The Chathams Islands is a remote, awe-inspiring place that is full of birdlife and incredible history making for an unforgettable visit.
The Chatham Islands consist of two main inhabited islands, Chatham Island and Pitt Island. Pitt Island lies 23km south east of Chatham Island and both islands are surrounded by a number of smaller islands, all within a radius of approximately 60km. The main island, Chatham, has an area of 90,000 hectares. Pitt Island has an area of 6,300 hectares.
The islands are volcanic in origin and have a rugged and windswept vista with delicate habitats that can be easily damaged by the elements and mankind. With diverse landscapes and fascinating history, the Chatham Islands are renowned for its bountiful seafood industry and conservation efforts protecting many rare and endangered species.
The Chatham Islands were first inhabited by the Moriori who named the islands ‘Rekohu’ – translated as ‘misty skies’ or ‘misty sun’. European sealers and whalers were next to arrive, followed by Māori from New Zealand who named the islands ‘Wharekauri’. Descendants of Moriori still live in the Chatham Islands and visiting Kopinga Marae will give you great insights into the culture.
The overall shape of the uniquely designed marae represents an albatross in flight, a bird that has great cultural significance to Moriori. It is the base for the revival of Moriori language, cultural traditions, wānanga (meeting together to learn) and community and school events.
Visitors will hear stories of the Moriori people and their ancient covenant of peace and view intricate carvings and artwork.
Pitt Island is acknowledged as being the jewel in the Chatham Islands’ crown, renowned for its spectacular scenery and atmosphere.
Pitt Island is approximately 16,000 acres with around 6,000 acres under the control of DOC with 3000 acres as bush and nature reserves. The remainder of the island is privately owned and farmed. The island’s seven farms run approximately 12,000 stock units. The other main sources of income on the island are crayfish and paua fishing.
Pitt Island is the first place in the World to see the sun rise each day and has some of the region’s most spectacular scenery, bird life, botany, geology, fishing, diving and hunting experiences. The Island provides a friendly atmosphere and a range of attractions to suit any visitor, especially nature lovers.
Air Chathams is the island’s airline and was originally established to freight live seafood between Pitt Island, Chatham Island and mainland New Zealand.
Flights to the Chatham Islands depart weekly all year round. Auckland to the Chatham Islands flights depart on Thursdays at 2:00pm and take approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes flight time. An additional flight from Auckland is scheduled every Saturday during the summer peak period.
Wellington to the Chatham Islands flights depart twice a week on a Monday and a Friday at 1:00pm with a flight time of approximately 2 hours. An additional flight is scheduled over the summer peak period every Wednesday.
Flights from Christchurch to the Chatham Islands take approximately 2 hours 15 minutes and depart every Tuesday at 1:00pm.
Air Chathams also operates flights from Chatham Island to Pitt Island. This is a small six-seater plane and is also the islands’ freight plane. Flight time is 25 minutes.
Weather on the Chatham Islands
The Kiwi saying “Four seasons in one day” rings true for the Chatham Islands. You can enjoy the outdoors on the Chatham Islands year-round but being prepared for all types of weather is vital.
December, January and February
The summer months have an average temperature of 19 degrees celcius (°C) and the nights can drop to an average of approximately 12°C.
February is the warmest month on the islands and also the busiest, so make sure to book accommodation and tours well in advance.
March, April and May
The autumn months are also pleasant times to visit.
March weather is similar to February. Temperatures range from 12°C to 18°C and the sea temperate still enjoyable for swimming.
Things start to cool down in April and May. Daily average temperatures range from 8°C to 15°C.
June, July and August
Winter on the Chatham Islands can be wild and beautiful with fascinating cloud patterns.
June is similar to May with averages temperatures of 8°C to 15°C.
July and August are the middle of the winter months and cool temperatures range from 5°C to 10°C.
September, October and November
Moving into the spring months the air is still fresh in September with average temperatures ranging from 7°C to 11°C.
Towards the middle and end of spring and heading into summer average temperatures are between 9°C to 15°C.
No matter which time of the year you chose to visit the Chatham Islands knowing what to pack is a must.
Before you head out, check the weather or ask a local about the conditions. A waterproof jacket and comfortable walking shoes are essential items for all seasons.
During the spring and summer months use sunscreen, a sunhat and sunglasses and carry a reusable water bottle with you. The ocean temperatures should be warm so remember to pack swimming costumes. Pack cool summer clothing and footwear but also warm attire for the evenings.
In the autumn and winter months pack additional rainwear and warm clothing. Extra waterproof jacket and trousers and thermals are essential, as is a warm hat and gloves.
Things to do and see in Chatham Island
Discover genuinely unique plant and bird life | Admiral garden | Henga Scenic Reserve | Hapupu National Historic Reserve | The historic and quirky Maunganui Stone Cottage | The Basalt Columns and Splatter Rock |Point Munning Seal Colony | Remains of a Sunderland flying Boat | Chatham Islands museum | Port Hutt | Tommy Solomon Memorial | Relax on deserted beaches | Hike through wild landscapes | Bird watching |Fishing….
Things to do and see in Pitt Island
Mount Hakepa | Glory Cottage | Waipaua Scenic Reserve | Waihere Bay beach | Caravan Bush Covenant | Flora and fauna | Rock or boat fishing |Hunting, snorkeling & diving| Birdwatching | Photography……
Chatham Islands Quick Facts
There are only 660 local residents in Chatham Island and only 40 in Pitt Island | The Islands get approximately 2,000 visitors per year | The time zone is 45 minutes ahead of the mainland | There is no cellphone coverage on the Chatham Islands (internet is available) | Passports aren’t required to fly to the Chatham Islands | The currency on the islands is the New Zealand dollar | Public transport is not available.