New Zealand is an island country in the South Pacific Ocean with stunning landscapes that are a feast for the eyes. It is divided into two main islands- the North Island and the South Island but also administers around 600 smaller islands in the South Pacific region. These islands are also renowned for their mesmerizing landscapes and abundant natural charm. Visiting these islands of New Zealand will also give you insight into the ancient Kiwi culture, tradition, and heritage which has been carefully preserved in its truest form along with the region’s natural resources.
Away from the bustle of the land these islands of New Zealand are the perfect weekend getaway spots. Ideally a nature lover’s paradise these islands offer a whole lot of adventure activities too. Here’s all you need to know about the Islands of New Zealand as you plan to escape to them and unwind in their wilderness.
1. Kapiti Island- Located 5 kilometers off the west coast of North Island, Kapiti Island is the oldest nature reserve of New Zealand. This internationally renowned sanctuary protects the most beautiful and endangered birds and abundant marine life. To ensure the species thrive in an unrestricted environment the waters are protected and you will need a landing permit to get access to the island. The number of visitors to these islands of New Zealand is restricted so make sure you book your tour through licensed tour operators. You can opt for a day tour or book an overnight stay to fully immerse yourself in nature.
2. Chatham Islands- Located 800 kilometers east of the South Island, Chatham Islands is an archipelago of 11 islands. The islands host abundant wildlife, marine life, and many bird species with only about 600 human inhabitants. Renowned as one of the most tranquil islands of New Zealand, Chatham and Pitt have fascinating landscapes and interesting history of the Moriori. You can take a tour of the islands and enjoy watching rare species of birds and fishes such as dolphins, seals, crayfish, kina, and blue cod. You can explore the photogenic beaches, hills, dunes, basalt columns, tree carvings, and lagoons on the island.
3. Little Barrier Island- Located 80 kilometers north of Auckland, Little Barrier Island is the first nature reserve of New Zealand. Established in 1896 the reserve conserves the flora and fauna of the island. The sanctuary hosts around 40 species of rare or endangered birds, 14 reptiles, species, 2 bat species, and more than 400 native plants. You must acquire a permit from the Department of Conservation as the number of visitors is limited to 20 in a day and tours are available only for weekdays. It is among the most beautiful islands of New Zealand and is kept extremely protected to keep the ecosystem intact. You can spend a day on the island watching birds, swimming and snorkeling.
4. D’ Urville Island- Located among the Marlborough Sounds islands of New Zealand, D’ Urville Island lies along the northern coast of the South Island. It is named after the French explorer Jules Dumont d’Urville. Originally known as Rangitoto Ki Te Tonga, the island is loaded with natural beauty, rare species of birds, wildlife and marine life. You can indulge in many fun activities such as camping, hiking, mountain biking, snorkeling, diving, and fishing.
5. The Campbell Islands- The southernmost subantarctic islands of New Zealand, The Campbell Islands are located 700 kilometers away from South Island. The island is a nature reserve well known for its flora and fauna and has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The protected island is home to rare plants, wildflowers, mega herbs and bird species such as ducks, penguins, and albatross. Walking through the endemic vegetation and watching the regional birds is a surreal experience.
6. Poor Knights Island- Located on the Tutukaka coast of North Island, Poor Knights Island is a great place for diving and snorkeling. The area is recognized as a marine reserve since 1981 and has a lot of things that you can explore. Remains of ancient volcanoes and sunken navy ships make the underwater space around the island quite interesting. These islands of New Zealand are ranked among the top 10 diving spots in the world. You can book a boat to the island and explore its biodiversity.
7. Enderby Island- Located 465 kilometers south of South Island, Enderby Island is the largest among the Auckland islands. The island is house to several species of endemic birds and mega weeds. This hidden jewel among the many islands of New Zealand is the ideal place for wildlife spotting and bird watching. You can witness the nesting sites of the Auckland teal, shag, and snipe. You must also be on the lookout for sea lions, northern giant petrels, and yellow-eyed penguins.
8. Whale Island- Located off the Bay of Plenty coast of North Island, Whale Island is a lesser-known gem of the area. This small island is a protected wildlife reserve to conserve endangered native plants of 190 species, forest birds, marine mammals such as fur seals and lizards. You can witness magnificent birds such as grey-faced petrels, shearwaters, blue penguins, Caspian tern, the North Island kaka and New Zealand falcon. The island is also known as Moutohora and has two eroded volcanic cones, some active ones, and natural hot springs. Several archaeological sites related to Māori and European culture have also been recorded in the region. Like few other islands of New Zealand, access to Whale Island is highly restricted and you can reach there only through approved boat operators.
9. Ulva Island- A small forested island in Stewart Island, Ulva Island is considered a ‘Jewel in the Crown’ of New Zealand. It is a part of the Rakiura national park which preserves endemic birds and plants. The preserved species include the South Island saddleback, Stewart Island robin, southern brown kiwi, rifleman, yellow-eyed penguins, yellow-crowned and red-fronted parakeet, and the South Island kaka or forest parrot. Unlike other islands of New Zealand, this sanctuary is open for the public. You can plan a day trip to the island with friends and family. There are several enjoyable things you can do such as bird watching, taking guided walking tours around the island, diving, snorkeling, kayaking and relaxing on the pristine beaches.
10. Urupukapuka Island- Located around 7 kilometers from Paihia, Urupukapuka Island is a recreational reserve. It is the largest island in the Bay of Islands of New Zealand and offers a lot of leisure activities too. You can book a day trip or choose to camp on the island. It is the perfect spot for water sports lovers as there are facilities for swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, paddleboarding, kayaking. For those interested in the local culture guided walks around the island are available along with traditional Māori food. You can also book a Māori experience which includes workshops in flax weaving, Māori remedies, and Poi.