also known as Rekohu, are the eastern-most settled islands in New Zealand. The islands are in their own time zone, 45 minutes ahead of New Zealand time; the International Date Line jogs eastward to keep them on the same calendar day as the rest of New Zealand.

They lie some 860km to the East of Christchurch, in the middle of the "Roaring Forties". Steeped in culture and history, these islands are on the very edge of civilisation. Experience Moriori culture, experience Rekohu.


The Chatham Islands consist of two main islands and a number of rocky outcrops. The islands are volcanic in origin and have a unique and sensitive habitat that supports many rare and endangered species. Despite the map, Waitangi is the only community on the island with a grocery store or petrol/diesel available. While scenic, the other communities have no businesses in them of use to tourists although some of the hotels/lodges are located outside of Waitangi.

Get in[edit]

By plane[edit]

Visitors may travel to the Chathams on scheduled or chartered air service. Air Chathams, fly 4 or 5 days per week, from either Auckland or Wellington or Christchurch. The service to Napier is not currently operated .

There are no passport requirements to travel to the Chatham Islands and there are no travel restrictions. You should, however, book or ensure accommodation, BEFORE you board a flight for there, as during the popular months of the Tourism season, between October and April, accommodation can be severely limited. There are no same-day return flights, so once there you do have to stay at least the night.

Although flying to the Chathams and back is not cheap, it is worth it. Even the mainland school groups that fly there for school camps, and choose to stay at Kopinga Marae get value for money by chartering a flight one way.

By boat[edit]

Chatham Islands Shipping Ltd, runs a regular freight service between Napier - Waitangi - Pitt Island and Timaru. This service is interspersed with a regular run from Napier to Norfolk Island via Auckland

CISL is the exclusive sea freight carrier of all export and import goods from the Chatham Islands to mainland N.Z.

They operate the MV "Southern Tiare" between all ports. The ship is a versatile unit, having been adapted for the carriage of livestock. At maximum can carry 2500 lamb units. The vessel is designed as a multi-purpose ship, adapt at both break bulk and containerised product including dry, frozen and chilled. Freight charges appear to be flexible and subject to change. They also make occasional use of the MV Baldur, a converted 42m Fishing trawler, for carting freight and fuel.

If you are looking at sailing to the Chathams, vessels are able to call there, but there are no fully "safe" harbours for shelter and the main port at Waitangi is an open roadstead. Mooring for yachts is possible but advance inquiry and planning is strongly recommended. Remember to notify the local Police Officer, or Ministry of Fisheries Officer if you are entering New Zealand via the Chathams.

If you want a wharf berth then call the local harbour master as you near the Chathams and he will sort you out.

Get around[edit]

There are several businesses on the Island that will rent you a vehicle. Do not expect the flashest and latest in rental cars though. The cars "will" be warranted and safe, but they won't be "flash". Chatham Motors have a range of very nice rental vans available as well and they provide pretty good service for visitors and locals alike.

So, when you get off that aeroplane, if you haven't pre-organised transport, you will have to walk, and it is a long way into town -- about 21km along mainly dirt roads with few cars. Not really practical unless you are a jogger with no luggage especially since the flights don't arrive until the late afternoon. Some car hire providers, especially associated with hotels, can arrange to have a car waiting for you at the airport. Check with your supplier for this option.

If you book a packaged tour, not only are all of your accommodation worries taken care of, so are your travel arrangements and on-island transport.

Heritage Expeditions, a New Zealand travel company, operates small ship cruises to Chatham Islands on 50-passenger boat Spirit of Enderby / Professor Kromov; may be combined with visits to Subantarctic Islands.

See[edit][add listing]

Basalt Columns

One of the most remote parts of the world. Some of the worlds most Rare and endangered birds, plants and insects. Unique Tree carvings done by the peaceful Moriori people hundreds of years ago.

