PADI Scuba Diving in New Zealand
New Zealand has a wide variety of dive conditions that range from subtropical in the north to temperate in the south. Regarding weather, warm sunny summers are followed by mild wet winters. Average air temperatures in summer (November to February) are 10-18 degrees Celsius/50-65 degrees Fahrenheit while winter (June – August) sees 3-10 degrees across the whole country.
PADI Dive Shops and Resorts
Find contact information for all the PADI Dive Shops and Resorts in New Zealand.
Depth: 10-40+ metres/30-120+ feet
Visibility: 10 metres/30 feet on a bad day to more than 40 metres/120 feet on a good day.
Water Temp: During summer (December to March), the average temperature is 20° C/68° F. Winter (June to August) is still quite mild over much of the continent, with temperatures averaging 13° C/55° F.
Dive Season: Year-round
Weather: The weather is subtropical in the far north to temperate in the south. Warm, sunny summers are followed by mild and wet winters. Average temperatures in the summer (November-February) are from 10 – 18 ° C/50-65° F while winter (June-August) sees approximately 3 – 10° C/37-50° F.
Recommended Courses: Dry Suit Diver, Deep Diver, Enriched Air Diver, Digital Underwater Photographer, Underwater Naturalist, Wreck Diver
Scuba Gear: All dive centers offer full hire facilities and frequently also include dive computers. Gear hire may or may not be included in the cost of the tour.
Cold Water Scuba Equipment, Underwater Photography Equipment
Divers can see a broad range of creatures, including Blue maomao, Blue cod, Blue mackerel, Trevally, Snapper, Tarakihi, Hapuku, Bass, Yellowtail kingfish, Red cod, Kahawai, Warehou, John Dory, Parore, Gurnard, Trumpeter, Black marlin, Blue marlin, Hector’s dolphin, Blue shark, Bronze whaler shark, Great white shark, Mako shark, Hammerhead shark, Thresher shark, kina, crayfish and scallops.
Most Famous Dive Sites
Name: Aramoana Mole – Dunedin
Average Depth: 7–20 metres/23-65 feet
Description: Just a 30-minute drive from Dunedin on the South Island, Aramoana Mole has the most accessible dive wrecks in the country, beautiful temperate marine life, exquisite sponge gardens and kelp forests.
Getting to the Site: There is good road access and most divers (unless you go with a local PADI Dive Center) park the car and walk out to their site.
Average Depth: 15-25 metres/49-82 feet
Description: The Fiordland World Heritage Area's overpowering rugged beauty isn't confined to the mountains, lakes and rivers. Deep inside the 14 sheltered fiords along the coast (some penetrating up to 16 kilometres/9.9 miles) minimal water disturbance results in exceptionally good visibility along the steep cliff faces.
Heavy rainfall (up to 7 metres/23 feet per year) produces a 10-metre/33-foot surface layer of fresh water. This tannin-colored layer reduces light levels, fooling deep dwelling creatures like black coral and groper into thinking their habitat is deeper - about 30 metres/100 feet deep - than it is. The result is a feast of remarkable underwater sights.
Best Dive Sites at Fiordland:
This Spectacular fiord with a unique marine environment has a freshwater layer on top of the seawater. This creates an environment where deeper species can live at unusually shallow depths. Divers will see, for example, black and red corals and spiny sea-dragons. Half the fiord is a Marine Reserve that is just as spectacular above the waterline, boasting glacier carried hanging valleys, thick native forests and spectacular waterfalls.
Getting to the Site: You can drive, taking a bus tour or fly to Milford Sound from Queenstown on the South Island.
Secretary Island, a favorite haunt of bottlenose dolphins guards the entrance to Doubtful Sound. Carnivorous starfish prey on the mussels blanketing Deep Cover while Bauza Island and The Gut have glorious red and black coral.
Getting to the Site: Doubtful Sound is not directly accessible by road. Cruising and kayaking arrangements may be made at Queenstown, Te Anau and the town of Manapouri, where your Doubtful Sound adventure begins. There is coach travel between Queenstown, Te Anau and Manapouri. From Manapouri you take a short cruise on Lake Manapouri, a coach trip across Wilmot Pass and then board your Doubtful Sound cruise ship at Deep Cove.
Name: Stewart Island
Average Depth: 10 – 20 metres/33-66 feet
Description: Just one hour from Bluff to Stewart Island by ferry opens up dive sites scattered around the island that boast some of the richest and most varied marine habits in New Zealand. The dense, swaying jungle of giant kelp is home to a multitude of fish and divers can also visit the Marine Maid wreck off Stewart Island.
