New Zealand Smackdown: North Island vs. South Island

Queenstown, New Zealand

I’ve been playing around with this post for a long time in my head. But I’ve always avoided writing it because, really, how can I possibly chose sides when it comes to New Zealand? Picking a favorite island would be like picking a favorite child or puppy or ice cream flavor. You just can’t do it.

Or can you? (Well, maybe not with the child example, but with New Zealand’s islands, maybe.)

Kapiti Island

In order to try and decide which island is “best” — the North Island or the South Island — I’m going to look at 10 major aspects of New Zealand to see how they compare on each island. I think this will be a learning experience for us all. People always ask me which island is “better.” … Well, perhaps we’re about to find out.

Let the smackdown begin!

Should You (1)


Let’s start somewhere easy and non-debatable — size. Now, the whole country only covers roughly the same area as the state of Colorado, so there’s not much land to really debate over.

Kaikoura, New Zealand

But, here are the numbers:

The North Island is roughly 43,911 square miles.

The South Island covers about 58,384 square miles, and feels much bigger when you are traversing through it.

Smackdown winner: South Island

Tally: North Island — 0   South Island — 1


All of New Zealand is relatively accessible (whether by plane, bus, car, boat, or what have you), but some areas are easier to get to than others.

Road to Mount Cook

For example, the North Island has 4 of New Zealand’s 7 international airports, including the one in Auckland, which handles most of the country’s arrivals. Wellington, too, has a large airport that handles a lot of domestic and international flights. On the South Island, the biggest airport is in Christchurch, which, while sizable, doesn’t handle nearly as many international flights as Auckland.

As far as buses go (which is the best way to get around the country if you can’t rent a car or campervan), the two biggest carriers (InterCity and NakedBus) both service more cities on the North Island than the South Island (both make 34 major stops on the South Island, while InterCity has 41 stops on the North Island, and NakedBus has 59). Many of the buses on the North Island also tend to run more frequently. (Though, this could be because the North Island is smaller, has more cities, and isn’t divided in half by a gigantic mountain range…)

Smackdown winner: North Island

Tally: North Island — 1   South Island — 1


Which brings us to the cities… This is a tricky one, because New Zealand is full of unique and interesting cities.

Oriental Bay in Wellington, NZ

Roughly 76 percent of the country’s inhabitants live on the North Island, with more than 30 percent calling Auckland home. But you know what? I don’t really like Auckland. It feels like any other decent-sized city in the world; to me, Auckland lacks character. By contrast, Wellington (also a North Island city) is bursting at the seems with character. It’s no secret that this is my favorite city in the world. The North Island is also home to fun cities like Taupo (a mecca for fishermen), unique stops like Rotorua (full of geothermal wonders), and wine-centric towns like Martinborough. And we can’t forget the farming community of Matamata, which is home to Hobbiton!

On the South Island, the largest city is Christchurch, which, while currently limping along after a big earthquake in 2011, is truly gorgeous. There’s also the popular resort town of Queenstown, which will easily steal your heart if you’re not careful. Then there are surprisingly cool towns like Dunedin and Invercargill, and coastal gems like Kaikoura. But, since the South Island is much more sparsely populated than the North, that means that there are also a ton of really small towns that may not have much to offer other than stunning views. (But really, do they need to offer anything else?)

Smackdown winner: Draw, because each island has some great towns and cities.

Tally: North Island — 2   South Island — 2

Cultural Offerings

New Zealand is an interesting country because it’s two islands can sometimes feel like completely different worlds.

Rangiatea Church

Looking to tap into New Zealand’s native Maori past, the North Island is your best bet. Set aside an afternoon at Te Papa Tongarewa (the national museum of New Zealand) in Wellington, visit the Waitangi Treaty grounds in the Bay of Islands, or take in a cultural dinner and concert in Rotorua. The Maori culture is a very unique one, and it’s worth your time to experience it while you’re in the country.

On the South Island, the cultural focus is different. The South is home to the rugged “Southern Man,” and the cultural offering of choice down here is either sheep farming or rugby.

