Hawke's_Bay_region_view
Hawke’s Bay region view (Creative Commons)

New Zealand is divided into North Island and South Island, and with so much on offer in each many travellers choose to just visit one. But how can you possibly decide? Our helpful guide will help you make the most of your trip to New Zealand and uncover the very best places for foodies, culture vultures and nature buffs.

North Island

Food & Wine

Wine lovers will feel right at home on the North Island as Hawkes Bay and Gisborne are the country’s second largest wine-producing regions. The North Island is also home to major cities such as Auckland and Napier where you’ll find a great selection of restaurants, and Wellington, which is known as New Zealand’s culinary capital.

History & Culture

If Maori heritage is what you came to see, you won’t be disappointed in the North, with over 90% of Maoris calling it home. The Bay of Islands was home to one of the earliest Maori settlements, and European colonisation began here.

The North’s cities are the best places for galleries and museums, with highlights including the Auckland Museum, Auckland Gallery and the only museum to boast a display of a complete colossal squid, Te Papa, in the country’s most multi-cultural city, Wellington.

Nature

The North Island is positioned above a geothermal system, and where the Earth’s crust is weak plenty of heat rises up to form bubbling mud pools, spectacular volcanoes and hot springs. One of the best places to see this is at Kuirau Park where – if rolling downhill in a large plastic ball at up to 50km/h sound like your idea of fun – you can also try ‘zorbing’.

Alternatively, cross three active volcanoes on the ‘Tongariro Crossing’ at Tongariro National Park or visit the largest freshwater lake in Oceania , Lake Taupo, which was created by a volcanic eruption more than 26,000 years ago. New Zealand is definitely on for the adventurous traveller, and student shouldn’t be put off either as they can find cheap flights to New Zealand online.

South Island

Food & Wine

Hawkes Bay and Ginsborne are impressive, but it’s Marlborough where you’ll find the country’s largest wine region, and Central Otago is rapidly becoming renowned for its award-winning pinot noir. The South definitely wins the battle of the wines as Marlborough also hosts the country’s longest-running wine festival, with more than 200 wines and 40 wineries being showcased.

History & Culture

Though it can’t really compete with the big cities of the North, the South Island does offer some beautiful Victorian buildings, plenty of cafes and a great selection of music venues. Try Christchurch for museums and galleries such as the Arts Centre and International Antarctic Centre, or head to Dunedin for a quirkier party destination.

Akaroa near Christchurch Photo by jonnykeelty, Creative Commons
Akaroa near Christchurch Photo by jonnykeelty, Creative Commons

Nature

The South Island really does take the crown in this category, claiming nine of the country’s fourteen national parks, all ten of New Zealand’s highest mountains, four of its five largest lakes and the five largest glaciers.

You’ll find the Milford Sound, Doubtful Sound and Lake Manapouri at the country’s largest national park, The The Fiordland, as well as fascinating wildlife such as whales, penguins, albatross, seals and dolphins at the snow-capped peaks of Kaikoura.