OUR Thoughts on the Chatham Islands

Firstly, let us clear up the slight name confusion you might have noticed.  The Island Group is collectively known (in English) as the Chatham Islands – named after the first European ship to visit these shores, (HMS Chatham in 1791), the main island in the group is known as “Chatham Island”, the second biggest island is Pitt Island, and these two are the only permanently inhabited islands in the group of 11 islands.

The Chatham Islands archipelago is a part of New Zealand, so no passports are required to visit when you are arriving direct from the New Zealand mainland.  Access is easy by air as Air Chathams flies twice a week from Auckland, once a week from Christchurch and three times a week from Wellington.  More flights are added seasonally. Flight time from Wellington is 2 hours, from Auckland 2 hours 30 minutes and from Christchurch 2 hours 15 minutes.  The main airport (Tuuta) is on Chatham Island and there is a smaller “domestic” airport on Pitt Island. Access to Pitt Island is via small aircraft charter.

You will find that most places of interest (indeed the islands as a whole) have an English name, a Moriori name and a Maori name and this reflects the fact that the islands were first settled by Polynesians known as Moriori who know their home as Rekohu.  Later, Maori settled and their name for the islands is Wharekauri.

So, what are the attractions of the Chatham Islands?  Well, the answer is “many and varied” but most are centred around history, culture, the environment and the magnificent seafood found here.  There are many unique species of plants and birds (great bird watching opportunities) native to the Chatham Islands, significant historic and heritage sites, Moriori, Maori and early European culture to explore, incredible fishing and hunting opportunities, nature walks, inspiring natural landscapes, and best of all, some of the friendliest, most helpful people you will come across anywhere.

Getting around is easy – rental cars, FWDs and rental utes are available for hire, don’t overlook the local tour company who, with their 18-seater 4WD vehicle, will take you to places it is difficult to access any other way. There are many enjoyable scenic walks of different grades of difficulty, lakes to kayak on and lonely, wild beaches. The list of attractions is long and varied, but those not to be missed are the Tommy Solomon Statue, the rakau momori (Moriori tree carvings), KĊpinga Marae, carved basalt columns, Nunuku's Cave,  Te Awapatiki, and the Moriori Ethnobotanical Gardens, the Maunganui Stone Cottage, museums and so much more. Most of the attractions and activities are on private land, so it is good manners to seek permission to visit before entering and some levy a small fee for access.  Your hotel host will gladly arrange any permissions required.

Yes, the Chatham Islands should definitely be on your ‘bucket list” but be aware that one visit is not always enough.