The Chatham Islands (Rekohu in the indigenous Moriori language and Wharekauri in Māori) are the eastern-most settled islands in New Zealand. The islands lie 860 km east of Christchurch, in the middle of the “Roaring Forties”. Steeped in culture and history, these islands are on the very edge of civilisation.
The Chatham Islands consist of the main island, Chatham Island, with a population of 600, the smaller Pitt Island with about 40 inhabitants, and a number of rocky outcrops. Volcanic in origin, they form a unique and sensitive habitat that supports many rare and endangered species, especially birds, making it an interesting destination for birdwatching and for seeing flora that you won’t encounter in the wild anywhere else in the world.
The Chatham Islands have been described as being like mainland New Zealand was 30-40 years ago. This is a positive reflection on the way the locals take an interest in each other and in visitors to the islands — perhaps no surprise given the size and remoteness of the Chatham Islands. The archipelago is home to three cultures – Moriori, Maori and Pakeha (European) – and there are attractions related to each of these, from rock carvings to fishing harbours.
Lying far out in the ocean, the islands are in their own time zone, 45 minutes ahead of New Zealand Time; the International Date Line zigzags eastward to place them on the same calendar day as the rest of New Zealand.
The Chatham Islands are at about the same latitude as Christchurch, but the weather is significantly cooler in summer and does not get as cold in winter. The air is always humid, with an average humidity of 84%.