New Zealand: North or South Island?

Today’s blog comes from STA’s James Greenslade who has left his Aussie homeland for a few months to taste British life. So far it tastes of Marmite. 

Let’s face it, not everyone heading to New Zealand will have the option to spend a month or two quietly idling the days away in Hobbit country; some will be more strapped for time. Though it is possible to cover both the South and North islands in a couple of weeks, if you’re not one for moving every day, sitting on enumerable buses for hours at a time and generally getting yourself into a bit of a tizz, you might find that choosing one or the other is your best bet.

But the problem is, which one? Never fear intrepid, time short traveller, here we pick out some well-known and less famous highlights from the two main Islands that make up New Zealand to help with your decision making. Don’t say we never do anything for you.

New Zealand: North or South Island?


Home to the big cities and lots of cultural events, the north offers a slightly different vibe to the wild south.

Big City Life
Here you’ll find Auckland, Wellington and Hamilton and a lively, cosmopolitan atmosphere. The party scene, the night life, it all happens here in the north. Looking for a quick rush? Why not casually free fall from the observation deck of the Sky Tower, just 192m above the ground.

The Māori
There is more to the Māori people than the haka, and in the areas around Rotorua you can stay in traditional Māori village and discover more about their culture and history.

Essentially the North’s adventure playground with more swings and rides than your local park, your thirst for adventure will be quenched here. Rotorua’s geysers, luscious mud pools and hot springs are great for kicking back and relaxing – just don’t get them mixed up.

Beached As
The north island is home to some pretty impressive beaches. One of the most impressive is Mount Maunganui where you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d somehow ended up in Hawaii thanks to the (dormant) volcano looking down over you.


First and foremast, does size matter? While the South Island is much bigger than the North, a mere quarter of the national population call it home. This leads to a more rugged, isolated feel, and more wild countryside to explore without pesky people trying to get your attention.

As the name implies, while exploring the majestic Fiordland national park, you’d be mistaken for thinking that you’re actually in the Nordics. Think all the incredible landscapes, none of the pickled herring.

Southern Lights
Go the full south – 30k below the main island in face, and you’ll come across an island by the name of Stewart Island. Its location allows for excellent viewings of the Aurora Australis (southern lights), an epic natural phenomenon and one to make your friends super jealous. If they really like lights.

Feed the rhythm or tear up the slopes (whatever you want to call it) on some of the best snow fields in the southern hemisphere. The south is where it’s at here with 14 ski areas to choose from and some great slopes.

There’s is more to the city than it’s namesake the ChristChurch Cathedral. The city could be compared to their national cricket team (very good all-round) and offers anything from adventure to culture to wildlife.

So there you go, we’ve done the hard work for you (all right it wasn’t that hard) now it’s up to you to do the decision making. Will it be South? North? Both? It’s both isn’t it? Maybe this was an exercise in futility after all….