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6 best diving and snorkeling spots in New Zealand

Milford Sound, Fiordland, New Zealand
Milford Sound, Fiordland

New Zealand is a land of remarkable natural coastal scenery and attractions, including rugged coastlines, breathtaking beaches, and crystal-clear waters – but some of the most incredible landscapes is found underwater.  

With its unique geological features, easily accessible coastline and hundreds of offshore islands, and rich variety of marine species, New Zealand’s magical ocean is a mecca for divers from around the world.  You’ll be amazed at the underwater wonders to discover in Aotearoa – including wildlife such as manta rays, dolphins, whales, penguins and turtles; wrecks, kelp forests, sub-tropical reefs, and caves and archways. With such a rich ocean landscape, it’s hard to find a spot that isn’t incredible.

Also read: Top must-try 5 wildlife experiences in New Zealand

Here are just some of the best dive spots to explore around New Zealand:

1. Poor Knights Islands Marine Reserve, Northland

Poor Knights Island
Poor Knights Island

The Poor Knights Island Marine Reserve is a popular spot when it comes to diving in New Zealand – the late Jacques Cousteau called it one of the top five dive spots in the world!  This unique group of islands are remnants of ancient volcanoes that erupted in the Pacific Ring of Fire. Explore crystal-blue waters with a myriad of spectacular drop offs, caves, arches and tunnels, all inhabited by an amazing array of underwater life. The warm waters are paradise for orcas, dolphins, bull rays, and friendly shoals of fish that can often be seen creating mesmerizing displays beneath the waves. Jump on a tour with Dive! Tutukaka to explore this wonderful site.

2.  Cavalli Islands, Bay of Islands

Cavalli Islands, Northland
Cavalli Islands, Northland

The Cavalli Islands are a subtropical slice of paradise located just off the east coast of Northland. A dive at the Cavalli Islands is an unmissable opportunity to explore the treasures of New Zealand’s Far North. . On the seafloor between the Cavalli Islands and Matauri Bay, you will find the wrecks  of the famous Rainbow Warrior, a sunken Greenpeace vessel that now acts as an artificial reef for corals, anemones and various fish. On a dive here you will be able to spot some dolphins, orcas, fur seals, monster crayfish, and whiptail stingrays, amongst other aquatic species.

Also read: Hobbiton Movie Set Tour, Matamata, New Zealand

3.   Kaikōura

Kaikōura – Canterbury
Kaikōura is a very special place – the unique coastline where the mountains meet the sea are truly a sight to behold, and its cold waters are full of remarkable amounts of biodiversity.  On a dive here, you will be able to experience kelp forests, octopus, stingray, and a variety of native fish species.

If you are adventurous, join the Shore Diving experience at Daves’ Diving Kaikōura, which will have you climbing over rocks and exploring underwater, occasionally with seals. Swimming with New Zealand fur seals in the shallow bays of the beautiful Kaikōura Peninsula really is an experience that you don’t want to miss. You can even snorkel around the rugged waters and get a closer look at kelp forests and shoals or fish as they pass by.

4. The Coromandel

Cathedral Cove - The Coromandel, New Zealand
Cathedral Cove – The Coromandel

The Coromandel Peninsula is a go-to for water enthusiasts including divers and snorkelers, with an abundance of spots to catch a closer look at some of New Zealand’s marine wildlife. Just off the fine golden sands of the famous Cathedral Cove lies the Te-Whanganui-a Hei Marine Reserve – a dive trip or PADI Dive Course with Cathedral Cove Dive & Snorkel or Dive Zone Whitianga will allow you to explore stellar dive spots around the region. Whitianga on Mercury Bay is one of the most popular dive spots in the region.

5. Milford Sound, Fiordland

Not only is Milford Sound a world-renowned natural wonder above water; once you dive below the surface, you’ll discover spectacular underwater seascapes – the cliff faces, Fiord walls and unique ecosystem of black coral trees, make it a bucket list dive spot! The coral trees have a stunning white appearance over a jet-black skeleton, and are usually only found in deep water trenches. Here, they can be seen in depth as little as eight metres.  Descend Dive in Te Anau will take you on a Fiordland dive trip that you will not be able to stop thinking about – you may even get to meet resident eel Boris, who has lived there for 10 years.

6.  Stewart Island

The remote and untouched coastlines of Stewart Island have made it the perfect spot for marine life to thrive in their natural habitat, and an alluring destination for underwater adventurers. A warm current from the Australian Great Barrier Reef flows around Stewart Island and brings a greater diversity of marine creatures than would normally be found in these waters. Māori Beach is full of hidden snorkel spots where you will be able to discover vast kelp forests and their resident fish population. An exclusive snorkel in one of the southernmost parts of the world is not something you will want to miss!

What are you waiting for? Put on your wetsuits and dive into these magical worlds!

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