I often have people asking which island is best, and which island to visit if they have to choose. As a kiwi, I strongly recommend you visit both if at all possible, even if you see less of one and more of the other. I am from the North Island and I currently live in the South Island and have done so for the last 4 years. I often miss the North though and I will live there again.
The South Island is definitely unbeatable when it comes to its remoteness, its mountains, and its ruggedness. The pace of life is noticeably slower here, and the people that little bit more laid back. But the North Island has mountains too. And beaches. And even a handful of places that you will just not see anything like if you only visit the South. Two places of note are Rotorua and Tongariro National Park.
Rotorua is an epic destination in a thermal wonderland. Bubbling hot mud pools, geysers, incredible geothermal lakes – all of which the South Island has nothing that even comes close. It’s also a good rival to Queenstown in my opinion with its action packed adventure activitys; the luge, mountain biking galore, and some!
Tongariro National Park is a volcanic landscape which is home to three majestic mountains; Mt Ruapehu, Mt Ngauruhoe (also known as Mt Doom), and Mt Tongariro. It’s also home to two large ski fields (can’t ski on an active volcano in the South) and is home to the Tongariro Crossing – renowned as one of the top 10 day walks in the world. I find it hard to put into words how incredible this national park is. The volcanic landscape has nothing that comes close in the South and there are places where if you get onto the tracks in the area where you will second guess whether or not you are on the moon!!
The mountains in the North are more striking in some ways also because they stand alone. Also, the forests up here are equally striking with the Kauri trees (not found in the South) that stand majestically in the forest; you’ll be in awe of their size and you can literally feel their presence!!
Above and beyond these places that are unique to the North, the island is home to a whole other set of adventures and places to explore. It has its own story, and it’s own character and history. As rich and as beautiful as the incredible South Island 🙂