Poor Knights Islands, New Zealand

The Poor Knights Islands are located off the coast of Whangarei and they mark a kind of halfway point between Bream Head and Cape Brett.  These islands have not been inhabited since the 1820s and the area is a well-known nature reserve for various local plant and animal life.

What to expect

It is very important to realize and understand that this area is protected.  The surrounding waters have been declared a marine reserve while the islands themselves have a strict “no landing” rule.  Visitors can enjoy boat trips out to the islands but, due to preservation and conservation, some limits had to be set.

There are a number of licensed boating companies that offer trips around the islands.  The best thing to do would be to compare prices, trip duration and the types of sea vessels used before making an actual booking.

Be prepared to spend most of your day out at sea.  With this in mind, you may want to book accommodation at one of the nearby hotels so that you don't have to travel immediately afterwards. 

Top attractions

If you are a diver, this really is the ideal place to visit.  The water is quite warm and, as a result, schools of brightly coloured fish call the coral reefs below the waves their home.  In fact, as many as 125 different fish species have been found in this area as well as soft coral, sponges and anemones in a range of different colours. The ecklonia kelp forests are a wonderful underwater sight and the area is also a popular mating spot for sting rays.

Above sea level, you can enjoy the remarkable shape and structure of the islands due to volcanic activity.  There are a number of cliffs that seem to drop straight into the water and wonderful caves, arches and tunnels too.

One of the most popular places to visit is the Rikoriko Cave.  It is the largest sea cave in the world and is believed to have hidden a Japanese submarine during World War II.  Many boats sail inside to enjoy its splendour, the magnificent echo and the brightly coloured fish that swim just below.

The surrounding waters are abundant with life, so too are the islands themselves.  There are a number of plants, flowers, birds and other creatures that enjoy their undisturbed life here.  Among them is the Tuatara which is believed to be the world's only surviving dinosaur.  Many other rare and endangered species call these islands home.  This is just another reason for the high level of protection.

The Poor Knights Islands might not be able to physically host its visitors but this does not make the area completely inaccessible.  Visitors can enjoy a fantastic view of the land from the boat and divers will get more than their money's worth with so much underwater life to explore.