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This article is intended to provide the already qualified scuba diver with information which will help to plan dives in the waters of New Zealand, whether as a local resident or a visitor. Information is provided without prejudice, and is not guaranteed accurate or complete. Use it at your own risk.


General topography[edit]

New Zealand is made up of two main islands and a number of smaller islands. The main North and South Islands are separated by the Cook Strait, 22 km (14 mi) wide at its narrowest point.

Besides the North and South Islands, the five largest inhabited islands are Stewart Island, Chatham Island, Great Barrier Island (in the Hauraki Gulf), d'Urville Island (in the Marlborough Sounds) and Waiheke Island (about 22 km (14 mi) from central Auckland). The country's islands lie between latitudes 29° and 53°S, and longitudes 165° and 176°E.

The two main islands of New Zealand measure over 1,600 km (990 mi) long from north to south, and narrow (a maximum width of 400 km (250 mi)), with approximately 15,134 km (9,404 mi) of coastline for a land area of 268,021 km2 (103,483 sq mi).

The South Island is the largest land mass of New Zealand and is divided along its length by the Southern Alps. Fiordland in the south west has steep mountains and deep fiords from the extensive ice age glaciation. The North Island is less mountainous but is more volcanically active.

The long coastline with many bays and peninsulas, and the many islands, provides a setting for a very large number of dive sites, in a wide variety of geographical environments.

Climate, weather and sea conditions[edit]

Ocean currents around new Zealand
Map showing the New Zealand coastal and offshore weather regions

New Zealand is positioned across the division between subantarctic and subtropical water masses, and this provides a large range of conditions and habitats which support a wide diversity of marine life.


New Zealand has a mild and temperate maritime climate with mean annual temperatures ranging from 10°C (50°F) in the south to 16°C (61°F) in the north.

Conditions between regions vary from extremely wet on the West Coast of the South Island to relatively dry in Central Otago and the Mackenzie basin of inland Canterbury and subtropical in Northland. Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch all receive a yearly average in excess of 2,000 hours of sunshine. The southern and south-western parts of the South Island have a cooler and cloudier climate, with around 1,400–1,600 hours; the northern and north-eastern parts of the South Island are the sunniest areas of the country and receive approximately 2,400–2,500 hours.


The weather is notoriously variable. The expression Four seasons in one day sums it up quite well.

Marine weather forecasts are available on-line from Metservice for each of the marine weather regions. These forecasts are updated daily or more frequently, and provide wind and sea state predictions from the government meteorological service. Predictions are fairly reliable for the day of announcement and the following day, and include reasonable predictions for the following three days. Gale and storm warnings, and small craft advisories are provided. The forecasts are also broadcast on VHF and can be received offshore in the relevant regions except for a few dead spots behind islands. Nowcasting services are also provided on VHF in some areas, which give continuous reports on wind at selected meteorological stations, and repeated forecasts of local conditions and tides. These forecasts are of great value for dive planning particularly for the offshore sites which require fairly long boat trips.

Marine ecology[edit]

Habitat types[edit]

Several habitat types can be categorised by the physical environment. These range from soft sediment based habitats which include silts and muds in protected bays, coarse sands and gravels, pebbles and shell on exposed shorelines, biogenic reefs, formed by a variety of organisms, and rocky reefs.


The majority of dive sites in New Zealand can be dived using conventional recreational scuba equipment. Dives which are beyond ordinary recreational limits due to depth overhead or current can generally be satisfactorily handled using the appropriate equipment and skills.

Water temperatures are generally temperate to cold, and the use of drysuits is recommended for colder waters in winter or in those places where the water is not significantly warmer in summer. Water temperatures of 14°C are common in winter and spring even in the northern regions of the North Island.

Diving destinations[edit]

Destinations listed here are listed by association with the North or South Island, and in geographically convenient regions which should be familiar to locals.

Offshore islands are grouped with the closest appropriate mainland region.

North Island[edit]

Geographic regions of North Island


View of the Hen and Chicken Islands looking south east

Marine weather area Kaipara (North Cape to Muriwai, mostly west coast.)

Marine weather area Brett (North Cape to Bream Head, east coast)

Bream Head seen from the south

Auckland and the Hauraki Gulf[edit]

Marine weather area Colville (Bream Head to Great Mercury Island)

Marine weather area Raglan (Muriwai to Cape Egmont)

Coromandel Peninsula[edit]

Dive regions of the Coromandel Peninsula

Marine weather area Colville (Bream head to Great Mercury Island)

Marine weather area Plenty (Great Mercury Island to Cape Runaway)


Marine weather area Colville (Bream Head to Great Mercury Island)

Bay of Plenty[edit]

Marine weather area Plenty (Great Mercury Island to Cape Runaway)

Inland sites

East Coat[edit]

Marine weather area Portland (Cape Runaway to Cape Turnagain)


Marine weather area Raglan (Muriwai to Cape Egmont)

Marine weather area Stephens (Cape Egmont to Kapiti Island)


Marine weather area Portland (Cape Runaway to Cape Turnagain)

Marine weather area Castlepoint (Cape Turnaround to Cape Palliser)

Marine weather area Cook (Cape Palliser to Kapiti Island)

South Island[edit]

Geographic regions of South Island

Horoirangi Marine Reserve, sometimes referred to as the Glenduan Marine Reserve, is to the north east of Nelson.

Nelson Bays[edit]

Marine weather area Abel (Farewell Spit to Stephens Island)


Marine weather area Cook (Stephens Island to Cape Campbell)

West Coast[edit]

Marine weather area Grey (Kahurangi Point to Jackson Head)


Marine weather area Conway (Cape Campbell to Akaroa Head)


Marine weather area Rangitata (Akaroa Head to Moeraki)

Marine weather area Chalmers (Moeraki to Nugget Point)

Marine weather area Foveaux (Nugget Point to Long Point)


Marine weather area Foveaux (Nugget Point to Long Point)

Marine weather area Puysegur (Secretary Island to Long Point and Rugged Island to Southwest Cape)


Get help[edit]

Emergency services[edit]

  • Police, Ambulance, Sea rescue are all 111
  • . Recompression chamber
  • . DAN hotline

Get service[edit]






Service details[edit]

Get around[edit]

Stay safe[edit]



  • SpotX Diving New Zealand, Dave Moran, Jenny and Tony Enderby. An extensive listing of more than 750 named dive sites in the North and South islands and many of the lesser islands. Some of the GPS positions listed are not accurate enough to pinpoint the shallowest point of an offshore reef, and the descriptions are fairly superficial, but there are lots of them and the maps are as good as the official charts (they are simply copies of small parts of the charts). Depth ranges seem to be fairly reliable.
  • Coastal Fishes of New Zealand: an identification guide, Malcolm Francis.
  • A Photographic Guide to Seashells of New Zealand, Margaret S Morley.
  • Know your New Zealand Fishes, Jenny and Tony Enderby.
  • A Guide to New Zealand's Marine Reserves, Jenny and Tony Enderby.
  • Sea Stars: Echinoderms of the Asia/Indo-Pacific. Identification - Biodiversity - Zoology, Neville Coleman.
  • Collins Guide to the Sea Fishes of New Zealand, Tony Ayling, Geoffrey J Cox.

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