School of blue maomao, Poor Knights Islands Marine Reserve. Photo: Brian Mackie. DOC USE ONLY.

School of blue maomao, Poor Knights Islands Marine Reserve

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The Poor Knights Islands are the remains of a group of ancient volcanoes. Beneath the waves these volcanoes have been hollowed and shaped by the ocean into a web of caves, tunnels and cliffs which Jacques Cousteau rated as one of the top ten dives in the world. 

Because of their incredible form and biodiversity, the sea surrounding the islands has been a marine reserve since 1981. It extends to 800 m around the islands. 

Visitors are welcome in the reserve, which is 22 km off the east coast of Northland. Transport can be arranged from any of the nearby towns. Boating, snorkelling and scuba diving are all encouraged. Fishing or removal of any plants, animals, shells or rocks is not permitted within the reserve.

Visitors may only land on the islands if they have a permit from the Department of Conservation, which is usually only granted for scientific purposes.

Find out about the region, and book accommodation, guided trips and experiences.


The Poor Knights Islands are located 22 km off the east coast of Northland.

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2. Tell someone
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