New Zealand is dominated by its two big islands - the North Island and the South Island. While there are a few small islands just off the coast of these islands there is only one group of small far-flung inhabited islands in New Zealand. The Chatham Islands are located 800 kilometers off the coast of the South Island and have a rather odd 45-minute time offset.

New Zealand is an exotic destination just brimming with things to see and do. Two, three, or even four weeks are not enough to do this South Pacific country justice. It's no wonder only a very few ever stop to think about New Zealand's remotest inhabited destination. These windswept and largely flat islands are in stark contrast to the majestic Southern Alps of New Zealand's South Island.


What To Know About The Chatham Islands And The Moriori

The Chatham Islands are an archipelago of wind-swept islands with the two largest being Chatham Island and Pitt Island.

They were settled by the Moriori people - a splinter group from the native Maori population who populated the islands and became isolated from the Maoris on the mainland. Over hundreds of years, they formed a unique culture on the islands and were peaceful people.

  • Native People: The Moriori
  • First Inhabited: Around 1500 AD

They arrived at the islands at around 1500 AD, but they were nearly exterminated when the Ngāti Mutunga and Ngāti Tama Māori tribes in the North Island learned about them, their peaceful existence, and invaded. The survivors were then enslaved.

Names For The Islands:

  • Rekohu: In Moriori
  • Wharekauri: In Maori

These islands have been a part of New Zealand since 1841 and boast unique flora and fauna. Visiting these islands is very different from visiting the New Zealand mainland. Today the Chatham Islands have a resident population of around 780 people and the main settlement is Waitangi. Descendants of the surviving Moirori continue to live on the islands.

  • Population: Around 780

Visitors will hear the stories of the Moiroiri people and learn about their ancient covenant of peace as well as their unique carvings and artwork. While on the New Zealand mainland, take time to explore the rich Maori culture too, and then see how these cultures took very different paths after they became isolated.

Related: New Zealand Vs. Australia: Why The Two Are Entirely Different

Getting To The Chatham Islands

The Chatham Islands are fully a part of New Zealand with no special administrative status and no special permission is required to go there. They are a remote ocean-bound wilderness with plenty of fresh seafood and a tight-knit community.

The way to get to the islands is by flight. There are domestic flights from Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch operated by Air Chathams. The flights operate on regular weekdays. There is also a small twenty-minute connecting flight between the islands from Chatham Island to Pitt Island (on a six-seater / freight place.

  • Duration: The Flights Are Around 2 Hours
  • Time Zone: 45 Minutes Of-Set From New Zealand Mainland
  • Passports: Not Required To Fly To The Chathams

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Plan Ahead And What To Be Aware Of

Accommodation and tours are very limited on the islands and there aren't flights every day. It is essential to book and plan ahead - the islands can basically sell out. Most of the land is privately owned as well. Also, it is important to be aware that there is no cellphone coverage on the Chatham Islands. There are no taxis on the island - organize pick up and drop off - and just about everything else with one's accommodation hosts.

  • Plan Ahead: Organize One's Trip With One's Accommodation Hosts

Due to the cost of transportation, the cost of fuel and other goods are more expensive than on the mainland (and New Zealand isn't exactly a cheap destination anyway).

The Chatham Islands are easily the farthest-flung part of New Zealand and a place that only around 2,000 visitors step foot in every year.

  • Tip: Be Prepared For Four Seasons In One Day

The best time to go is in the summer months when the average temperature is around 19 °C. Temperatures do not vary massively with the seasons due to the effects of the sea.

  • When to Go: Summer - Remember in the Southern Hemisphere that's December, January, and February

Plan one's trip to the forgotten Chatham Islands' on their official website with everyone one needs to know.