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Chatham Islands

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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

By plane

Visitors may travel to the Chathams on scheduled or chartered air service. Air Chathams, fly 4 or 5 days per week, from either Christchurch, Auckland or Wellington. (The service to Napier is no longer 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.

Anyway, you don't have a choice on how you get there, unless you happen to own an aeroplane, or can travel as a passenger on the freight ship MV Baldur from Napier (see below).

By boat

There are currently two scheduled shipping services to the Chatham Islands. The Black Robin Freighters "Rangatira", an antiquated, slow and small coastal boat has serviced the islands for many years now, but does not carry passengers. It mainly operates from Timaru.

The MV Baldur from (Chatham Island Shipping Limited) operates a scheduled service from Napier, and accepts booked passengers (4 cabins with a total of 12 berths). This company, principally owned by the Island's own Enterprise Trust, is trying to establish a modern freight and passenger operation, but their present ship the Baldur is a converted 42m trawler.

Freight charges on both ships appear to be flexible and subject to change.

Vessels are able to call at the Chathams 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 Policeman, 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

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 Lodge can provide you with a rental vehicle, as part of your accommodation package with them. The Lodge has a range of accommodation and tour package options. 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.


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 Just one of only two National Historic Scenic Reserves in New Zealand (the other is the Waitangi Treaty Grounds), Hapupu really 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 [3] 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 [4] flies you there, via a very scenic route and Bernie and Brent of Flowerpot Adventures will drive you around Pitt Island and give you a running commentary and a homestyle lunch with one of the locals. Although memorable, plan with caution since changing weather can delay the return flight by hours or even days.
  • 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

Too numerous to list them all today, check back in a few days and we'll get them listed.

  • Bird Life

Too numerous to list them all today, check back in a few days and we'll get them listed.

  • 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 at least your group will.

  • 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).


There is plenty to do on Rekohu (the Chatham Islands) You can simply relax.... Relaxing is good,.. it works for me! Park up in the sun..... Yup, that works too. Or you could go exploring,..... ummm, like walking and that type of exploring...? Its trus. 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 exspansive beaches. Check out this Chatham Lodge website for a few photographs of the Chathams and some great booking information.

  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.


You cannot beat the fine dining at Chatham Lodge for a great meal out. Package tour guests get the luxury of buffet meals, steak dinners and crayfish meals. For fine dining and great Chatham Island cuisine, give Chatham Lodge a call.

Next on the dining out list is the Waitangi cafe. Glenys will cook you up a feast fit for a king. Clean and reasonably priced, visitors always make a point of calling in at Waitangi cafe. Closed on Wednesdays, otherwise a tasty viable alternative to the Hotel.

The old piecart caravan has gone now and has been replaced by a brand new purpose built cafe between Te One and Waitangi, overlooking Lake Huro. The Lakeside cafe was supposed to have filled the gap, but call first, since in Feb 2014 it was closed and up for sale.

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. Really, outside of the Hotel Chatham and Waitangi Café 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:

  • 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
  • Chatham Lodge: Out of Town and you can't beat it for quality, cost, comfort, experience or location
  • Ultimate Hideaway at Kaingaroa: A long way from town (1h)
  • Beach House: out of town and self-catering
  • Black Robin Homestays
  • Chatham Motels:Out of town and self-catering
  • Hakepa Homestays: Only accommodation available on Pitt Island
  • Awarakau Farmstays: Beautiful, away from town, great views

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.

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!