New Zealand‘s coastline boasts remarkable natural scenery and is home to many attractions, including rugged coastlines, breathtaking beaches, and crystal-clear waters. The country’s unique geological features, easily accessible coastline and hundreds of offshore islands make New Zealand’s ocean a mecca for divers of all levels from around the world. With a multitude of spots around the country, it’s easy to find a place to learn with a PADI Open Water Diver course.

Aotearoa’s underwater world is filled with wildlife such as manta rays, dolphins, whales, penguins, and turtles. The wrecks, kelp forests, sub-tropical reefs, and caves and archways make it an exciting place for divers to explore. The waters are so clear that some have even claimed to have spotted mermaids swimming around.

The following are some of the best dive spots to explore around New Zealand.

a diver explores a cave underwater in new zealand

1. Poor Knights Islands Marine Reserve, Northland

The Poor Knights Island Marine Reserve is a popular spot for diving in New Zealand. The late Jacques Cousteau even called it one of the top five dive spots in the world! This group of islands is the remnants of ancient volcanoes that erupted in the Pacific Ring of Fire. The crystal-blue waters are filled with spectacular drop-offs, caves, arches, and tunnels, inhabited by an amazing array of underwater life. The warm waters are paradise for orcas, dolphins, bull rays, and friendly shoals of fish that often create mesmerizing displays beneath the waves. The islands are also home to Rikoriko Cave, one of the largest sea caves in the world. Dive! Tutukaka offers tours to explore this wonderful site, or live out your mermaid dreams by becoming a certified PADI Mermaid with Freedive Aotearoa.

a school of fish underwater at one of the best dive sites in New Zealand

2. Aramoana Mole, Dunedin

The Aramoana Mole is a man-made rock wall located within the small Aramoana settlement. It was constructed to protect the entrance of the harbor from gathering silt. Now, it’s an inviting dive site home to several wrecks that act as artificial reefs, which are lined with kelp forests and full of fish. On a dive here, you will be able to see carpet sharks, telescope fish, sevengill sharks, and the New Zealand hooker sea lion. Visibility reaches 3-6 meters/10-20 feet on average, and on a good day, it can be up to 10 meters/30 feet. If you look carefully, you may even spot some seahorses and nudibranchs playing around their coral homes. Above water, you might be lucky enough to see hoiho (Yellow Eyed Penguin) on the beach!

An orca swims past the camera underwate rin New Zealand

3. Goat Island Marine Reserve, Auckland

Goat Island was New Zealand’s first marine reserve, and it’s a popular dive and snorkel destination for New Zealanders and visitors alike. The island is located a mere 100 meters (300 feet) from the beach, making it a popular spot for supervised kids and beginner water explorers. It’s one of the best places on the New Zealand coast to see snapper and other fish such as kingfish, red moki, leatherjackets, and blue maomao in their natural habitat. The island is also frequented by dolphins, orcas, and fur seals. Bring your own snorkel or dive gear or hire from one of the local operators. You can dive or snorkel straight off the beach with a buddy or join a guided tour. For those that don’t feel like getting in the water but are still keen to get a glimpse of what’s underneath, there are options to jump on a Glass Bottom Boat or hire a Clearyak (Clear Kayak).

a diver spots a pod of dolphins at one of the best dive sites in New Zealand

4. The Poor Knights Islands, Tutukaka

The Poor Knights Islands are so spectacular that they make the list twice. This is because there are so many different dive sites to explore around the islands, each with their own unique features and marine life. From shallow dives with schools of colorful fish to deeper dives with manta rays and sharks, there’s something for every level of diver here. The Blue Maomao Arch and Northern Arch are particularly popular sites, with towering walls and tunnels that provide a unique diving experience.

a sea bird looks on as a diver photographs it half in and half out of the water

5. The Bay of Islands, Northland

The Bay of Islands is a popular holiday destination with plenty of activities both on and off the water. It’s also a great spot for diving, with a range of dive sites that offer everything from colorful reefs to shipwrecks. One of the most popular sites is the HMNZS Canterbury, a decommissioned naval vessel that was sunk in the Bay of Islands in 2007 to create an artificial reef. The wreck is now home to a variety of marine life and provides an unforgettable diving experience.

In conclusion, New Zealand is a country that offers plenty of opportunities for diving and snorkeling. There’s something for every type of diver here. With so many incredible dive sites to explore, it’s no wonder that New Zealand is considered one of the best diving destinations in the world.


Dream of exploring the waters beneath the surface in New Zealand? PADI and Tourism New Zealand are teaming up to give away the ultimate New Zealand underwater experience,  including flights, accommodation, and the opportunity to become a certified PADI Mermaid. Open to individuals from Australia and the United States.

For more information on the competition, visit:

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