Smackdown winner: North Island

Tally: North Island — 3   South Island — 2


Green-lipped mussels in New Zealand

So what’s the food like in New Zealand? Well, there’s a lot of lamb and mutton (there are roughly 40 million sheep here, after all), fish and chips, and a delicious invention known as Hokey Pokey ice cream. New Zealand is also known for its Green-Lipped Mussels, and, of course, its wine. The South Island‘s Marlborough Region is said to produce some of the best wine in the world. But, since I’m not much of a drinker, I cannot personally back this claim up.

So what sets the islands apart? Well, the South Island might have a slight advantage, because Dunedin is home to the Cadbury Chocolate Factory, and Queenstown is home to Fergburger. And, who doesn’t love chocolate and burgers?

Smackdown winner: South Island, by a hair.

Tally: North Island — 3   South Island — 3


New Zealand may very well be the most diverse and beautiful country on the planet. Remember how I said the whole country was roughly the size of Colorado? Well, packed within that small area is just about every climate and landscape you can imagine. From beaches to rainforests to mountains to rolling green hills to volcanic deserts, this country seriously has it all.

Hiking to Edoras

Lupins in Wanaka, New Zealand

On the North Island, you have the beaches of Northland, the underrated Coromandel Peninsula, the East Cape, the geothermal oddities of Rotorua, the volcanoes of Tongariro National Park, the rolling green hills of northern farmland, coastal beauties like Castlepoint, and unique spots like the Putangirua Pinnacles.

While the North Island is gently rolling and seemingly perpetually green, things couldn’t be more different on the South Island. The South Island is rugged, with the Southern Alps acting like a snow-capped spine that runs down the center of the island. Highlights here include the Marlborough Sounds, the rain-drenched West Coast, the Canterbury Plains, amazingly accessible glaciers like Fox and Franz Josef, the tallest mountain in New Zealand (Mount Cook), the Southern Scenic Route along the coast, the Southern Lakes region around Lake Wanaka, strange rock formations like the Pancake Rocks in Punakaiki and the Moeraki Boulders, and amazing fjords like Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound.

Smackdown winner: It’s a tough choice, but the South Island gets my vote.

Tally: North Island — 3   South Island — 4


New Zealand isn’t exactly associated with beautiful beaches in the way that other South Pacific islands (like Hawaii and Fiji) are — but it actually does have a lot of sand and sun to offer.

Pakiri Beach

On the North Island, the beaches are more traditional white-sand affairs that you might associate with long romantic walks or horseback riding. There’s 90 Mile Beach at the tip of the island (which is actually an official part of Highway 1), beaches in the beautiful Bay of Islands, beaches (including Hot Water Beach) on the Coromandel Peninsula, beaches in the Bay of Plenty, Golden Bay and Hawke’s Bay, and Oriental Bay in Wellington. The North Island beaches enjoy a lot of sun and warmer temperatures, making the water more inviting year-round. The North is also home to New Zealand’s most popular surfing beaches, including ones in Taranaki and Raglan.

By contrast, the beaches on the South Island tend to be a bit more blustery and cooler (with perhaps the exception of some of the beaches in Abel Tasman National Park). But the surf here can be bigger, and the wind-swept effect and mountainous backdrop can lead to some stunning coastal scenery. Popular beaches in the South include those along the West Coast, beaches in Kaikoura, beaches around Dunedin and the Otago Peninsula, beaches along the South Coast, and of course the lakeside beaches in towns like Wanaka and Queenstown.

Smackdown winner: Draw, because while the North Island has more traditional beaches, the South Island has some truly breath-taking ones, too.

Tally: North Island — 4   South Island — 5


New Zealand has some pretty awesome wildlife, both native and non-native. From whales to seals to kiwi birds, there’s a lot to spot all over the country. Interestingly enough, though, most of New Zealand’s wildlife has been introduced. It’s only native mammal is a small bat, and its other native species are mostly birds.


On the North Island, you can find a lot of wildlife. Take a dolphin-watching cruise in the Bay of Islands, or go on a seal hike along the coast in Wellington. Take a jaunt over to Kapiti Island to see a lot of the country’s native bird species, including the adorable kiwi bird, the mischievous kaka, the curious weka, and the extremely rare takahe. Or get up-close with the country’s sheep population at the Agrodome in Rotorua.

On the South Island, keep and eye out for the cheeky kea bird, visit the penguins and albatross that call the Otago Peninsula home, go whale watching (or dolphin swimming) in Kaikoura, and play with some of the world’s smallest and rarest dolphins (the Hector’s Dolphin) in Akaroa.

