Allozyme electrophoresis was used to examine population genetic structure at inter- and intraspecific levels for the New Zealand endemic corophiid amphipods, Paracorophium lucasi and P. excavatum. Individuals were collected from estuarine and freshwater habitats from North, South and Chatham Islands. Analyses of genetic structure among interspecific populations indicated clear allelic differentiation between the two Paracorophium species (Nei's genetic distance, D = 1.62), as well as considerable intraspecific substructuring (D = 0.15–0.65). These levels of divergence are similar to interspecific levels for other amphipods and it is proposed that at least two groups from the P. lucasi complex and three from the P. excavatum complex correspond to sibling species. In most cases allopatry can account for the differentiation among the putative sibling species. For populations that share a common coastline we found low levels of differentiation and little or no correlation with geographical distance, suggesting that gene flow is adequate to maintain homogeneous population genetic structure. By contrast, populations on separate coastlines (i.e. isolated by land) showed moderate levels of geographical differentiation indicating restricted gene flow. The juxtaposition of population genetic and biogeographical data for Paracorophium in conjunction with the geological record infers past histories of glacial extirpation, and possible isolating effects of sea-level and landmass changes that have occurred throughout the Plio-Pleistocene. © 2004 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2004, 81, 119–133.