Annika Andresen’s Insider Guide to Poor Knights, New Zealand

On New Zealand’s wild east coast, the Poor Knights Islands are a mecca for divers. In partnership with Corona, our #ThisIsLiving guide takes you from mesmerising dive spots to sustainably built, rustic-yet-refined lodges scattered throughout the native bush. Plus, we let you in on where to find the best fish and chips and the most idyllic blonde-beer beaches. Time to reconnect and rediscover.

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When seeking out lesser-visited beaches, rugged bays and hidden coves, there are two tribes we tend to follow: surfers and divers. Often these intrepid travellers will have earmarked undiscovered spots long before they hit the tourist trail.

That's why, as part of our partnership with Corona, we've called upon the expertise of ocean activist, marine specialist and avid diver Annika Andresen to give us the inside track on an outdoor (and underwater) adventure through New Zealand's sparkling east coast and the epic Poor Knights islands.

Having been raised on a yacht built by her father, Annika grew up sailing and diving along the east coast of New Zealand and the water quickly became her home, both above and below the surface. "If I had a superpower, it would be to have gills, so I could breathe underwater," laughs Annika. Witnessing first-hand the changing ocean environment, she set about trying to build awareness and understanding of the wider issues facing our seas.

Photo Credit: Dive Tutukaka

Annika doesn't take this role of ocean ambassador lightly. She's currently educating North Island students -over 35,000 and counting - about the importance of protecting and preserving our oceans. And we're not talking just your run-of-the-mill whiteboard-and-marker lessons. As a Virtual Reality Environmental Educator, she uses VR headsets and videos to compare pristine with degraded marine environments for wide-eyed students. Impressive, right? And her work doesn't stop there. She's also empowering the next generation of divers through her work with the Global Underwater Explorers, a scuba-diving organisation that provides education within the diving community. If Jack Sparrow's a pirate, then Annika's our ocean guardian.

Although no longer an off-the-beaten track find, the Poor Knights Islands still fly relatively under-radar - except for avid divers who never miss their annual pilgrimage. The dive site is home to a rainbow-like realm of lively marine life that includes bronze whaler sharks, turtles, trevally and schools of tropical fish. "This world-class diving site is a subtropical paradise that's a sanctuary to many marine creatures and can be admired from above and below the surface - truly, it's an experience not to miss!" gushes Annika. The islands are rich with history, having been admired by everyone from the indigenous Maori tribe that calls them home to the world-famous Jacques Cousteau. In short, this oceanscape offers a masterclass in what a flourishing marine ecosystem can look like.

Photo Credit: Cole Johnston and Matthew Coutts

Acting as the gateway to the islands, Tutukaka is the epitome of a laid-back coastal town. All chilled-out beach vibes, with jandals and togs (sandals and swimwear) being the go-to dress code, it's the ideal place to escape and reconnect with nature, letting slow travel take centre stage. This is easy-breezy living at its finest, so don't expect raucous parties or an avant-garde food scene. Evenings are best spent indulging in the candy-floss sunsets, cold beer in hand, chomping on catch-of-the-day feasts or nipping into locally owned spots that specialise in organic, locavore fare.

Annika's advice for a more sustainable getaway? "Be a conscious consumer, think about what you're buying - be aware of simple things, like knowing what seafood you are eating and how it has been caught, avoiding single-use plastics, supporting local businesses and respecting the environment."

Here, the ocean activist shares her insider guide to Poor Knights. From Barbie-pink food trucks dishing up locally sourced surfer snacks to awe-inspiring underwater expeditions and back-to-nature, sustainably designed lodgings nestled deep in the native bush, we're going off-grid, underwater and into the wild. This is living.


Matapouri Glamping

Forget leaky tents in sodden fields, New Zealand specialises in low-impact glamping retreats in remote landscapes. Leading the way for eco escapes, Matapouri Glamping’s safari tent is tucked away in the native New Zealand bush overlooking 120ha of rolling, sheep-dotted farmland and the shimmering horizon of the Poor Knights islands. We suggest nipping next door for a morning caffeine fix at Tawapou Coastal Native Nursery. For over 20 years, custodians Guy and Sandra have been labouring over a garden that showcases indigenous plants. Afterwards, retreat to your timber-clad pad for an alfresco soak with views to die for.


606 Matapouri Road, Tutukaka 0173


Lodge 9

enthusiastic divers looking for somewhere luxe to lay their flippers. Owners Jeroen and Kate – who is somewhat of a local legend for her top-secret granola recipe and lavish breakfast spreads – salvaged wooden boardwalks and marina tiles to create this sustainable, design-driven lodge. Aside from its Scandi-inspired sleekness, Lodge 9 is the ideal gateway to the surrounding waters. Fuelled by the morning fruit and yoghurt platters, set off for the reef. Annika agrees: “This is my favourite place to stay. After being out on the water all day, it’s great to come back and relax in the sauna or cool off in the saltwater pool.” Our tip? Grab the room with the balcony that cuddles up to the bush.


9 Rona Place, Tutukaka 0173


Winter Retreat Airbnb

Ranking high on our “R-radar” – reserved for places that help us reconnect, rediscover and reset – this Airbnb is one of those finds that, as much as you want to keep it to yourself, you’ll end up waxing lyrical about to everyone you encounter. Hidden away, but still within easy reach of Tutukaka’s rich coastline, this two-bedroom cottage mixes a mid-century Mad Men vibe – as seen in the black with white trim sofa, pendant lighting and snapper-red cushions – with homely “stay as long as you like” indulgences such as jams, honey and a fully stocked barbecue to be enjoyed on one of two decks. Jog down to the marina or make a trip to Whale Bay. Arguably the finest beach in Tutukaka, its pale sands are fringed by pohutukawa trees, while dolphins are often spotted dancing out to sea. Experienced surfers will want to make tracks to Sandy Bay, while novices might find the swell at Woolleys Bay a little tamer. It’s also a popular morning run spot with in-the-know locals.