  • Henga Scenic Reserve. Set adjacent to Chatham Lodge is the magnificent Henga Scenic Reserve. Guests of the lodge can meander around either a short easy walk, or take the longer 2 hour return walk out onto the spectacular beach. Access is free to Lodge guests.
  • Hapupu National Historic Scenic Reserve One of only two National Historic Scenic Reserves in New Zealand, Hapupu is a special place, and somewhere that you will want to tell others about. Spiritually and culturally important to Moriori, Hapupu holds the last known concentration of momori-rakau, or tree carvings done by the ancestors of today's Moriori. There are many views on why they did these carvings, but whateer the reason, you will find them a very special attraction.
  • Port Hutt One of the most scenicly attractive ports in the whole of New Zealand, Port Hutt boasts an incredibly sheltered little harbour, with picturesque views and safe anchorage in all weather. Historically important and economically crucial for these islands today, Port Hutt is the ideal location for a short browse around and a mecca for those photography buffs.
  • Kopinga Marae If you could define a place that will remind you of your visit to the Chathams, then Kopinga Marae will be at the top of your list. This is a very special place. Opened in 2005, Kopinga is the official meeting place of Te Imi Moriori. Adorned with contemporary Moriori carvings and traditional taonga (treasures) Kopinga Marae is a magnificent, tasteful and contemporary testament to the ancestors or Te Imi Moriori. enjoy a guided tour of this beautiful and peaceful building. School-Camps At Kopinga Marae also utilise this wonderful national treasure for hosting visiting school groups.
  • Tommy Solomon Statue Tame Horomona Rehe was the last full-blooded Moriori and he passed away in 1933. He was however, not the last Moriori. His own descendants and the descendants of other Moriori live on today. Come and have a look at this statue, erected in 1985 to commermorate his passing. Come and see Manakau, the property of his descendants, located on the eastern corner of Rekohu and blessd with the suns first rays as they rise above the sea each day.
  • Kaingaroa Quaint, is one word often used to describe this bustling little fishing village on the Norther corner of Rekohu. The residents of Kaingaroa often prepare a meal for Tourists on Saturday evenings at the local Kaingaroa Club and it is, without a doubt, one of the highights of a trip to the Chathams. The food is superb and the company is fantastic.
  • Museum One of the best kept secrets of the Chathams is the local museum. Full of interesting items, photographs and books, the museum holds a treasure trove of information about the Chathams. Don't miss it and don't forget to have a look through some of the books there.
  • Art Gallery The Chathams harbours many artists, both budding and well known. Most usually exhibit one or two pieces at the local art gallery, which is housed in the courthouse.... or is it the other way round? Either way, visitors are often surprised by the quality of works and many are sold during the tourist season.
  • Tuku Valley Nursery Liz and Bruce Tuanui run a nursery at their home in the Tuku valley on the south west coast of the Chathams. They offer guided walks of their nursery and gardens and you will be pleasantly amazed at the variety of plants and how well things grow in our litle sub-antarctic environment.
  • Whangaroa Seafoods Factory Arrangements are underway to enable visitors to watch this factory in action. Because the hygiene regulations are so strict in procesing facilities, visitors are unable to enter the factory floor, but will be able to view it from a dry viewing room adjacent. Watch the whole process, from unloading, grading, filleting to packaging freezing and shipping.
  • Pitt Island No trip to the Chathams would be complete without taking a day trip to Pitt Island. Air Chathams [3] flies you there, via a very scenic route and either Bernie and Brent of Flowerpot Adventures, or Martie Gregory-Hunt of Rauceby Homestays will drive you around Pitt Island and give you a running commentary and a homestyle lunch with one of the locals. Be aware though, that sometimes (just sometimes) travellers can get stuck there overnight of teh weather delays the return flight.
  • Scenery Theres no charge for this particular attraction. Its too hard to charge for something that is everywhere! It doesn't really matter what your particular scenery fetish is, there is something for everyone, from 'mountains' (well... biggish hills anyway) to cliff, sandy beaches to swampland, lakes and rivers to ocean vistas, it's covered.
  • Plant life
  • Bird Life
  • Seafood Do you like crayfish (Rock Lobster), or Paua (Abalone) or fish? Well you're coming to the right place then, because there's lots of it here and its all fresh and its all very very tasty. Get Joan at Chatham Lodge to prepare a seafood buffet for you and you will soon see what I am talking about. Our fish is the freshest, the tastiest and the best fish in the world.
  • Culture There are three types of culture on the Chathams islands, Moriori, Maori, and Chatham Islands culture. Kopinga Marae is the base for Te Imi Moriori and is adorned with carvings and artworks from contemporary Moriori artists. The revival of Moriori culture and language is facilitated from there.

Maori have a marae and the local Iwi; Ngati Mutunga O Wharekauri have an office building here as well. Maori culture is very strong on the Chathams.

The "Chathams" culture is a blend of all three ethnicities and has been shaped by the environment, the lifestyle, the contributions from each "ethnicity' and a community that has learned to rely on each other and deal with whatever is thrown their way, usually with a grin and a great deal of determination. Kiwi ingenuity has nothing on Chatham Island know-how.

  • Beaches

There are a wide range of on the islands that visitors can walk or beach comb on. Most of the time you will have the beach to yourself or your group.

  • Basalt Columns

The Basalt columns are one of the many natural wonders of Rekohu. Formed by a process of cooling with salt water these hexagonal columns of basalt are spectacular, as is the location and scenery around them.

  • Nunuku's Cave Legend has it, that this cave which contains authentic and ancient rock carvings was the home of the legendary Nunuku, the Moriori Chief who outlawed killing among his people. A pacifist law which lasted for hundreds of years, even in the face of wanton aggression.
  • Te Whanga Lagoon This large body of water provides a source of food and a venue for leisure and a means of access to various corners of the island. Abundant in whitebait, eel, assorted shellfish and relatively shallow, despite its size, Te Whanga, which contains both fresh and salt water is a fantastic place to have a fossick around. Its shores are adorned with limestone cliff, sandy beaches and wetland habitats. This is where the locals go when they want to get away from it all... (again).

