New Zealand – North and South Island’s Highlights & Places to Visit
Even though you may not be a J.R.R. Tolkien fan (and have no idea what a hobbit hole is), we’re pretty sure you have already heard about New Zealand. We dare say no bucket list is ever complete without an adventurous trip to this breathtaking country: widely known for its incredible natural beauty and endless outdoor experiences, no wonder it’s been the setting for a myriad of movies – but now it’s time for you to also spend some frames of your life enjoying what this island-nation in the middle of the Pacific Ocean has to offer.
All big journeys start with one step, we all know that, and so that first step when planning your trip to NZ would actually be to understand what lays within its confines. To help you out, we have prepared a list of the best places to base yourself in and the best places to visit in both the North and South Islands.
To begin with, let’s talk about what awaits you in each of the islands:
A Country Split Into Two
Both the North Island and South Island have to plenty to offer for travellers’ delight, and for that reason, the question is raised: “Which island should I travel to?” If time’s not a problem, you can definitely experience the best of both sides, but if not, then it surely is a hard pick.
The North Island is the cradle of the nation’s culture, as it’s where the Polynesian first settled, having brought with them a great heritage that later developed into the famous Maori culture. Nowadays, around 70% of the whole country’s population lives here.
Whether landing in Auckland (the nation’s most vibrant city) or Wellington (its compact waterfront capital city), you’ll feel shaken up by all the adventure and cultural opportunities within and around these urban environments.
From Auckland, you can easily reach the over 140 sun-blessed islands on the Bay of Islands’ enclave to the North, and the spectacular walkways and pristine beaches in the Coromandel Peninsula to the east.
Heading south you’ll find Rotorua, the Maori cultural capital, as well as the Lord of the Rings’ Hobbiton, and the glittering Waitomo Caves.
Lake Taupo, the island’s pulsating heart, lays right in the centre of the North Island, next to the volcanic Tongariro National Park (NZ’s oldest park).
Hawke’s Bay on the east coast is framed with beautiful beaches and great vineyards, while surfers from all over the world head off to Raglan on the west.
On the southernmost point lays Wellington, NZ’s capital city and the bounding point between the North and the South Island through a 3-hour ferry ride.
33% bigger than its northern sister, the South Island is world-famous for its beautiful fjords, magnificent glaciers, scenic trails, pristine lakes and rivers, or simply put, some of the most breathtaking views in the world; it’s a nature lover’s paradise, no exaggeration.
In the southwest of the island is Te Anau, the gateway to the jaw-dropping Milford Sound – the most famous fjord in Fiordland National Park – and Queenstown, the world’s adventure sports capital: skydiving, bungee jumping, white-water rafting, skiing, you name it.
Lying in the Southern Alps and in the centre of the island is Aori Mt. Cook – NZ’s highest mountain, standing 3,754m high – just a stone’s throw away from the picturesque Lake Tekapo.
The UNESCO World Heritage Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier steal the show on the Westland while in the north, the highlights are Marlborough’s fine wineries, delicious seafood and impressive islets, as well as the scenic trails of Abel Tasman National Park.
Kaikoura on the northeast coast is a well-renowned whale watching destination; Christchurch further south is the island’s biggest city and the busiest international landing point in the South Island; Dunedin on the southeast is known for its Scottish heritage and for the being the country’s first big city.