North Island or South Island? Depends what you’re after

New Zealand may be packed with attractions and activities to squeeze into a holiday, but there are two islands to choose from – or at least divide your time between. So which – North Island or South Island – deserves most of your attention? We picked 10 criteria to assess them on, to see which island is best at what.

City life

Christchurch tries hard, bless it, while Dunedin has some handsome architecture. But Auckland on the North Island is the only NZ city that feels like an urban area capable of competing on the world stage (indeed it was named the world’s best city for 2022 by Lonely Planet). It’s sprawling, multicultural and multi-faceted. Buzzy Wellington, at the southern end of the North Island, is different, but naturally beautiful, walkable, and fuelled by cool coffee roasters and restaurants.

Winner: North Island


No-one who has endured Wellington’s blustery winds would jump to crown the North Island as having paradise weather, but it’s generally warmer and sunnier in the north. The Bay of Plenty and Taranaki frequently squabble over which is sunniest, but they’re comfortably ahead of the bottom of the South Island. Make sure you’ve got some warm clothes and a rain mac if venturing near Invercargill…

Winner: North Island


Cathedral Cove, near Whitianga on the Coromandel Peninsula, North Island, New Zealand. This is a major tourist attraction of the area and is situated in a Marine Reserve.

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