Do[edit][add listing]

There is plenty to do on the Chathams (Rekohu) The Chathams has some of the most spectacular scenery in all of New Zealand. Rugged coastlines with towering cliffs, boulder strewn beaches and wide sandy expansive beaches. Some popular areas are located on private property and you should arrange access with the landowner via your hotel. Most hotels will know who to contact, and usually a small fee (or Koha)of about $10 is charged.

  1. Beach combing: Every beach is different
  2. Bushwalking: There is a multitude of reserves on the islands
  3. Guided Tours
  4. Fishing:13 species of fish were caught of the wharf in town in just two days.
  5. Farming: Watch or participate
  6. Fossicking: Find yourself a 40 million year old Shark tooth, Thankfully without a shark attached to it!
  7. Hunting: Pig hunting is a popular pastime here. Pitt Island also has a wild sheep hunting program you can look into.
  8. Photography: Shoot as many pictures as you like, the scenery is endless
  9. Plants/Birds: If you are into rare plants and birds, then this is the place for you.
  • Hotel Chatham Fishing Charters, Waitangi, +64 3 305-0048 or +64 3 305-0348, [1]. "Chatham Express" is a 10.5m pontoon boat build special for Chatham Islands weather conditions. Come and experience Fishing and Diving with us.  edit

Buy[edit][add listing]

Hotel Chathams has a small gift shop for souvenirs and the general store has a few items. There are a number of other outlets for souvenirs and local artwork. Enquire with your accommodation provider about where to purchase local artworks and souvenirs.

The New Zealand Dollar is the currency of the islands. There is one combined bank/post office in the main town of Waitangi where you might be able to change foreign currencies. (Best you take NZ dollars with you)

Eat[edit][add listing]

All package tour deals include dining, and you would be hard pressed to beat any of the accommodation providers kitchen skills. Marcel at Nairn House can rustle up a magnificent feast and house guests are in awe of the generosity of the meals there. Hotel Chathams also offer good a le carte dining, but house guests usually take preference.

  • Hotel Chatham Restaurant, Waitangi Chatham Islands, +64 3 305-0048 or +64 3 305-0007, [2]. Hotel Chatham has fully licensed Restaurant with a lounge bar and public bar - perfect to enjoying wine and local seafood - Blue cod, Hapuka, Crayfish, Paua. Seaside view, great place to meet the locals.  edit

There are rumours of a new cafe ("River Onion Cafe") about to start up in Waitangi (we will keep you informed) Glenys from the Waitangi cafe will cook you up a feast fit for a king. Clean and reasonably priced, (but closed on Wednesdays) and a tasty viable alternative to the Hotel. Good fish and chips too. There is also the Kaingaroa club on the weekends. Apart from that and the above, there are no other public places to buy food with the exception of the Waitangi Store and that closes at 17:30 most days. Arranging food for the day should be a priority or you will find yourself at the Hotel or hungry.

Sleep[edit][add listing]

Whilst it is advisable to sort this out before you leave New Zealand, here are your choices:

  • Hotel Chatham, Wharf road, +64 3 305-0048. Accommodation, restaurant, public Bar, Fishing charters, Package tours. Central, but can be noisy with locals and traffic  edit
  • Ultimate Hideaway at Kaingaroa: A long way from town (1h)
  • Rauceby Homestays wonderful farm/homestay on Pitt Island. Great food, wonderful hosts, lots of laughter and plenty of things to see and do.
  • Black Robin HomestaysLynn at Black Robin Homestays will sort you out, with divine meals, friendly atmosphere and comfortable and affordable lodgings. Best priced accommodation on the islands!
  • Chatham Motels:Out of town and self-catering
  • Hakepa Homestays: Home/Farmstay on Pitt Island
  • Awarakau Lodge: Beautiful, away from town, fantastic hosts, divine meals, great views, wonderful experience

You really do need to sort this out BEFORE you hop on a plane to Rekohu. The plane doesn't go back from here each day. It starts off from here and flies to NZ and then back here. So passengers in, always have to spend at least one night here. Most of our accommodation providers do get fully booked during our summer months, so take a really big hint: book ahead.

Stay safe[edit]

Crime is almost unheard of. There is a police officer on the island who does road checks from time to time. There is a small medical clinic/chemist on the island to help with illness or minor injury. Roads are unpaved outside of Waitangi and care should be taken when handling curves in loose gravel. Be aware of your fuel when travelling outside of Waitangi. It can take an hour or more to cross the entire island and you don't want to misjudge your petrol supply.

This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!