Island Showdown:Comparing the North & South Island of New Zealand

Exploring the contrasts: a scenic view showcasing the landscape differences between new zealand's north and south islands.

New Zealand is a bucket-list worthy destination, with its rich culture and rugged natural beauty. Known for beautiful wineries, Maori culture, volcanoes and Hollywood-worthy landscapes, (trip to the Shire, anyone?) New Zealand is the perfect place for your next adventure.

Made up of two main islands, the North Island and South Island, New Zealand has tons to do and see on both islands. Which island should you visit? Well, both of course! Here’s everything to expect on each island, and the best things to do when you’re there.

Get ready… For an island face off!

New Zealand’s North Island

When exploring New Zealand’s North Island, expect to be greeted by a diverse and captivating landscape. From bustling cities to tranquil beaches, this island offers a mix of cultural experiences, breathtaking scenery, and outdoor adventures. The North Island is full of vibrant Maori culture, delicious cuisine, and warm hospitality wherever you travel.

From the geothermal wonders of Rotorua, to the cosmopolitan city of Auckland, to incredible hikes through volcanic terrain, the North Island showcases the perfect blend of natural beauty and cultural heritage.

The Best Things to Do on the North Island

Explore the Bay of Islands

The Bay of Islands is one of the most popular tourist destinations in New Zealand, known for its stunning natural beauty and marine life. Made up of 144 islands, the area is home to numerous beaches and an abundance of wildlife, including dolphins, whales, and penguins.

These islands are perfect for a boat tour, kayaking trip, or snorkeling adventure to explore, or just relax on a beach and enjoy the sun and sand.

Hike the Tongariro Alpine Crossing

New Zealand is known for amazing hiking, and Tongariro Alpine Crossing is an amazing and accessible way to explore the volcanic region of the North Island. A challenging one-day hike, Tongariro Crossing takes you through some of the most spectacular volcanic scenery in the world. The trail takes you through volcanic craters, past steam vents, and across emerald lakes.

Visit Hobbiton

The rolling hills of the Shire are real, based in New Zealand’s Waikato region. Lord of the Rings and Hobbit fans won’t want to miss the chance to visit Hobbiton, where the Lord of the Rings movies were filmed. The set is located in Matamata and offers a guided tour of the Hobbit village. Visitors can explore hobbit holes, the Green Dragon Inn, and other iconic locations from the movies.

Relax in Rotorua’s Hot Springs

Rotorua is known for its geothermal activity, and one of the best ways to experience it is by soaking in the hot springs. Rotorua is home to the first Maori city, Ohinemutu, established centuries before Europeans ever came to New Zealand. In this region, you can visit the geysers and volcanic springs, relax in a geothermal spa, and learn about Maori traditions from the local Te Arawa trib

Taste the Wines on Waiheke Island

New Zealand is known for wine and there are so many great wine regions to visit. While the North Island’s Hawke’s Bay and the South Island’s Marlborough region are popular, we love Waiheke Island. Just a short ferry ride from Auckland, Waiheke Island is an island paradise home to 30 vineyards over 35 square miles. Enjoy wine tours, cellar door tastings, and indulge in the island’s laid-back atmosphere.

Visit the Waitomo Caves

The Waitomo Caves are a network of underground limestone caves and tunnels that are home to thousands of glowworms. Visitors can take a guided tour to explore the caves, which includes a boat ride through the glowworm grotto. The experience is truly magical and something you won’t forget.

And in the other corner… the South Island!


New Zealand’s South Island

New Zealand’s South Island is similar to the North Island, with its own wineries, cities and culture, but the South Island is known for being more rugged and spacious, perfect for outdoor adventures like hiking, skiing, bungee jumping, and wildlife encounters. Prepare to be enchanted by snow-capped mountains, pristine lakes, and rugged coastlines.

The South Island is a haven for nature lovers and adrenaline seekers alike, with its remarkable scenery, friendly locals, and sense of tranquility. Here are some of the best things to do on New Zealand’s South Island!

The Best Things to Do on the South Island

Explore Milford Sound

Milford Sound is one of New Zealand’s most iconic natural wonders, and for good reason. The sound is surrounded by towering mountains, waterfalls, and lush rainforest. Visitors can take a boat tour to explore the sound, and marvel at the towering waterfalls, dramatic cliffs, and abundant wildlife in this UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Hike the Fox Glacier

New Zealand is known for its beautiful glaciers, and the Fox Glacier is one of the most accessible glaciers in the country. There are hike options for all levels, including easy viewpoint strolls, hikes up to Mount Fox, parallel to the glacier, and even guided hikes along the glacier face. Fox Glacier is a stunning sight to behold, and the hike is a unique experience you won’t want to miss on the South Island.

Visit Queenstown

Queenstown is known as the adventure capital of New Zealand, and for good reason. The town is surrounded by mountains and offers a range of activities, including bungee jumping, skydiving, and skiing. Even if you’re not an adrenaline junkie, there are plenty of things to do in Queenstown, including wine tours and scenic walks along the shores of Lake Wakatipu.

Take a road trip on the South Island

The South Island is home to some of the most scenic drives in the world, including the Milford Road and the West Coast. Driving through these beautiful regions is a great way to explore the country, as you’ll get to see the sights at your own pace and stop at observation points all along the way. While you’ve got your rental car, stop in Marlborough wine country to samples some New Zealand reds, and relax on a vineyard or two.

Visit the Abel Tasman National Park

The Abel Tasman National Park is located at the top of the South Island and is known for its stunning beaches and turquoise waters. Steeped in Maori traditions, the park is a serene respite of natural beauty. Here, you can take a hike on one of the park’s many hiking trails or take a boat tour to explore the coastline.

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