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Poor Knights New Zealand dive site map

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Scuba Diving the Poor Knights, New Zealand

Water temperature:

16°C (60°F) in November, 22°C (72°F) in February/March


7mm wetsuit or drysuit


10 20 metres (30 65 feet)

Type of diving:

Archways, tunnels and walls

Marine life:

Stingrays, moray eels, boarfish, stargazers, triggerfish, scorpionfish, wrasse, nudibranchs

When to go:

The summer will have the warmest sea temperatures, so might be your time of choice to dive. Stingrays are also found at the Poor Knights in larger congregations from December to March

How to get there:

Fly to Auckland or Christchurch via Los Angeles, Singapore or similar. From here we recommend you hire a car to reach wherever you are diving as it will give you most freedom.

The Poor Knights are a group of volcanic islands on the east coast of New Zealand's North Island, just south of the Bay of Islands. They are a nature reserve on land and underwater this continues into a marine reserve with an 800 metre no fishing zone in effect. The diving is typified by arches, caves and walls with moderate visibility and plenty of marine life. The water temperature reaches a maximum of around 22°C in February or March, and when we dived here in November the water was a consistent 16°C. We would certainly recommend diving in a drysuit, hood and gloves if you are visiting during the spring or autumn, or if not a 7mm suit would be a must. A 5mm would just leave you uncomfortable and would prevent you from relaxing into your diving, but may just about be ok during the summer months.

The cool water and rocky arches are home to wafting kelp amongst which lives an abundance of marine life. If you have ever dived on the west coast of Scotland then you will have an idea of what to expect, except at the Poor Knights you get more tropical species such as moray eels and triggerfish as well as some of the species more familiar to UK divers. Perhaps the species the Poor Knights are most well known for however are the stingrays. These can be seen throughout the year but are especially abundant from December to March when they congregate to breed. Visibility is also better than Scotland at 15 to 20 metres on average.

Dive boats leave from Tutukaka which is a small place consisting of a few houses, a campsite, marina, petrol station, shop and a selection of restaurants. If you are there out of peak season some of the restaurants may be closed, but in the summer months there will be plenty of options to choose from when eating out. There is also a cash point in the shop / garage. There are a number of dive operators based in Tutukaka with the number of divers they take varying greatly depending on boat size. We chose to dive with Jo and Noel from Yukon Dive Charters, mainly due to the fact they had a smaller boat, which always appeals to us. We can certainly recommend them as we found the boat very comfortable and their laid back attitude was just what we were after. They also took us out despite being the only people booked on the boat and they made us very welcome thanks Noel & Jo!

One last thing to say about the Poor Knights is that they are rumoured to be rated as one of the top ten dive destinations of the world, having been given this accolade by Jacques Cousteau. While we did enjoy the diving here and it is definitely worth booking if you are visiting New Zealand, we are not sure we would agree with the Frenchman. We are lucky enough to have been to some of the best places to dive in the world so we think we have a balanced viewpoint. Perhaps if we had dived here in peak season we may have thought differently and I'm sure we are opening a can of worms here, but top ten seems a bit, well, over the top. Basically, if you dive and you're in New Zealand make sure you factor in the time to visit the Poor Knights. However if you are looking to book a holiday purely for diving then there are other places that come much more highly recommended.

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