Dive Destination: Diving Canterbury – South Island


Kaikoura Coast from the Peninsula, by Sjw22.

Compiled by Dive New Zealand

Canterbury dive sites are centred off the Kaikoura coast and Banks Peninsula with visibility often only 2–3m but on occasions you will get up to 15m. The poor visibility can put a lot of divers off. But when you have some of the most amazing marine and mammal life that New Zealand has to offer, this is definitely a destination you should have on your bucket list. Kaikoura is 180km north of Christchurch and is where two ocean currents meet: the warm waters of the north and the cold water from the sub-Antarctic. The rocky coastline offers some great diving and has an abundance of crayfish. Sperm whales are often in this area giving you a between-dive experience – whale watching.

South-east of Christchurch is Banks Peninsula with a number of dive sites in the many sheltered bays around the peninsula. A marine reserve is situated at Flea Bay where you could well have the opportunity to meet with the yellow-eyed Penguin, white-flippered Penguins and New Zealand fur seals. This is also home to the very rare Hector’s dolphin and you may well encounter these delightful creatures.


Blue Cod. Photo by Nick Bell.

Blue Cod. Photo by Nick Bell.

Davidsons Reef
An ideal dive for the beginner diver with the chance to practice catching crayfish and enjoy meeting playful seals. Maximum depth is 12m.

Lynch Reef
A nice dive with great forests of kelp in red, green and brown. Crays at the base of the rocks, butterfish, banded wrasse, spotties and also playful seals. An intermediate dive at max 18m. Good photography with many sea tulips and kelp as subjects.

Pinnacle Rock
On a calm day this is a great dive. Rated as at the intermediate level with a depth up to 15m. Some nice cracks with crayfish. Really great for photography, especially of the seals. Spear fishing is also good in this area.

Bushett Shoals
Not a common dive site as conditions dictate, but if conditions are right this is an amazing dive. Colourful walls, crayfish, wrasse, blue moki and dog shark. There is even a chance of seeing schools of groper. An exceptional dive site.

Banks Peninsula

Pigeon Bay
This is rated as a beginner’s dive. Protected from wind and swells on outside coast. Depth up to 12m with the chance to get a crayfish under the kelp. Common fish are red cod and leather jackets. Sea tulips are also found here and a few paua on the rocks for the snorkellers.

Dive-Dest_003Flea Bay
You will see many of New Zealand’s most charismatic marine animals at Pohatu Marine Reserve, which hosts both penguin and seal colonies. The drive to Pohatu is rough and should only be attempted by 4WD. Kayakers and boaties can explore a more dramatic landscape of sheer cliffs and sea caves not visible from land. Divers driving to the reserve need to be aware that the road reaches nearly 800m above sea level so they need to plan dives and surface times. Yellow-eyed penguins appear at dusk and in summer Hector’s dolphins are common. A delightful dive and a great photo opportunity.

Snuffle Nose
An intermediate dive depth up to 15m but is not diveable in a southerly swell or strong winds. A crayfish dive and great walls for the photographer with anemones, zoanthids and a few nudibranchs. A good dive with often visibility better than 3m.


Canterbury has an expansive coastline where there are a lot of places to visit and explore. A chance to see some of the wondrous marine life, to get into adrenaline-pumping activities when not diving – this region has a lot to offer. The history of the region can be researched, giving the visitor some interesting places to visit. Many of the buildings that are still standing have a history dating back a couple of hundred years. The new rebuild has shown the tenacity of the Canterbury people. If you are seeking some exciting activities there is certainly a lot to seek out. There is something for everyone to try their hand at. Diving and exploring Canterbury is certainly worthwhile especially the marine life both above and below the water.


Organised Dive Trips

Seal pups make an excellent photo subject. Photo by Nick Bell.

Seal pups make an excellent photo subject. Photo by Nick Bell.

Dive HQ Christchurch organises trips to explore the area.

Dive Shop – Operator

Dive HQ Christchurch
Julie and Richard Chitty
+643-379 5804
0800 DIVEHQ (348347)

Shop Hours:
Monday to Saturday: 8.30am – 5pm
Sunday: Closed




scroll to top