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