The array of dive sites available at North Island is positively mind-boggling, ranging from kelp forests, wrecks, caves, lakes and even unique dives around a live volcano. North Island’s subtropical climate is perfect for year-round diving but to see bigger creatures like whale sharks or manta rays, you have to dive during summer. Around North Island, water temperature ranges from 64-75˚F (18-24˚C) depending on the season and location and underwater visibility can be outstanding at some areas, stretching beyond 100ft (30m).
Most divers beeline for Poor Knights Islands upon arriving at North Island. Lying off the east coast of North Island, the Poor Knights Islands are volcanic rocks in a protected nature reserve. Dive sites here consist of archways, vertical walls and stretches of gently waving kelp. With nutrient rich currents passing through from Australia, marine life is abundant making it one of the best diving destinations in North Island.
White Island should also be high on your diving list. Located in the Bay of Plenty, White Island is actually a live volcano. During your dives, you can see underwater steam vents and at the same time, be swarmed by schools of fish. The dive sites here consist of pinnacles, walls and also a swim-through. Travelling slightly further from White Island will lead you to the Volkner Rocks and Liassons Reef which are also great dive sites.
Another area that is a delight for divers is the Bay of Islands which are close to the northern tip of North Island. The area has 144 islands and plenty of great dive sites including famous shipwrecks like the HMNZS Canterbury and the Rainbow Warrior. Head here during the summer months for bigger marine creatures but even in the winter, there is still plenty to enjoy like huge stingrays.
Even further up north from the Bay of Islands, there are liveaboard trips to less visited areas like the Three Kings Islands and even further up to the northeast some 621 miles (1000km) away, the untamed and barely visited Kermadec Islands. Diving at these islands may take a bit more planning as trips are infrequent. Wild currents and open seas at these very remote areas mean that the diving is challenging, but very rewarding.
Other areas with diving at North Island are off Auckland and also off Wellington where there are wrecks and more kelp and sargassum covered dive sites. From Auckland, a boat ride will get you to Goat Island, Little Barrier Island, Great Barrier Island, Hen and Chicken Islands and also the Mokohinau Islands all of which have pretty good diving. Inland, there are dives at places like Lake Taupo and there is also cave diving for qualified explorers.