We often get asked this question – if you don’t have a lot of time should you choose the South Island or the North Island of New Zealand.  It is an easy one for me to answer as I am biased having lived in the South Island for the past (let’s just say quite a few) years.   However, ask one of our best Tour Assistants Shannon and she would be blasting the North Island from the rooftops.

So, to help you decide, here are our five pro tips for choosing a tour in the North or South Island and you can decide for yourself.  Of course the best idea is to extend your time and travel with Flying Kiwi tours in both Islands . . .  

North Island

This Island has an area of 113,729km2 and is more populated than the South Island, with just over 3½ million people.  It has 12 main urban areas (of which only half are officially cities!).   The North Island does have the capital city – not Auckland as many suspect, but Wellington where our Parliament sit in the ‘Beehive’ (so named for its beehive like shape). 

The North Island is also quite a bit warmer than the South – especially the far north where temperatures can be over 30 degrees while in the far south of the South Island at the same time of year – Invercargill for example, can be in the low 20’s.

There is a lot of history in the North Island – the hot springs and the (not so pleasant) smell of Rotorua to the Treaty of Waitangi which happened in the far north and resulted in British Sovereignty for New Zealand.

There is volcanic activity in the North Island.   This can also be a con of course!  On a world scale the Taupo region of the North Island is extremely active with three active cone volcanoes (being Ruapehu, Tongariro & Ngauruhoe).   Don’t’ worry though as they are constantly monitored and are currently at level 0 or 1 on the 0-5 scale. While travelling with Flying Kiwi in the North Island we hike the famous Tongariro Crossing (considered one of the world's best one day hikes).  You can find more information on the Tongariro Crossing Hike here 

There are also amazing beaches on this Island.  Who can go past Hot Water Beach on the Coromandel Peninsula where you can dig your own hot pool when the tide is right, or the warm waters of the Bay of Islands where you can dive the infamous Rainbow Warrior.   Our overnight camp in this area is the Bay of Islands Waitangi iHoliday Park.

So to summarise;

#1 – the North Island has more people

#2 – the North Island is warmer

#3 – the North Island is steeped in history

#4 – the North Island is perfect for volcano watchers

#5 – the North Island has amazing beaches

Flying Kiwi offer a range of North Island only adventure tours which, include camping at Hot Water Beach, the Tongariro Crossing, Rotorua Hot Pools and the Taupo region amongst many other incredible highlights.  For a full list of our North Island tours see here


South Island

Ahhh my favourite Island.   An Introverts paradise, with a population of just over 1 million and an area of 151,215km2.  While the North Island may be warmer it is a well-known fact that the Tasman region of the South Island is known as the ‘Sunshine Capital’.

The South Island is also a hiker’s paradise with the more National Parks.  

The nine South Island National Parks are; The Abel Tasman National Park, Kahurangi National Park, Nelson Lakes National Park, Paparoa National Park, Arthurs Pass National Park, Westland Tai Poutini National Park, Aoraki Mount Cook National Park, Mount Aspiring National Park and of course Fiordland National Park in the Milford Sound.  The North Island has three!  Some of the most popular hikes with Flying Kiwi travellers include the multi day Routeburn Track and the smaller Mount Cook National Park.  There is loads of information on many of the different hikes that you can do with Flying Kiwi here.

The South Island is also home to Fox & Franz Josef Glaciers which is on the West Coast and is one of the most remote and sparsely populated areas of New Zealand. These massive glaciers descend from high in the Southern Alps to the lush rainforest on the edge of the Southern Ocean.  Somehow the townships of Fox and Franz Josef are squeezed in between.  Heli-hiking, where you take a helicopter up to the Glacier and, you guessed it, hike, is one of the favourite activities of all visitors to New Zealand.

Lastly the South Island also has the ‘adrenalin capital of New Zealand’ – Queenstown where you will find nearly every adrenalin activity under the sun and then some!  Some of the picks with Flying Kiwi travellers are the infamous Bungy Jumping, sky-diving, white water rafting and the canyon swing to name a few. 

So to summarise;

#1 – the South Island has less people and more land

#2 – the South Island has more National Parks

#3 – the South Island is a hiker’s paradise

#4 – the South Island is home to Fox & Franz Josef Glaciers

#5 – the South Island is an adrenalin junkie’s paradise  

Flying Kiwi offer a range of South Island adventure tours which include camping in amazingly remote spots, the buzz, adrenalin and nightlife of Queenstown and the South Island National Parks.  You can see a full list of our South Island camping and hiking tours here