Smackdown winner: South Island

Tally: North Island — 4   South Island — 6

Adventure Sports

Chances are, if you’ve thought about visiting New Zealand, you’ve also thought about some of its adventure sports. The country is definitely a daredevil’s paradise, but has activities suitable to all sorts of sensibilities.

Auckland Sky Walk

On the North Island, top adventure sports include the SkyWalk and SkyJump in Auckland, sandboarding in Northland, black water rafting or canyoning in the Waitomo caves, zorbing in Rotorua, skydiving and bungy jumping in Taupo, doing a flying fox in Gravity Canyon, and skiing on volcanos like Ruapehu or Taranaki. There are also popular hikes here, such as the Tongariro Crossing, which is supposed to be one of the best day hikes in the world. Sounds like a lot on offer, right?

Well, actually, the North Island has nothing on the South Island when it comes to adventure sports. The South Island (more specifically, Queenstown) was the birthplace of such crazy activities as bungy jumping and jet boating, and is also home to some of the best ski fields in the country. Here you also have many hiking options, including on glaciers like Fox or Franz Josef, and plenty of climbing/canyoning opportunities. More into water sports? Try whitewater rafting or river boarding. Skydiving is also popular here in towns like Wanaka, as are other sky sports such as parasailing and paragliding. The South Island is all about adrenaline, and you can even try out stunt plane flying in Nelson or gliding in Omarama.

Smackdown winner: South Island for sure. Queenstown alone could sweep the points in this category.

Tally: North Island — 4   South Island — 7

The Locals

No country would be complete without its locals, and New Zealand is no exception. New Zealanders are some of the friendliest, funniest, most laid-back people I have ever met, and living with them for any amount of time will undoubtedly leave an impression on you (even if it just means converting you into a rugby fan).

Auckland, New Zealand

But can I really categorize the Kiwis by the island they live on? Well, North Islanders are usually seen more as city-dwellers, while the South Islanders tend to be categorized as farmers and/or adventurers. But, at the end of the day, that has nothing to do with the personality of the locals.

Smackdown winner: It’s a draw, because all Kiwis rock, regardless of which island they call home.

Tally: North Island — 5   South Island — 8

Drumroll, please…

Final Tally: South Island wins!

You know, I’m actually a bit surprised. I didn’t think it was possible for me to pick a “favorite” New Zealand island. It still may be hard to say, “Yes, the South Island is best,” because I really love the North Island, too.

In my mind, both islands are winners, and both are well-worth visiting.

What to Pack

There are definitely a few things you’ll want to make sure to bring in order to help you check off these bucket list items. Things like:

Check out more of my New Zealand packing tips here!

What’s your opinion? If you’ve been to New Zealand, can you choose a favorite island? If you’ve never been there, which island would you be more likely to want to visit after reading this?



  • Rebecca says:

    Two things I would argue:

    Never had Fergburger, but there isn’t a single Burger Fuel on the South Island, which is shocking to me (not even in Dunners, the classic college town! I almost died when I found out!!) And the pies in the North Island are to die for.

    And locals on the South Island, oy, are known to be quite racists. Why do you think very few Maori live there? I heard some shocking comments in CHC (a big reason why it’s my least favorite part of the country).

    Even so, and coupled with my North Island pride (whoo!) South Island is just the total picture on why you visit NZ:-). That scenery! Those activities! You can never get enough.
    Rebecca recently posted..Hostel Paradise

    • DangerousBiz says:

      Interesting about the Burger Fuels… I guess I never noticed that they are missing from the South Island!

      I’ve never run into the racism on the South Island, but then again I’ve spent more time collectively in the North. In fact, I think it plagues the whole country, to be honest. I heard plenty of not-so-nice remarks from my Kiwi flatmates when I was living in Wellington. It sucks that every country seems to have this issue — even New Zealand.

      • John Lam says:

        Love your blog. Racist New Zealanders? What are they hard on? People with different skin colours? Are they violent? Or making you uncomfortable and unwelcomed?

        • DangerousBiz says:

          I didn’t see any violence. Just some off-color comments every now and then, mostly based on skin color/cultural background. But it’s the sort of racism that you (unfortunately) experience just about everywhere in the world to some extent.

