Just a day trip away from Auckland is one of the finest dive locations in New Zealand.

‘The Knights’ were rated by the late Jacques Cousteau as being one of the top 10 dive sites in the world. Today they provide a marine reserve that covers a vast range of topography including caves, arches, sheer walls, pinnacles, brightly coloured reefs, sponge gardens and gorgonian fields.

The warm East Auckland Current attracts many subtropical fish, so every dive offers the prospect of sighting species rare in temperate waters. Water clarity is normally in the 15-30m range and water temperatures are around 23°C in summer and 14°C in winter. Underwater photographic opportunities abound.

Tutukaka Harbour (30km from Whangarei) is the charter boat base. Several operators run daily trips to ‘The Knights’ and provide a full hire equipment service.

There are over 50 named dive spots throughout the islands including the most favoured ones set out below.

Northern Arch

This incredible archway plummets to a 44m depth with an array of fish species, which are stacked in layers. The vertical walls are packed with a supermarket range of colourful invertebrate life. A true spectacle of nature’s creation. Watch for the friendly resident stingrays.

Middle Arch

A beautiful diving spot (down to 18m) where schools of demoiselles dance to some mystical beat and unusual moray eels, rare tropical groper and perch can be seen. Look out for Bernies’s Cave on the left of the arch.

Red Baron Caves

The rock formations here will astound you. There are a series of arches and outcrops which can be followed to the bottom at 25m. Colourful sponges, anemones, hydroids, corals and nudibranchs are festooned on the sheer walls.

Nursery Cove

A fascinating playground for semi-tame juvenile fish. It is particularly good for snorkelling here, with an interesting feature called the Labyrinth off the southern point.

Blue Maomao Arch

A dense school of blue maomao greets the diver at the east entranceway. Sunlight filters through the swirling mass making an unforgettable spectacle.

Rikoriko Cave

Most charter boats visit this massive cave which can be used as an overnight mooring. Novice divers enjoy exploring the boulder-strewn sea floor and it is ideal for a night dive.