Tutukaka is called the Paradise Coast, and with 26 beaches, from white sand to rock pools, seascapes, and estuaries, to surf beaches, bush and coastal walkways with a sub-tropical climate that makes this area one of New Zealand’s best kept secrets and a well deserving Top-Ten must-do.

 

The jewel in the crown and always on the horizon, are the famous Poor Knights Islands .

 

Washed by warm currents sweeping south from the Coral Sea, the Poor Knights Islands are an

international icon 23km off the Tutukaka Coast . The island’s volcanic origins provide myriad spectacular drop offs, walls, caves, arches and tunnels, all inhabited by an amazing array of underwater life.

 

Below the water, for 800 metres around the islands is a marine reserve. Above, the islands are a nature reserve.

The complex underwater landscape is a unique environment. Subtropical and temperate marine life coexist with extraordinary diversity, beauty and density. Over 125 species of fish share this environment with soft corals, encrusting sponges, vibrant anemones, ecklonia kelp forests, mating sting rays, gorgonian fans and myriad other life forms. A dive at the Poor Knights is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, very different to coral reefs or diving on the nearby New Zealand coast.

 

 

Above the tide line, the islands and small stacks around them are equally impressive, especially in the spring when they are tinged red by masses of flowering pohutukawa. Isolated from the mainland for many thousands of years, they are the remnants of ancient volcanoes that erupted in the Pacific Ring of Fire. In places the remaining cliffs leap 100m sheer-from the waves and plunge an equal depth below. On the few ridges and valleys between these and lesser cliffs, away from mainland predators, has evolved a unique blend of plants, animals and insects. Iconic among them the tuatara, the worlds only surviving dinosaur.

 

 

Here are many other native species now extinct or extremely rare on the mainland. Among them a weta, the world’s largest insect, and a giant centipede.

 

 

The bird-life is rich, with a huge range of resident sea and forest birds, plus several Petrel species which visit in tens of thousands to nest.

 

 

Within this magic above and below water is Rikoriko Cave, the largest sea cave in the world and reputed to have hidden a marauding Japanese submarine in WWll. Cruising launches and yachts often stop in this giant cavern to sample the amazing acoustics, while schools of bright fish dance in the waters below.

 

 

To protect all of this, a strict no landing rule applies.

Dive charters and eco tours depart Tutukaka daily.