Isla Chatham Island – You Have To Know



Isla Chatham Island


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Isla Chatham Island is a small, remote and uninhabited island located in the Chatham Islands group of New Zealand. It is part of the Auckland Islands chain, and is located about 260 kilometres (160 mi) northeast of Auckland. The island has an area of 2.5 square kilometres (1 sq mi). The island is named after the 4th Duke of Bedford, who was Governor-General of New Zealand from 1892 to 1895.

Isla Chatham Island


Isla Chatham was first visited by Europeans in 1769, when a Spanish expedition led by Dionisio Alcalá Zamora charted the island and named it Isla de los Remolinos (Island of the Whirlpool). The island was annexed to New Zealand as part of the Auckland Islands chain following its discovery in 1840, and became part of Hauraki-Waikato province. In 1907, a Royal Commission placed Chatham Island under trusteeship for the protection of native birds. It became an Indian national park on 1 October 1936.

The island was used as a base by the island’s Maori residents, who attempted to cultivate eel grass. The first surveying expedition reached Isla Chatham in 1769, and named it after Prince Frederick of Wales (later King George IV) “because his majesty had granted them leave to establish a settlement on some new island they found”. This was several years before the claim of British sovereignty over New Zealand.

Although there have been no permanent inhabitants since 1955, when access was cut off at High Island/Kanaks Peak (“Te Tumu”), three partially rebuilt huts are still standing , at the north end of Isla Chatham, accessible only by boat. Visitors are welcome under restricted conditions for scientific studies and to visit High Island/Kanaks Peak island containing the remains of potential Maori stock yards (“managers’ houses”).

HighIsland (the summit) is a narrow barrier island on a small coral reef located outside the main island in uninhabited sea waters. Kanaks peak features wind-casings, rocky points jutting out into deep water as they reach closer to Rangatua Head or Tasman Reef lagoon; there are no bould ers, no rocks and it is inaccessible by foot.

The island should not be confused with the larger island Kanaks Peak ( Nunatau) , or the other low-lying islands of Rangatua Head commonly referred to as “Inaccessible Islands”. The windy waters surrounding Chatham Island can prove hazardous for people who do not have skills in handling a boat when trying to approach Kanak Peak.



The climate of Chatham island is subtropical, with a rainy season from November to January and a dry season (May to October) which can be hot and humid. Mean monthly temperatures range between 18 degrees Celsius in December, the coldest month, up to 26 degrees Celsius in July, the hottest month. The island is located in the Chatham Rise, a unique marine habitat that lies to the east of New Zealand’s main island and has made it an important breeding ground for sea birds. It supports populations of many types of seabirds , including black-fronted terns, red-faced dotterels, short eared and white faced storm petrels as well as boobies (Haliaeetus leucoryphus) which nest on predator less beaches around Town Basin along with many other endangered or rare species.



The island is home to a Maori tribe, the Te Atiawa o nga Katoa, who have a totemic relationship with the island. The tribe practises whakapapa (genealogy) and maintains close links with ancestral spirits. Like many Polynesian cultures, their mythology and spiritual beliefs are closely intertwined with the natural environment and its creatures. Some of their ritual practices and beliefs, including a sacred island squid (tapu), were lost with oral traditions before the arrival of Europeans, who can be seen standing stone monuments (maori whare) on the island.

The tribe is run along major clans based around Whaingaroa village at Cape Maria Seaton near Moturoa Lagoon. Each has a tribal leader or Mataio who administers many aspects relating to cultural obligations , including the island and local governance, burial rights, endangered species protection and traditional practices associated with eels (kauri) fishing.



The island is administered as part of the Bay of Islands Provincial Council and has a mayor, supported by eight councillors. The current Mayor is Hone Harawira.

The island was formerly a parliamentary seat in the New Zealand House of Representatives, represented by Tim Shadbolt until his retirement at the 2010 general election. The current electorate is called Northland, and since the 2014 electoral redistribution, a regional or general seat.

The island has a number of hostelries catering to tourists and yachties; two house hotels on Moturoa Lagoon (Toki Point Resort & Holiday Park, Courtney Bay Oasis), one beachfront B&B in Whangapoua itself (Whangapouan Rooms) in addition to an eco-friendly backpacker’s hostel (“Herewikio” ) adjacent to the town centre between Church Street New Zealand House “and St Pauls”.

Government services

Government services

The island is serviced by a small airport,Moturoa Aerodrome, located about two kilometres north east of the village. All Bay of Islands public and commercial services are available on Moturoa Lagoon and Courtney Bay in Whangapouan Village . These include a healthcare centre, physical and mental health care clinics, dentist’s office orchi-derm (a cosmetic surgery salon), pharmacy for various prescriptions under the universal public system and numerous island stores including grocery outlets.



The island is well known for kauri logging, a traditional industry which has now been largely replaced by tourism. Visitors come to see the eels, see where Captain James Cook set foot on the island in 1769 and to take part in traditional lifestyles such as fishing and carving wood. The Bay of Islands Regional Council operates a ferry link (see above) between Whangapoua harbour on Moturoa Lagoon and Opua on the mainland, with other destinations including Paihia, Russell, Kaikoura and Stewart Island/Rakiura depending upon season.


Isla Chatham Island is a small and secluded island in the Chathams, lying east of Stewart Island, New Zealand. It is a nature reserve administered by the Department of Conservation. The island has a long history of human occupation and is one of the most significant archaeological sites in New Zealand.


Is There A Currency On Chatham Island?

There is no official currency, however most visitors use NZ$ cash.

What Are The Main Methods Of Transport To/From Chatham Island?

The only regular ferry service between Auckland and the Chathams Islands runs twice a week (Mon-Fri) with connections in both Auckland and Palmerston North. There is also limited chartered jet services available from Wellington or Christchurch direct to Stewart Island but these are usually booked up months in advance. The island can also be reached by seaplane from either Auckland or Stewart Island if you ‘re lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time.

What Is The Climate Like On Chatham Island?

The climate of Chatham island is oceanic, with moderating influences from southeastern Australia. The average annual temperature ranges from 18-24 degrees Celsius, with occasional lows of 10 degrees Celsius and highs of 32 degrees Celsius. Rainfall patterns are highly variable, ranging from light showers in winter to heavy rainfalls during summer months.

 What Type Of Wildlife Can I Expect On Chatham Island?

There is a wide variety of native plants and animals on Chatham island. Some of the more common species include endemic sub-species of seabirds, bold kiwis, Tuatara, seals and dolphins.

 What Is The Island’s Main Attraction?

The island’s most famous landmark is its pre-European Māori section, which includes a range of archeological sites. Other highlights include the spectacular Chatham Cliffs, a unique geological formation that also offers stunning views.

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