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NZ Outlying Islands, New ZealandChatham Islands - Scenic Highlights

Chatham Islands | Regional Information | Activity Highlights | Scenic Highlights | History

Regarded as the Orkneys and Shetlands of New Zealand, the Chatham Islands are known for their pristine landscapes, quiet sandy beaches, volcanic peaks, lakes and rocky foreshores.

Chatham Islands Scenic Highlights Overview

Chatham Island basalt columns
Chatham Island basalt columns

The main attraction of the Chatham Islands for visitors is the unique natural environment, which has evolved over millions of years in geographical isolation. The islands to this day remain unspoilt by resorts or nightclubs, and with conservation programmes restoring original forest and preserving the habitats of rare wildlife, the influence of the modern world (almost) remains 800km away.

The Chatham Islands

Visiting the Chatham Islands has been likened to stepping back in time, in the very best sense—when the pace of life was more relaxed, you knew all your neighbours and days didn't involve watching the clock. To see these remarkable islands, let your local hosts suggest which beauty spots you should see—after all they know the islands best. Always make sure you're prepared for 'four seasons in one day' as the weather can change quickly and enjoy the majestic cliffs, bush reserves and rugged scenery in safety.

Tours around the islands can be arranged and for Pitt Island, on which most of its 6300 hectares is privately owned, a tour is definitely the best way to see some of the most scenic vantage points.

Historic Sites

Moriori tree carvings
Rakau momori
  • Located in the kopi forest of the Hapupu Historic Reserve on Chatham Island are Rakau momori, or tree carvings. These are one of the few remaining signs of ancient Moriori culture.
  • A statue of the last full-blooded Moriori, Tommy Solomon can be viewed in Owenga on Chatham Island. Solomon died in 1933, and his stature erected in 1986.
  • Find out more about the history and settlement of the islands in the small museum at Waitangi on Chatham Island.
  • Displaying objects and items from the surrounding area, including a carved Maori meeting house and old pioneers' houses, is the Maori and Colonial Museum in Okains Bay on Banks Peninsula.
  • Visit the Moravian Mission, a stone cottage at Maunganui in the North-west of Chatham Island built 1866 and 1868 (permission must be obtained).
  • View the restoration work on Glory Cottage, built in the 1860s and home to whalers and sealers on Pitt Island.

Scenic Sites

Parea (Chatham Island pigeon)
Parea (Chatham Island pigeon)
  • Visit the south-west of Chatham Island, and see the Parea (Chatham Island pigeon) in their habitat.
  • Enjoy the Admirals Garden, Port Hutt road (Chatham Island). Barbecues are held every Sunday during ‘visitor season’. Bookings required.
  • Fossick for 40 million year old fossilised shark teeth in Te Whanga Lagoon, which covers around one-fifth of Chatham Island and look out for Moriori rock carvings.

Private Land Access and Signage

Many places of interest are located on, or accessed over, private land for which permission is required. On the Chatham Islands private land often extends from the roadside to the water's edge. Most main visitor sites are signposted.

Landowners are generally accommodating if asked and your host can help you obtain access permission. A fee may be required so please enquire. Always leave gates as you find them. It is important to respect private land, if in doubt please ask.

Useful Chatham Islands Links

To help plan your Chatham Islands holiday choose from the main categories below:

Chatham Islands Region Information

Chatham Islands Tourism Operators

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Mainstay New Zealand Hotels

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Large collection of independent hotels.

Choice Hotels

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Holiday packages for any occasion.

Distinction Hotels

Distinction Hotels

Great hotels in great NZ wide locations.