    • lux says:

      Total disagree about racism, I have lived in both the North and South Island (chch) and never experienced any racism, while it does exist you cannot say it is more prevalent in the South. And Chch rocks, for the record.

  • Rob says:

    Ah.. I’m never short of opinions and I’m glad you picked the South Island as it’s my favorite. My reasons are much less complex than yours – I like the weather better and the fact that there are fewer people.

    Which isn’t to say that I don’t like the North island. I had some awesome times there, too. I look at it similarly to how I look at Southern/Northern California – there are interesting things to do all over the state, but I *love* Northern California and I like Southern California. I *love* the South island and like the North island.

    • DangerousBiz says:

      Well, I actually *love* both islands, for different reasons. Which is why I wrote the post the way I did, breaking it down and assigning points. Otherwise, you’d never get me to pick a favorite! Lol.

      As always, thanks for your two cents, Rob!

  • A very diplomatic way to approach how to select a ‘favourite’, although I agree with the result LOL
    Linda ~ Journey Jottings recently posted..Year at a Glance – August 2011

  • catherine says:

    This was so informative as I have recently been thinking of moving to NZ from Chile and was having a hard time figuring out which city to move to. Great post!
    catherine recently posted..El gran Manuel García! (en vivo!)

  • Holy cow the bird from the movie UP! does exist. And it comes in the form of the Takahe!
    Gerard ~ GQ trippin recently posted..4 must-do activities in costa rica

  • Briana says:

    Your posts on New Zealand are so great. I’m having a great time combing through them all, but this one makes me feel a little guilty…I’ve been to New Zealand twice, but both times only to the North Island! An extended trip there (to both islands) has been vaguely in the works for several years, and now the time has finally come. We’re headed there this December. I can’t wait to explore the rugby/adventuring/fiords/chocolate of the south island.
    Briana recently posted..Ulonga Again

    • DangerousBiz says:

      Thanks, Briana! And yay for so many visits to New Zealand! Great to hear that you’re finally going to experience the South Island! I love the North Island (and Wellington, especially), but you can’t really “see” NZ without visiting the South, too!

      Have a blast in December. If you need any South Island tips, you know where to find me!

  • roanne says:

    You left out the best island in New Zealand! Waiheke Island

    • DangerousBiz says:

      Sorry! I also had to leave out Stewart Island, since I’ve never been there… But I would guess that Waiheke Island can probably be considered part of the North Island, just as many people consider Stewart Island to be part of the South.

  • Amanda, you take such beautiful photos! Your writing on NZ has definitely moved it high up on my list of places to travel to.

  • fotoeins says:

    Amanda, before I fully read through to the end, I would’ve said straight-up that the South Island had already won you over. :) As I’m now seeing lots of posts and blogs about New Zealand, the itch to go back is ever stronger – even though I’ve already put the country into my RTW list for next year! Thanks for your post!
    fotoeins recently posted..Madrid Atocha

    • DangerousBiz says:

      The trouble I’ve always had with picking a favorite island is that my favorite city, Wellington, is on the North Island. But my favorite scenery is on the South. Most people seem to choose the South as their favorite though, I’m finding. Which is great. But I’m still of the opinion that you can love them both!

      And at least you know when you’ll be headed back to NZ… I have no idea, and it’s driving me nuts! I miss it already.

  • Maybe it’s just me, but I always thought every parent does have a favorite child! 😛

    We’ve been looking into New Zealand recently and I was getting overwhelmed by choosing which area we wanted to explore. In an ideal world we’d have time to see the whole island (and that might still be the case), but we were hearing so many positive things about both that we didn’t know how we’d ever decide. Seeing it broken down like this is super helpful… now we can make a decision based on the factors we find important!
    Technosyncratic recently posted..Unexpected Perils of the Roman Baths

    • DangerousBiz says:

      Haha, well, if parents DO have a favorite child, I’ll bet they’d never admit it!!

      I’m really glad this post might help you guys decide which island/area of NZ you might want to visit. Though, I will always be an advocate for seeing a bit of everything, because the whole country is so unique!

  • Mica says:

    Great breakdown, when I get to NZ I plan on visiting both for sure, but the South Island is more appealing for the sports (specifically for me sky diving) and I can’t wait to try it when I get there!
    Mica recently posted..Pollo en Cazuela (Chicken stew) My comfort food abroad

    • DangerousBiz says:

      Good that you’re planning to visit both! A lot of people just visit and go to one island (very often the South), but I think it’s important to see a little bit of everything!

