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North vs. South Island

Los Angeles
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North vs. South Island

I will be traveling to NZ for 8 nights/9 days at the end of February, flying in and out of Auckland. I am traveling by myself and trying to decide if I should go to the North or South Island as a first time visitor to NZ. I am inclined to stay on the north island due to smaller size and my relatively short stay and make plans to go back to south island at a later date. I have been researching spending time in the north of the north island and the last couple of days in Wellington. I love the outdoors and enjoy a mix of city/beach life. Thoughts or suggestions? Should I consider South Island instead?

Rarotonga, Cook...
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for Rarotonga, Waiheke Island, Southern Cook Islands, Auckland Central
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1. Re: North vs. South Island

Based upon the fact that you are only spending 8 nights in NZ, and flying into and out of Auckland, I suggest you spend time enjoying what the North Island offers this trip. Although there are many wonderful attractions around NZ, it will take further travelling time to reach longer distances, than simply arriving into Auckland refreshing yourself in this city (especially if after a long flight), ahead of your sightseeing adventures.

If you love the outdoors, and would enjoy a mix of both city life and extraordinary beaches, here's a possible itinerary:-

Arrive Auckland - explore (including ferry ride and organised tour) to Waiheke Island. This gem sits on the fringes of Auckland's Waitemata harbour (east) and contains an ecclectic mix of accommodation, winery cafes, beautiful beaches and bays, short costal walks, arts trails and galleries - Stay around Viaduct harbour in downtown Auckland, or inner city area for 2 nights.

Drive North - via Matakana & Leigh to Bay of Islands. Base yourself in Paihia, Russell, Waitangi or Kerikeri - bay cruises, early settlemetn history, Maori culture, day trip to Cape Reinga (if time allows) from Paihia and points northwards - 2 nights. 1 night could be spent in Whangarei district at Tutukaka - day cruise to Poor Knights Islands - world renowned maritime heritage site east of Whangarei city.

Return to Auckland via west coast Northland - view giant kauri trees, and the Matakohe Museum - 1 night north, or east of Auckland on Hibiscus coast or Takapuna beach.

Drive through Auckiland city south to Coromandel, or to Bay of Plenty - explore this east coast region 1 nights.

From Mt Maunganui, or Coromandel, head to Rotorua city - explore geothermal attractions & visit Taupo from here - 2 nights.

Los Angeles
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2. Re: North vs. South Island

Thank you so much for the helpful and honest feedback. much appreciated.



New Zealand
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for South Island
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3. Re: North vs. South Island

Welcome to the forum EMC :)

yep, explore the North Island and next time you are down this way plan to spend a few weeks in the South Island.

Happy travels :)

Auckland Central...
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4. Re: North vs. South Island


Given the short time that you will be here I would definitely recommend sticking to the north island. With 9 days you would have time to comfortably enjoy the Auckland Region and Northland. You could go further afield and possibly take in the central area (Rotorua and Taupo) but it would depend on how much travelling you wanted to do – I take it that you would be renting a car and flying between Auckland and Wellington?

I would suggest spending your first two or three days in the Auckland Region to get over the journey. Your enjoyment of the outdoors can begin within an hour of the airport out in the Waitakere Ranges a very scenic area to the west of the city. If you wanted to be closer to the city then I would suggest that you consider Devonport – just a short ferry ride from downtown Auckland but much quieter than in the city itself and close to a nice beach.

I would suggest that you do confine yourself to going north and would recommend going north via the Kauri Museum at Matakohe and on up through the Waipoua Forest to the Hokianga – in my view the jewel in Northland’s crown. This is a good day’s drive from Auckland but quite doable. You will be able to find accommodation on the waterfront overlooking the harbor.

From the Hokianga across to the Bay of Islands is a short drive (a bit over an hour) . Paihia is more central for exploring the rest of Northland but Russell is much more picturesque and quieter. You could spend 3 or more days in the BOI but 3 is probably enough. This would enable you if you wished to take a bus trip up to Cape Reinga and 90 mile beach , take a boat trip out to the Hoel in the Rock and have a good look around Russell, Paihia, Waitangi and the surrounding area.

I would suggest heading back to Auckland via the coast roads – they take a bit longer but are very scenic.

Unless you have a special reason for visiting Wellington then I would consider giving it a miss and do it on your next visit. Wellington is a small compact and I think a very pleasant city but I wonder whether you would do better to spend more time up north.

The north island vs south island question is often raised. It is not a case of one being better than the other. They are different and I would argue that the north island is more diverse than the south island. If you can then definitely best to come back abother time to head south.

Enjoy your visit.

5. Re: North vs. South Island

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