Poor Knights Islands Marine Reserve

Boat at the Poor Knights

Image courtesy of Perfect Day,

The Poor Knights Islands marine reserve is a hidden gem that should not be missed. Located off the coast of Tutukaka and easily accessible from the town of Whangarei, the islands offer mesmerizing scenery, an abundance of marine life, and a variety of activities for visitors to enjoy.

The Poor Knights Islands are a sanctuary for marine life, boasting over 120 species of fish, as well as dolphins, seals, and whales. The waters around the islands are also known for their crystal-clear visibility, making them a top destination for snorkelling and diving. Visitors can witness the underwater world and see vibrant corals, sponges, and a diverse array of fish.

For those who prefer to remain on the surface, the islands offer great opportunities for kayaking and boat tours. Visitors can discover the rugged coastline and cliffs, and take in the panoramic views of the island.

Tutukaka and Whangarei are the ideal starting point for your trip to the Poor Knights Islands. Tutukaka is a picturesque coastal town known for its stunning beaches, while Whangarei is a bustling city that offers a plethora of shops, restaurants, and other amenities.

Additionally, it’s important to note that fishing is not allowed within the marine reserve, as the islands serve as a protected habitat for marine life. Visitors are also not permitted to walk on the islands, as this can disrupt the delicate ecosystem. This ensures that the islands remain a pristine and untouched natural wonder for generations to come.

The Poor Knights Islands marine reserve is a unique destination that offers a truly immersive experience. Whether you’re a seasoned diver or a first-time snorkeler, the clear waters and diverse marine life will leave you in awe. The opportunity to explore the islands by kayak or boat tour will give you a new perspective on the island’s rugged beauty.

Visitors can also take a guided tour with a local operator, who will provide valuable insights into the islands’ history, geology and ecology, as well as the best spots to see marine life.

What wildlife is there?

The Poor Knights are home to a diverse array of marine and bird life. The islands and surrounding waters are known for their rich biodiversity, making them a popular destination for divers, snorkelers, and nature enthusiasts.

Marine life:

  • Over 120 species of fish can be found at the Poor Knights Islands, including many species of tropical fish that are not found elsewhere in New Zealand.
  • There are also a variety of marine mammals such as dolphins, seals, and whales that can be found in the waters around the islands.
  • The islands are also home to a wide variety of marine invertebrates such as octopus, cuttlefish, squid, and crayfish.
  • The waters around the islands are also known for their clear visibility, making them a popular destination for snorkelling and diving. Visitors can explore the underwater world and see colourful corals, sponges, and a wide variety of fish up close.

Bird life:

  • The Poor Knights Islands are home to several seabird species, including the little penguin, white-faced storm petrel, red-billed gull, and sooty shearwater.
  • Home to the endangered New Zealand storm petrel, which breeds on the islands.
  • Visitors may also spot the endangered New Zealand fairy tern, which has been known to breed in the area.

This is not an exhaustive list and the marine and bird life at the Poor Knights Islands may vary depending on the time of year and other factors. It’s always a good idea to check with the local tour operators for the most recent information about what marine and bird life can be expected at the Poor Knights Islands.


The Poor Knights Islands have a rich history. The islands were a significant place for local Māori, as they were used as a defensive fortress during tribal wars. The islands were also a source of food, as the waters around them were rich in fish and other marine life.

The first Europeans to visit the islands were Captain Cook and his crew in 1769. They named the islands “Poor Knights” because they resembled the Poor Knights of the religious order of Knights Hospitaller. The islands were later used as a base for whaling and sealing operations in the 19th century.

In 1981, the islands were designated as a marine reserve, and subsequently, a marine mammal sanctuary in 1988. This was done to protect the islands’ unique and diverse marine life, as well as its pristine natural environment. The reserve was established to preserve the islands and surrounding waters, as well as marine life, for future generations.

Today, the Poor Knights Islands marine reserve is a popular destination for diving, snorkelling, and boat tours. It is also a protected area for marine life, and a popular spot for scientists and researchers to study the marine ecosystem.

The Poor Knights Islands have a rich history and are a unique destination that offers a glimpse into New Zealand’s past and present. Visitors can explore the islands’ rugged beauty, diverse marine life, and rich cultural heritage, making it a must-see destination.

The Poor Knights Islands marine reserve is a natural treasure that should not be missed. With its mesmerizing scenery, diverse marine life and a variety of activities, this is a trip that will leave you with unforgettable memories. The towns of Tutukaka and Whangarei provide an excellent base for exploring the islands and offer visitors a chance to experience the best of New Zealand’s coastal culture and lifestyle. Book your visit today and discover the beauty and magic of the Poor Knights Islands for yourself!