      And, while I personally think skydiving would be better on the South Island because of the mountains, it’s also popular in Taupo and the Bay of Islands on the North Island — both also beautiful spots! I guess it’s all just a matter of preference.

  • Laurence says:

    Awesome post! I was thinking of doing something like this recently, and I suspect the South island would win out too for me, just because I prefer the scenery down there (I’m a sucker for mountain ranges…). Great round up of everything they both have to offer, and I’d have to agree, both are worth visiting!
    Laurence recently posted..Top three Lord of the Rings filming locations in New Zealand

    • DangerousBiz says:

      Thanks, Laurence! I’m a sucker for craggy mountains, too (probably because I don’t exactly get to see them much living in Ohio), so the South Island definitely draws me in for that reason. Plus, I’m an adrenaline junkie, and there’s no better place to get a fix than in Queenstown!

  • Ali says:

    You’re getting me so excited about going to NZ in December!!
    Ali recently posted..Adjusting to Germany

  • Deb says:

    Great Smackdown. I concur with your conclusion. Both islands are amazing but yes, if you could only do one on your travels, I would highly recommend the south Island. The north island may be the choice of most to live in, but I think the south island is the best choice to travel to. Although both rock!

    • DangerousBiz says:

      I like your suggestion that the North might be better to live in, but the South is better to travel in. I think I would definitely have to agree!

  • Lauren says:

    I can’t believe I have to wait over a year to visit NZ! I want to go now 😀

    And gorgeous photos too!
    Lauren recently posted..Getting Lost in Kiev

  • Erik says:

    Interesting way of looking at it. I’m more excited about the South Island because I love the outdoors, but I won’t go if I’m not able to give both islands some time.
    Erik recently posted..I Left My Heart in San Francisco

    • DangerousBiz says:

      I don’t think I could ever go to NZ and not spend some time on both islands (for example, when I won my Blog4NZ prize package, it was only for the South Island. But I made sure to add in time in Wellington (and the Kapiti Coast), too! It’s hard not to fall in love with both. But it may be easier to fall in love with the South.

  • So far…I’m going to have to disagree and say I’m a bigger fan of the north island. Still have a lot left to see of both islands though.
    Bobbi Lee Hitchon recently posted..My travel bucket list

    • DangerousBiz says:

      Yay, disagreement! Haha, I’ve been waiting for the North Island fans to weigh in! What makes you a bigger fan of the North?

  • Mark says:

    As a Kiwi from Christchurch, I’m proud of the South Island and glad to see it victorious 😉 Great post, loved it!
    Mark recently posted..To Kazakhstan by Train – Very Nice, High Five!

    • DangerousBiz says:

      Kia ora, Mark! You and your island (and city, for that matter) certainly have a lot to be proud of. Glad you liked the post!

  • Hayley says:

    Great post! I’m a North Islander living in Wellington but LOVE the South Island, Otago in particular. It is fantastic that you spent enough time here to write such a comprehensive and balanced comparison. Love the photos too.

    • DangerousBiz says:

      Hey Hayley! Jealoussss that you call Wellington home! Lol. But I’m so glad you enjoyed this post! I have spent about 6 months total in New Zealand spread out over 3 visits (one being a semester I spent abroad going to Massey in Wellington), and I’ve traveled extensively. So I’m glad that has shown through in this comparison. Though, I still have a ton of NZ left to see!

  • Angela says:

    It’s very nice to see how different the two islands can be, beautiful both of them. The last picture is just stunning.
    Angela recently posted..Sardinia, land of mystery. Part 2: Atlantis’ lost civilization?

  • Leila says:

    New Zealand is the place where I really wanted to visit and if possible the perfect place for me to moved in. Doesn’t matter whether in south or north. I love this country.
    Leila recently posted..Best Positions To Get Pregnant Fast

  • NLM says:

    Love this article. Just stumbled it. I’ve only been to each island once, and had the same dilemma. My solution? I’m going back for a long visit!

    Your photos are beautiful–I have several posts on my NZ trip on my blog, too. Keep having fun.
    NLM recently posted..Chinese Food is Good Cold, Right?

