Blue Mao Mao archway, Poor Knights:
This cathedral-like arch teems with the blue mao mao that give it its name. Also look for yellow and gray morays and brilliantly colored blennies.
Tie-Dye Archway, Poor Knights:
Named for its colorful patterns of sponges and anemones, this site features intriguing topography as well as a profusion of fish species, including Lord Howe Coral fish.
Waikaranga Island, Auckland:
Located in the Te Whanganui-a-Hei Marine Reserve, this site features large cracks where red moki and crayfish hide. Look for jewel anemones, kelp, moray eels, leatherjackets, john dory, and (in summer months) pelagic fish.
Kaikoura, South Island:
In the shallow waters off the rocky coastline you can dive with playful New Zealand fur seals in the kelp beds. Dusky dolphins are residents here, and (as it is near a former whaling town) sperm whales can be seen regularly.
Long Island, Marlborough Sound:
Named by Captain Cook, this Marine Reserve is home to giant crayfish, wobbegong sharks, and blue cod.
Lastingham, Marlborough Sound:
This twin-mast iron sailing ship sank here in a heavy gale, taking down with her the captain and his wife. The wreck is covered in soft corals, anemones, shells, sea urchins and aquatic plants. Look for marble fish, blue cod, blue and red moki, triple fins, blennies, sea perch, butterfly perch, banded and scarlet wrasse, leatherjacket (triggerfish), and tarahiki (morwong).
Koi, Marlborough Sound:
Encrusted in invertebrates, the wreck of this 27-metre/90-foot steamer houses seahorses, blennies, decorator crabs, nudibranchs, leatherjackets, and butterfly perch, and is a favorite playground of seals.
Port Pegasus, Stewart Island:
This famous kelp forest features seals, sea lions, seahorses, and blue cod, and is a favorite among macro photographers.
Rainbow Warrior, Northland:
Bombed in Auckland Harbor by the French Secret Service, the wreck of the Greenpeace ship, Rainbow Warrior, was relocated here (with a traditional Maori burial) to create an artificial reef. Covered now in pink anemones, this photogenic wreck is a general favorite.
Goat Island, Auckland:
This marine reserve features a variety of habitats, from rocky shores to deep reefs to underwater cliffs and canyons to sand flats. Look for blue cod, snapper, crayfish, seaweed forests, sea squirts, anemones, sponges, and shellfish.