A sub-tropical climate and superb coastal scenery makes Northland rewarding for any traveller, especially divers.
World-class diving locations are found mainly on the east coast, which has countless sheltered bays, golden sands and an aquatic playground amongst the many reefs and offshore islands. Marine reserves and artificial reefs (in the form of disused warships) are a feature of this region and bottlenose dolphins, orcas and other mammals are often seen.
Northland has excellent dive/sport shops located in Kaitaia, Whatuwhiwhi (on the Karikari Peninsula), Coopers Beach, Kerikeri, Paihia, Tutukaka, Whangarei and Mangawhai. They offer dive and fishing gear sales, training schools, air fills, hire equipment and servicing. Dive trips to the top spots on the east coast are outlined below.
There is good boat diving from Matai Bay or Tokerau Beach. It is a rocky seabed with many reefs notably Matai Bay Pinnacle, which descends to 40 m attracting blue maomao, demoiselles and kingfish.
There is boat access from Mahinepua Bay, Tauranga Bay, Whangaroa and Taupo Bay with water clarity to 15m. Cone Rock, Stephenson Island and Flat Island offer good snorkelling and diving with many reef and pelagic fish, plus crayfish and shellfish.
A great diving area 5 km off Matauri Bay. Abundant fish life on Tokananohia Reef and Taheke Reef with drop-offs to 53m and a reputation for sharks and barracuda. There is a superb artificial reef dive on the Greenpeace Ship ‘Rainbow Warrior’ at 25m in 10m visibility. The ship is beautifully coated with jewel anemones, sponges and nudibranchs and teems with schooling fish. Don’t miss it!
This whole coastline is excellent snorkelling territory but requires boat access. Danger Rock is a great scuba dive with drop-offs to 37m and swirling schools of trevally, kahawai and blue maomao.
There is prolific marine life here as well as two old warships as artificial reefs. The hydrographic research ship Tui (25-32m) has holes in each deck to allow access. The frigate Waikato (8-28m) has gun turrets, an aircraft hanger and good entry and exit points.
Hen & Chicken Islands
Coppermine Point and Lighthouse Point are prime kingfish areas in summer and great diving and underwater photography can be had year round.