    • DangerousBiz says:

      Thank you, Nancy! (And thanks for the add to your blogroll!)

      I like your solution — going back for a long visit! That’s always a great idea.

  • NLM says:

    Also, I’m going to add you to my blogroll, so my friends can see I wasn’t lying about NZ, lol.
    NLM recently posted..Yep, There are Still Shantytowns in the 21st Century

  • Chris says:

    I was most relieved and pleased to see the South Island pick up the win. While I did love my few days on the North Island zorbing in Rotorua and black-water rafting in Waitomo – dour Auckland left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth.

    Compared to Queenstown, Christchurch, Franz Josef, and even sleepy Nelson – I just couldn’t pick the North. But apparently I need more experience with Wellington.

    Props for the Fergburger shout-out. God, I could murder one of their burgers right about now.

    Fantastic post :-)
    Chris recently posted..The Great Portland Brewery Tour

    • DangerousBiz says:

      Thanks, Chris! I’m glad your favorite island won. :) Auckland isn’t my favorite either, but Wellington definitely makes up for it, as far as I’m concerned!

  • Paris Wells says:

    Ferg Burger, is that a cokadoodle oink I see! it’s been a while since I’ve seen you ! Queenstown made my NZ visit , if you can’t do an adventure activity in Queenstown , then it can’t be done! Skiing at the Remarkables , the views were amazing!
    Paris Wells recently posted..How to get the product ID on the WP Ecommerce Transaction Results Page

    • DangerousBiz says:

      That IS a cockadoodle oink that you see! Haha. Probably my favorite Fergburger creation!

      I haven’t ever been skiing in Queenstown, but I imagine the views would be amazing. I’ve done plenty of other adventure sports there, though, and you’re right — you can’t really experience Queenstown without doing at least one crazy thing!

  • Blair says:

    Nice one dude, and although i completely agree the South Island is much more scenic and beautiful I have to state that there are amazing parts of the North Island that you have been unable to visit.
    If you have the opportunity to come back here I’ll let you know where to go and what to do that will amaze you and make you realize how nice the N.I is as well…. And Auckland is special but you need a car and to know what to do… but top effort bro

    • DangerousBiz says:

      Oh, I’m not saying that the North Island isn’t nice — it is! I love it, as well. I just have a thing for mountains and wide open spaces… which is perhaps why the South Island won this “battle.”

  • what a hoot – too funny! i’d love to visit BOTH!

  • My cousin is working in New Zealand as a nurse at the moment and he’s convincing me to go there soon. This post just gave me an idea on what to expect when i push through with the temporary plan. Well-written post with lots of interesting pictures! 😀
    Micamyx|Senyorita recently posted..Not Your Ordinary Cable Car and Zipline Experience at 5th Mountain Adventure Park

  • Suzy says:

    I think I would have a hard time choosing between the North and South Islands of New Zealand. They both seem to have so much to offer. Yet another reason I need to finally make that long plane ride down!
    Suzy recently posted..The Simple Joys of American Hotels

    • DangerousBiz says:

      New Zealand really does pack A LOT of punch for its size. Both islands are vastly different and unique, which really does make it tough to pick a favorite. But that’s why you just have to spend a bit of time everywhere!

  • Laura says:

    Loved this post! We recently visited New Zealand and were only able to fit in the North Island. Everyone we told said, “You missed the South Island?!” Not one, “Wow, isn’t the North Island great?!” But we loved the North Island and if (according to your post) the South Island is even more impressive, we may just have to visit again.
    Laura recently posted..Feeding Lambs on the Farm (Rotorua, New Zealand)

    • DangerousBiz says:

      Haha, it’s true that most people would be flabbergasted to learn that you visited New Zealand and didn’t make it down to the South Island. Though, if you told me you only visited the South and skipped the North, I would have told you you missed out on some great stops like Wellington! So there are definitely two sides to that coin. 😉

      Great to hear that you loved the North Island. But yes, you really should return to explore the South, too!!

  • Jim says:

    You’re right, South Island has to come out tops. I guess Auckland’s lack of character is a millstone for the North.
    Jim recently posted..The Best Prescription For Cancer.

    • DangerousBiz says:

      Well, Auckland IS pretty huge, population-wise. Not every city in NZ can be Wellington! 😉 But yes, I suppose Auckland does sort of lose points for the North Island (for me, at least… I’m sure most steadfast Aucklanders would disagree!).

