23 kilometres off the Tutukaka Coast in Northland, New Zealand sits the Poor Knights Islands. An absolute must-do when visiting New Zealand.
Poor Knights Island
One of the highest rated dive spots in New Zealand, these islands are great for beginners and advanced divers with easy to challenging dives. Poor Knights is also home to Rikoriko Cave, one of the largest sea caves in the entire world.
We recommend using companies such as Dive! Tutukaka to organise dives and snorkelling on the islands.
A great place to visit, especially if you’re staying in Auckland as it’s only a 2hr 45min drive from the CBD.
What Can You Find At Poor Knights Island?
There are many subtropical fish you can see here that can’t be found anywhere else in New Zealand, these include fish like the spotted black groper, Lord Howe coral fish and mosaic moray eels. In the summer months you can also see stingray coaming the waters around the archways.
Will you be lucky enough to see the Tuatara? the worlds only recognised dinosaur.
Although the waters aren’t warm enough to support a coral reef such as the type seen off the east coast of Australia, you do get some remarkable seaweed and kelp forests that allow the marine life to thrive.
Snorkelling & Diving at Poor Knights Island
There are several dive spots that you can visit around the islands, the most popular one being the Arch. As the name suggest, it consists of a huge arch which you’re able to swim through. The Arch is filled with sea life that are clinging to the walls, with fish, kelp and other smaller sea life being pushed and pulled with the tide through the thin archway. During the summer months a huge number of Stingray visit the Arch to mate as the volcanic structure provides protection from Orcas natural radar.
My Experience At Poor Knights Island
Journey To Poor Knights Island
We arrived early at Tutukaka after staying the night at an AirBnB in Whangarei. Excited for our day ahead we popped into the coffee shop and grab some breakfast before searching for our boat in the harbour. After recognising the Dive! Tutukaka logo on the side of a big catamaran we jumped on board to find some people making themselves at home and having cereal for breakfast.
We were on the wrong boat, but at least we got the right company!
After being shown to our boat, which was a much smaller catamaran we got settled in and met some of our fellow divers and snorkellers.
The trip out took just under an hour, the sea was choppy but not too bad. Not enough for my sea legs to fall out from underneath me. I always forget just how amazing it is to have the sea and it’s uses on your doorstep here in New Zealand. Where I lived in the UK I was only about an hour away from the coast, but you wouldn’t really want to go out there. The Bristol channel was murky, muddy and full of rubbish and pollution.
We pulled up to the Arch first and settled in whilst the divers got sorted with their tanks of air and respiratory equipment. Once they left we were free to jump in and have a float around. I was at the top of the boat when we pulled up and couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Never before had I seen water so clear that I was able to see fish swimming around from 3m up. That’s New Zealand for you.
Our Snorkelling Adventure
After quickly getting over the thought of jumping straight in only to be attached by a shark I asked the boat captain if they go many sharks around here, his answer was “you’d be lucky if you saw a shark out here”. I questioned his judgement of luck.
Jumping in I immediately remembered why we were able to get our tickets so cheap. It was cold. Close to winter and I’m glad I have my wetsuit on.
A quick swim around and a few free dives later I adjusted to the temperature and was able to enjoy my surroundings.
The Arch was incredible. There was a small swell coming through that you could either deal with above the surface or dive down and be at the mercy of the tide, pushing and pulling you through the rock. There were hundreds of fish and other sea creatures floating and swimming around including what looked like jellyfish that you could swim through and not get stung, which was a pleasant bonus.
Snorkelling at Poor Knights island was one of the best experiences I’ve had here in New Zealand, and I can’t wait to go again, maybe as a diver.
Snorkelling at Poor Knights Island
After our swim at the Arch we made our way around the island, we went into the sea cave and typically tested its echoing capabilities. After a bit of a drive round we ended up at a reef which had a different variety of sea life, it was strange to see such a difference even though we were mere minutes away from the Arch. The kelp forest was abundant with life.
If you’re thinking of snorkelling at Poor Knights island I really couldn’t recommend Dive! Tutukaka enough. The price was affordable, the experience was amazing and the service was great.