The itinerary put us in New Zealand for just over two weeks covering both the North and South Islands, more then a quarter of the time would be spent traveling from one location to another but overall the trip would provide a wonderful overview of what New Zealand had to offer, at least that’s what I had thought. In retrospect you could spend months here and still not experience all New Zealand has to offer, and I haven’t even left yet but have already started making plans for multiple trips back.
The first part of our trip would involve four nights and five days in the sleepy town of Tutukaka on the North Island. Tutukaka is the gateway to the Poor Knights Islands. This stunning dive destination has been featured in multiple diving documentaries, a number of movies and is on almost every single must dive list ever published. Due to its proximity to the East Australian Current the sub-tropical waters are supplied with warmer water and a diverse range of life that is normally reserved for locations at lower latitudes. The islands feature sixty plus dive sites each of which is completely different from the others.
The Poor Knights Islands as a whole are protected not only below the waters surface but also the land itself. With out special permits stepping foot on shore comes with a very steep fine. At one point the islands where occupied by a native tribe but the tribe was slaughtered by another tribe and was declared a scared place by those who survived and has been uninhabited every since. With the infestation of non-native species on the main islands of New Zealand the government set aside Poor Knights as a location for native species to evolve with out outside factors. As a result the poor knights features a number of animal species that can not be found anywhere else in the world including the worlds largest insect. With armor played grasshoppers over a meter in size and lizards that date back to the age of dinosaurs, visiting the Poor Knights Islands is a real life version of Jurassic Park.
At the base of the massive cliff walls that protect the Poor Knights Islands, the worlds largest sea cave and ocean arch can be be found, and the diving will leave you in aw of the wonders of the underwater world. Nudiebrank, Eagle rays, eels, urchin and can be found in the thousands. Three days of diving the Poor Knights is simple not enough time, just to get an overview of all the wonders these islands hold you need at least two weeks. To experience all the islands have to offer would require a massive number of dives essentially requiring one to relocate to Tutukaka for a year or more.
The only real option for diving the Poor Knights island is Dive! Tutukaka, of all the destination dive operators I have worked with, these guys are one of the best in the business and could easily be used as a role model for other destination operators of how to run a dive business.
With our limited time in Tutukaka over we spent the next three days traveling to the south island, making stops in Auckland & Wellington. From Wellington we took a ferry to Picton. The ferry ride from the North to the South Island has been rated as one of the best in the world, and once your on it it’s not hard to understand why. The three hour voyage runs you along the coast line of both islands and the views along the way are simply amazing. Arriving in the town of Picton brings you into another small town. From Picton we traveled for three hours to the remote bay of Port Gore, unless you count sheep from port gore you are essential alone for more the 25 miles. Between Picton and Port Gore the only stop point is a small resort called the Portage which features $3 sodas and $5 ice creams.
Port Gore is surrounded by steep cliffs and sheep grazing lands as far as the eye can see. Hidden below the surface of Port Gore is the wreck of the Lermontov, a Russian cruise liner the came to rest in her watery grave in 1986 after sticking the rocks at Jackson Point. Diver or non-diver a visit here is a memorable one.
At over 500′ long she is one of the largest divable natural wrecks in the world. The protected location of the wreck makes trips getting blown out fairly rare and from the Lermontov Lodge it’s only a five minute boat ride to the wreck. The Lermontov Lodge is operated by Dive Marbourgh. a small operation that has made its business diving the Lermontov.
The Lermontov sits on her side in around 120′ of water, as a result divers of all certification levels can enjoy the wreck. Technical divers are provided with endless options for penetration, including lots of options for artifact recovery not only the traditional items of a ship wreck but also the personal effects of over 500 guests who where on board when the ship went down. Artifact collection here is no easy task as most of the good finds are hidden on the lower decks through a maze of dark and silty passages. For technical divers plan a week or more here to truly enjoy the wreck. After four nights and three days in Port Gore we put the sheep and the wreck of the Lermontov in our rear view and headed for a short visit to the town of Nelson, and then on to Queenstown.
Queenstown is your typical ski village but is also known for being the adventure capital of the world. It may surprise most people but while in Queenstown I skipped out on most of the high adrinaline activities that I would typically take part in. Instead I took the time there to enjoy the amazing landscape of the south island and of course one night of drunkin debauchery had to be included in the visit. After all I didn’t make it to Vermont for the annual Killington bar crawl over thanksgiving holiday with my friends back home, so I was with them in spirit half way around the world.
The last day in Queenstown was spent picking up gifts for family back home and repacking all the bags and somehow managing to get everything to fit into two bags with a total weight of less then 100lbs. It took some doing but in the end I think I managed to pull it off.
For the full accounts of the trip check out the related blog posts for the trip by selecting them on the right hand side of this page!
Trip Advisor Location Reviews
- Seabreeze Cafe & Bar – Picton
- Go Dive Marlborough – Picton
- The Honest Lawyer – Nelson
- Grand Mercure Monaco – Nelson
- Dive Tutukaka – Tutukaka
- Poor Knights Islands – Tutukaka
- Schnappa Rock – Tutukaka
- Pacific Rendezvous – Tutukaka
- Arizona Bar – Wellington
- Ibis Hotel- Wellington
- Interislander Cook Strait Ferry – Wellington
- Nov 22nd: A Short Visit To Nelson
- Nov 21st: Goodbye Lermontov Lodge, Hello Nelson
- Nov 20th: Exploration Lermontov Day #3
- Nov 19th: Exploration Lermontov Day #2
- Nov 18th: Exploration Lermontov Day #1
- Nov 17th: Passage To South Island
- Nov 16th: Tutukaka To Wellington
- Nov 15th: Final Day in Tutukaka
- Nov 14th: 2nd Day of Poor Knights Islands Adventure
- Nov 13th: 1st Day of Poor Knights Islands Adventure
- Nov 12th: Sleepy Town of Tutukaka
- Nov 11th: Making Our Way To New Zealand
- Nov 9th: 62 Hours To Departure