  • Of course the South Island is the winner 😉
    When travellers ask me which Island is better, I always answer they are so different one can’t compare, and at the end of the day it comes down to personal preferences. If you love the outdoors go South. If your looking for cultural heritage go North, and if you are looking to just enjoy an amazing country go both!

  • lara dunston says:

    Great stuff! Fun post! I’ve never been to New Zealand (shameful for an Aussie I know) and have been mulling over a trip, so this is super helpful, thanks! Deserves another Stumble, I reckon :)
    lara dunston recently posted..Monday Memories: the Temple of Prasat Phanom Rung, Thailand

  • Athene says:

    I just stumbled accross this post, and I feel that I need to make a case for the North Island :) Interesting but not surprising that most people seem to like the South Island more. As a Kiwi who grew up in the North Island (Wairarapa) but who has also lived ( Dunedin, 3 years) and travelled (lots of family down there) in the south I personally like the south and east coast of the North Island best. I currently live in Wellington, and if you ask me its the best city in NZ. I love the ruggerd Wairarapa coast, the little coastal gems like Castle Point, Akitio, Tora, White Rock, Glenburn, Ngawi and Lake Ferry. Some of the best wine in the world can be found in the Wairarapa in Martinborough and Gladstone, Not to mention the Hawkes Bay. The mountains of the south are big and cool, there are some equally impressive scenery in the north. You only need to drive the desert rd to see some amazing voncanos, if seeing isnt enough feel free to go skiing on them :), then you have the Tararua ranges just out of Wellington, the Ruahine Range, the Kaimanawas and not to mention the Coromandal. The East coast, where you wont find as many tourists, is amazing. its almost like a different world (in a very good way) with some of the prettiest bays and beaches anywhere in the world. Skipping right over Auckland, it has its merits, but if you ask me it smells funny :) , you have the winterless north, with its tropical (almost) beaches and hidden bays. All in all the North is is hugly diverse, once you get away from the main centres and the main road and take a little adventure out into the wilds.
    The south is great, my favourite parts are the Marlborough Sounds and Abel Tasman National Park …. the bits at the top. Hope everyone enjoys their travels in NZ.

    • DangerousBiz says:

      You certainly do make a great case for the North Island, and you’ve mentioned a lot of my favorite spots in the North — like Castlepoint, the Wairarapa, Desert Road, Lake Ferry, etc. And fo course Wellington! You say it’s the best city in NZ… I say it may be one of the best cities in the world!! :)

  • minnie says:

    not many cities in the world have 2 coasts, over 30 islands, a 4 day walking track through native bush and a beautiful harbour!

  • I love it! I kept track in my head as I went along, from my own experiences, and ended up right where you did! The North Island was nice, but the South Island is stealing our hearts. Aside from both being nice, they both offer very different experiences. I think I see the makings of our own article coming up… “A Tale of Two Islands…”, or something of the sort :)
    Jim @ The|Globe|Less|Traveled recently posted..Yasawa Islands: Culture & Comfort on a Budget

    • DangerousBiz says:

      If it weren’t for Wellington being on the North Island, I don’t think I’d have any trouble declaring my love for the South. Lol. But yes, both are great!

      I’ll keep an eye out for your own post comparing the two!

  • Aizuddin says:

    Hi Amanda,
    i just found your blog, it’s so amazing!

    Later in May I will be starting my PhD in University of Canterbury. Can you give a comment about the earthquake series which occurred in the town few times before? Is it safe to bring a family (wife and two small daugters) into the town, considering the aftershocks are still continuing?


    • DangerousBiz says:

      Hi there, and welcome to my blog! :)

      Christchurch has definitely had some tragedies in the past year, but only one quake so far was fatal and claimed lives. There is always the risk of further aftershocks, though, so I would make sure your family is aware of that before bringing them to live there. Just make sure you end up in a sturdy house (a wooden one is best!) and that you’re prepared for a quake. Most of the aftershocks have been small rumblings, but they could last for quite a while unfortunately.

  • Emily says:

    Thanks so much! This was crazy helpful! I’m in the research stages of potentially moving there for a year and am trying to figure out the best place to move to. This definitely helps…

  • elsietam says:

    I am planning a short visit to NZ in Nov. Thanks to your info, I have now decided to visit the South Island…

    • DangerousBiz says:

      Awesome! Have fun in NZ! November should be a really nice time to visit.