Getting to the Site: Stewart Island/Rakiura is situated about 30 kilometres/19 miles south west of Bluff off New Zealand's South Island and is accessible via ferry or flight. Ferry and helicopter services depart from Bluff and fixed-wing aircraft depart from Invercargill Airport. The ferry crossing takes approximately one hour; flights take approximately 15-20 minutes.
Name: The Poor Knights Islands
Average Depth: 10 – 40 metres/33-130 feet
Description: Just a day trip away from Auckland is one of New Zealand's finest dive locations. A dive at the Poor Knights is very different from diving coral reefs or the nearby New Zealand coast and is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The islands cover just over 200 hectares/495 acres and they lie 12 nautical miles of the north east coast of Tutukaka. The southern island, called Aorangi, has a conical shape with its peak at 254 metres/833 feet. The northern island is called Tawhiti Rahi. Tutukaka Harbour (30 kilometres/19 miles from Whangarei) is the charter boat base.
Best Dive Sites at The Poor Knights Islands:
This incredible archway plummets to 44-metres/144-foot depth and is stacked with layers of fish species. The vertical walls are packed with a range of colorful invertebrate life and it is a true spectacle of nature’s creation. Watch for the friendly resident stingrays.
Red Baron Caves
The rock formations here are typical of these volcanic islands and feature a series of arches and outcrops that drop to the bottom at 25 metres/82 feet. Light penetrating deep illuminates the colorful sponges, anemones, hydroids, corals and nudibranchs on the walls at depth.
Blue Maomao Arch
The signature dive at the Poor Knights, this arch often hosts thousands of blue Maomao on one side and two-spot demoiselles on the other. At a depth of 8-14 metres/26-46 feet, sunlight streams through to give the dive an ethereal quality. Divers can also see the resident moray eel, scorpion fish, wrasses, nudibranch and even a shy toadstool grouper.
As the largest sea cave in the world, this ancient gas bubble can fit several boats inside and has a unique flora and fauna due to the light penetration. With a calculated volume of 7.8 million cubic metres/275 million cubic feet, the sea surface inside is roughly 1.0 hectare/2.5 acres. The cave is 130 metres/427 feet long, 26 metres/85 feet deep (below the waterline), height to the ceiling above water of 35 metres/115 feet and 80 metres/262 feet wide. A cup coral that is normally found at 200 metres/650 feet of water grows in just 10 metres/33 feet of water at the back of the cave.
Getting to the Site: Day boats cater to both non-diving partners and divers traveling with families. From Tutukaka Harbour, most boats will get you to the Poor Knights within 45 minutes. Tutukaka is 30 kilometres/19 miles from Whangarei, which is Northland’s largest city and hosts an airport with daily transfers available.
Name: The Three Kings Islands
Average Depth: 20 meters/66 feet
Description: Of all New Zealand dive locations, the Three Kings Islands are often regarded as the best.
Situated approximately 55 kilometres/34 miles northwest of New Zealand's northern-most tip of, they offer New Zealand's marine environment at its most raw and beautiful.
Name: White Island
Average Depth: 20 metres/66 feet
Description: New Zealand’s most active volcano lies 50 kilometres/31 miles off of Whakatane and continuously vents steam and releases ash clouds.
The volcano sits on the continental shelf where the White Island Trench parallels the Kermadec Trench. These undersea canyons convey the subtropical East Auckland Current directly to the island, bringing a colorful array of tropical marine life and large pelagic fish.
Visibility can exceed 40 metres/130 feet and schooling fish often attract predators like bronze whaler and blue sharks, mako sharks, marlin, tuna and kingfish. In the depths, expect to spot huge packhorse crayfish (lobsters), groper, bass and even black coral.
Best Dive Sites at White Island:
This open water dive location is five kilometers/three miles northwest of White Island and hosts many pelagic fish species. The eastern flanks drop to 18 metres/60 feet while the west side has a staged descent to 30 metres/98 feet before dropping into the abyss. The northeast corner virtually hovers over the continental shelf and drops to more than 1000 metres/3280 feet.
Off Crater Bay, the volcanic rocks are riddled with caves and holes, which are home to packhorse crayfish and groper. On the western side is an interesting plateau at 18 metres/60 feet, which is alive with every species of reef and pelagic fish. A kaleidoscope of colored sponges, hydroids and gorgonians line the sheer cliff face down to 37 metres/120 feet.
