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The Chatham Islands lie over 800 kilometres east of southern New Zealand. These remote islands have officially belonged to New Zealand since 1842 and are the first inhabited land in the world to greet dawn.
Located in the Southern Pacific Islands, the Chatham Islands archipelago covers an area of 966 square kilometres and consists of 11 major islands, the largest of which are Chatham Island and Pitt Island.
Only two of the Chatham Islands are inhabited, and the total population, of roughly 600, resides on Chatham and Pitt islands. The smaller islands, once farmed, are now conservation reserves, on which access is prohibited or restricted. The English (and Maori) names of the other islands are: South East Island (Rangatira), The Fort (Mangere), Little Mangere (Tapuenuku), Star Keys (Motuhope), The Sisters (Rangitatahi) and The Forty-Fours – also the eastern most point of New Zealand.
Although there are some areas of forest on the Chatham Islands, most of the land is hilly and fern or pasture-covered. Many of the islands in the group have been earmarked as conservation reserves and are home to a number of endemic plants and birds, including the Magenta Petrel and the Black Robin.
The facilities on Chatham Islands include a hospital, bank, stores, shipping wharf and engineering and marine services. Most visitors arrive by air and it is strongly advised that all visitors have accommodation booked prior to their arrival. Cell phone coverage is not available.
The Chatham Islands provide the ultimate destination for those seeking peace and solitude. The spectacular scenery, friendly locals, fascinating history, unique plants and wildlife all add up to an unforgettable holiday experience. With plenty of time for relaxation and exploration, visitors to the Chatham Islands can enjoy some of the most spectacular and unspoilt scenery in New Zealand including rugged coastlines, towering cliffs, boulder strewn beaches and expansive sandy beaches.
Tourism on the Chatham Islands is based on a 'host' system, whereby your accommodation provider is likely to arrange your transport, guided tours and activities for you. There is no public transport and limited public amenities and due to the islands' isolation and dramatic weather patterns, the locals take a personal interest in the welfare, safety and enjoyment of visitors.
Highlights of the Chatham Islands include its ancient Moriori tree carvings, Te Whanga Lagoon, plentiful seafood, bushwalking and hiking tracks. However, for many visitors the main reason for visiting the Chatham Islands is its unique flora, fauna and wildlife. For ornithologists and birdwatchers, the islands offer fantastic bird-watching opportunities.
Local Time – The Chatham Islands is the first inhabited place in the world to see the rising sun each day. Local time is 45 minutes ahead of mainland New Zealand and observes the same daylight savings start and finish dates.
Airport Transfers and Car Hire – As there is no public transport you will need to make pickup arrangements with your hosts. Cars, 4WD vehicles and vans are available for hire, enquire with your host.
Banking and Eftpos – Most shops and cafes accept credit cards and eftpos, but carrying cash is also advisable. Generally prices are slightly higher than mainland New Zealand due to freight costs. A combined ANZ Bank/Post Office is located in Waitangi. Cash withdrawals are available. The bank is open Mon, Tues, Thurs, Fri 10.00am - 2.00pm and closed Wed. An ATM machine available at the Hotel Chathams Public bar during trading hours.
Communications – Calling the Chathams Islands from Mainland New Zealand is a standard national call. There is no cell phone coverage on the Chatham Islands making it a real escape. High-speed wi-fi Internet is available in many locations. Enquire with your host.
Power – Electricity is produced by diesel generators and two wind turbines. Power supply and plugs are the same as in mainland New Zealand so all your appliances will operate.
Shops and Cafes – The Chatham Islands have a number of options for shopping and dining: General store, fuel stations, hardware store, gift shop, art and craft shop, gallery, lodge, hotel and cafes. You will find most of your requirements here, but be sure to bring any special needs.
Accommodation – Chatham Islands provide a range of comfortable accommodation options: Homestay, farmstay, self catering guest house, backpackers, hotel, lodge, motel and two marae. It is important to book your accommodation before travelling to the Chatham Islands. You will find your hosts friendly and helpful.
Churches – There are a number of churches on the Chatham Islands offering services and historic interest. St Augustine Church in Te One has a service each Sunday at 10:30am to which visitors are warmly welcomed.
Driving Tips – Roads are well formed and maintained, however most roads have loose gravel so take care when driving, as dust, children, stock and motor bikes are common. At night you may encounter wandering stock. Please adhere to the speed signs and for additional safety we strongly recommend a maximum speed of 40km in towns and 60km on the open road. Chatham Islanders are friendly – so be sure to wave!
Weather and Clothing – Summer has lovely clear warm days while winter may bring occasional mild frosts, but the Chatham Island weather may be best described as variable. However most days see the sun and temperatures tend to be mild. It can be windy and cold at times. Annual rainfall is about 1,000mm but tends to fall as showers rather than torrential rain. Be prepared for four seasons in one day, bring your holiday clothes, a warm jacket and sunscreen.
To help plan your Chatham Islands holiday choose from the main categories below:
Key information and facts about the Chatham Islands.
Major activities and attractions on the Chatham Islands.