      • J says:

        what a great thread to stumble upon. Thankyou all for this awesome travel info and for your fab blog! My girlfriend and I are currently planning a trip to NZ we fly into auckland on the 9th, then depart from wellington on the 25th…It may be the only time in our lives we get to see New Zealand so with that in mind we wanted to road trip from North to south ending in queenstown for 3 days of activities. Any thoughts at all on the ideal route/itinery given the time constraints would be greatly appreciated. we love scenery, food and wine. thanks again for this great thread! Really looking forward to seeing this stunning country!

        • DangerousBiz says:

          Hey J! Send me an e-mail ( with some more details about your interests/budget, and I’ll gladly give you some tips!

  • nicko says:

    I just discovered your blog and found it awesome! It is possible for me to be moving to Wellington in a couple of month. Nice to read your words about it because I have never been there. Could I contact you so you can tell me more about it? THANK YOU!!!

  • Lisa says:

    Just wanted to say THANK YOU sooo very much for taking the time to share with all of us! It is most appreciated by our family. Trying to plan a trip, especially on limited planning and visiting time, is a challenge and a little overwhelming, so your information and feedback was most helpful.

  • Sue says:

    Hi- I loved this “smack-down” it gave me lots of ideas for our upcoming visit to both islands. We are spending most of our time on the South Island in late October and first half of November. What can we expect with the weather? What to bring for clothes? Really all kinds of weather? Can you give me a temperature range?
    Also- we have some parts of the trip booked but others would like to roam and find places to stay wherever we end up. Is that possible on the South Island at that time of year? Or should we have reservations?

    • DangerousBiz says:

      Hey Sue! Glad to hear that you got some good ideas from my post.

      October/November should be a really great time to visit. As for the weather, I would say to expect everything! It will be starting to get nice and warm up north by then, but it will still be chilly (especially at night) down south. So be sure to bring some layers with you!

      I don’t think you should have much trouble booking things as you go at this time of year. You’ll be past ski season, but not quite into the summer holidays yet. It actually should be a great time to travel in NZ!

  • “There’s also the popular resort town of Queenstown, which will easily steal your heart if you’re not careful.”

    I wan’t careful 😉 <3

  • Love this post, Amanda! I’m headed to NZ in the fall and am trying to decide which island to spend more time on. This definitely helped!
    Susan @ Travel Junkette recently posted..PHOTO: Stunning Alaskan Sunburst

  • This makes me want to move to New Zealand so Badly! Cannot wait to get out there next year! Thanks so much for the info as I have been trying to figure out where to go and what to do! South Island sounds like just what I would love!

  • I am from the north, but after traveling the south on my bike for the last 7 months- the south wins hands down! I see you are returning here soon- what is on the list of to-sees?

    • Amanda says:

      The South Island is indeed pretty awesome! And yes! I’ll be back in November for about a month! Lots on the to-do list on both islands! I’m doing a Lord of the Rings tour for 2 weeks, then going back to favorites like the Coromandel, Wellington, Queenstown, etc. And hopefully going to some places I haven’t been before like Abel Tasman and the Waitomo Caves. Activities on the to-do list include doing The Ledge bungee in Queenstown (it’s the only one I haven’t done there), hiking the Tongariro Crossing, kayaking to Cathedral Cove, and swimming with seals in Kaikoura. It’s gonna be an awesome month!

  • Nic Farra says:

    I thought your blog was going to be about New Zealanders feelings about North vs South, and lemme tell ya, feelings run high! There was even a nascent secessionist movement in the South in the 70s. Weird thing about the West Coast is, and you will know this from having travelled there, but it is soooo much like another country! Coasters have always done things differently. The Labour movement began there, as did the welfare state practices that the rest of the country didn’t catch on to for another forty years, plus Coasters do realise there are laws they are meant to abide by: they just don’t follow them! A great example being a sparky I used to work with who is close to being legally blind – he peers at his circuit diagrams from very close up, and on this side of the Great Divide he bikes to get around. Whenever he goes home to the Coast though, he drives a landrover he’s been doing up since back in the day. No rego, no warrant. The local cop knows James, and knows he can drive all right, so he doesn’t do anything about it.

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