This reef is in open water between White Island and Volkners Rocks. It offers more than 30 metres/98 feet of visibility and endless possibilities for viewing many northern fish species. The reef rises to 18 metres/59 feet and the sides plummet to 150 metres/492 feet, with countless reef fish and kingfish cruising alongside.
Getting to the Site: Divers get to White Island via boat from Whakatane in the Bay of Plenty on the North Island.
This former spy vessel saw service at Muroroa Atoll and was purpose sunk as an artificial reef in February 1999. Now on her side at 35 metres/115 feet, this challenging dive rewards divers with prolific growth and schools of golden snapper. Sunk off Tutukaka Coast, she is one of two wrecks within 10 minutes of the harbor entrance that - along with the famous Poor Knights Islands - that lend the title of “Dive Capital of New Zealand” to the area.
This was the first Leander class frigate sunk in New Zealand and the only one in the southern hemisphere with its twin turrets and propeller intact. Upright and listing to port, she is a great multilevel dive from 18 - 29 metres/59 - 95 feet, and an ideal training ground with purpose cut holes, easy entry and exit, etc.
Originally bombed by French terrorists in 1985 (killing one crew member) this Greenpeace vessel was re-sunk as a memorial dive in Matauri Bay two years later. At 45 metres/150 feet long and sitting upright in 18-26 metres/59-58 feet or water, the Rainbow Warrior is now best known for her vibrant anemone growth.
The Mikhail Lermontov
This wreck is located in the outer Marlborough Sounds' Port Gore at the top of the South Island. At 155 metres/509 feet long, the Mikhail Lermontov is Australasia's biggest diveable shipwreck and sits in 36 metres/118 feet of water. With the upper portside at 14 metres/46 feet, even open water divers will be able to see the immense size of this ship. For the more adventuresome and qualified, there is more advanced diving - including penetration - available.
This Leander Class frigate is 113 metres/371 feet in length and has a 13-metre/43-foot beam. She lies in three pieces about 450 metres/490 yards off the south coast of Wellington in 12- 20 metres/39-66 feet of water.
Another Leander Class frigate, Canterbury lies upright and intact in Northland's Bay of Islands Deep Water Cove at a depth of 14-40 metres/46-140 feet.
PADI Dive Shops and Resorts
Find contact information for all the PADI Dive Shops and Resorts in New Zealand.
A land of adventure, try your hand at bungee jumping, dolphin swimming or Zorbing (rolling down the hill in a plastic bubble). New Zealand is also a land of stories. Hear the tale of the Maori, the immigrant history and the land itself. Other attractions include hot pools, steaming mud, skiing, Tane Mahuta - is the largest tree and God of the Forest, mountain biking, snowboarding, helicopter rides, endless beautiful coastline and superb food and wine.
Currency: New Zealand Dollar
Tipping: Tipping isn’t mandatory or expected in most places, but it is appreciated. A good tip in an expensive restaurant is usually 10 percent. In bars and taxis, tipping is not expected, although many people leave some of their coin change on the bar after picking up their drink, or tell the cabbie to keep the change. If you have received exceptional service when diving, a good rule of thumb is to tip $5-$10 USD per tank, per diver. So on a two tank dive, the crew would receive $10-$20 USD per person.
Transportation: Renting a car is the best way to explore New Zealand’s North and South Islands
Related Resources for New Zealand
• Tourism New Zealand www.newzealand.com
• Destination NZ www.destination-nz.com
• Wellington NZ www.wellingtonnz.com
• Christchurch NZ www.christchurchnz.com
• Dunedin NZ www.dunedinnz.com
• Auckland NZ www.aucklandnz.com
• Destination Northland www.northlandnz.com
• Whangarei Information Center www.whangareinz.com
• You will need a current passport and a visitors’ visa. Visa Requirements
• Metservice.com or Weather.com
• Diving Emergency Contacts:
DES New Zealand – 0800 4337 111
• Recompression Chamber Locations:
Naval Hospital, Devonport
91 Calliope Road, Devonport, Auckland
(09) 445 5036.
HMU, Christchurch Hospital – (03) 364 0045
Images courtesy of:
• Steve Traynor
• Dive! Tutukaka
• Tourism New Zealand
• Junya Kato
Want to know more? Visit www.scubaearth.com for further information on thousands of dive sites, marine species, destination essentials and more.