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Planning a trip can be tough no matter where you’re heading, but it can be especially tough when the country in question has this weird rivalry between its two islands.

In that case, not only do you have an internal debate with yourself about which part you should visit, but you also find yourself having an external debate with the rest of the world about whether or not you’ve made the right choice.

You might be sat there right now scratching your head and thinking “What in the name of all things cheesy and delicious are you talking about?” If you are, I don’t blame you. That’s because I’m being intentionally elusive and mysterious to get you hooked and make you read beyond the first paragraph. And you’re still here, right? So my plan worked!

If the post title didn’t give it away already, I’m talking about New Zealand. 

Apparently the most recently discovered habitable country on the planet (emphasis on the discovered – of course, newer countries have come into existence since New Zealand’s ‘discovery’ as the result of war and independence and in some rare cases amicably breaking up with their former partners), New Zealand is, for those of you who haven’t looked at a map in a while, in the middle of nowhere.

I mean, it definitely looks like it’s right next door to Australia and looking at the map (that is if New Zealand even shows up on the map, what with the worldwide conspiracy going on right now), you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s a mere hop skip and a jump across the ocean, a few hours by catamaran or a speedy one-hour flight. I’d definitely forgive you for thinking that, anyway, mainly because I thought the same.

Much like sometimes very hardcore athletic people (and David Walliams) choose to swim from the UK to France, I thought swimming from Australia to New Zealand was a thing. 

It is not. I’ve done my research and it’s definitely not a thing. Flying from New Zealand to Australia is at least three and a half hours, so it’s safe to say swimming would be suicide and I’m really glad I didn’t decide to give it a go.

Anyway, my point is that for such a big-ish country, New Zealand is far, far away from anything and anywhere. And it is beautiful.

New Zealand is like Jurassic World and Lord of the Rings had a baby and they named Paradise its godmother. Click To Tweet

When my trip to New Zealand was in the initial planning stages, every man and their wife were asking me if I’d be heading North or South – so, to the North Island or the South Island. This is the most difficult part of planning an epic trip to New Zealand, apparently, deciding on how to split your time. Fortunately for me (or unfortunately, depends which side of the fence you’re sat on!) the main purpose of my trip aside from visiting Hobbiton was to visit my very best friend who lives in the North Island. So, as I only had little under three weeks, my mind was set – I’d be heading North.

Based on the reactions of the people I told, this is the wrong thing to do. Apparently, if you only have time to visit the North or South Island, you’re supposed to choose South. South is where the beauty is. South is where the unspoiled nature is. South is where you’ll find all of those jaw-droppingly stunning mountains and glaciers you see splashed all over the Instagram Explore page. In fact, my aunt is from the North Island and even she told me that the South is more beautiful.

To summarise in a way as commented on my Facebook page which really made me chuckle: South Island is better than the North Island – it’s real New Zealand, none of this faux green rolling hills made for the dairy industry.

Rolling green hills just outside of Hobbiton in Matamata Waikato in New Zealand
Example of the faux green rolling hills

I mean I totally get the whole rivalry thing! Trust me, I do. As a too-proud Welsh person, I burn up inside when I see people asking for recommendations on Facebook for places to visit in the UK but they only mention Scotland and England. Or saying “Hey, I’ve got a trip to London coming up but also want to take a day trip to either Scotland or Ireland…what do you think?” And EVEN BLOODY WORSE, when they say how they’re going to do a UK road trip but ‘don’t really think Wales is worth it’.

I’m telling y’all right now, Wales is the greatest nation in the UK. We have dragons – need I say more?!

So the whole North-South divide going on in New Zealand – from the bottom of my powered-by-welsh-cakes heart, I get it. And as a nice lady outside a cave in Waitomo told me about it: The grass is always greener. She, as a North Islander, thinks the South Island is an absolute beaut, but she also happens to know a lot of South Islanders who think the other way around.

One thing’s for sure, though, and that is that most foreign visitors to New Zealand prioritise the South Island above the North. 

Sure, the South Island is all nature-y and adventure-y and fun, and you can throw yourself off really high bridges and trees and buildings and make your mama weep into her cornflakes back home, but the North Island also has some bloody incredible sights to see! And I’m talking beyond the main points of interest, beyond what you see in the guidebooks. Just driving from one town to another will have your friendships almost in tatters as you’ll keep insisting for your friend to STOP THE CAR, I HAVE TO TAKE A PHOTO OF THAT FIELD OF SHEEP.

Of course, I haven’t visited the South Island yet – that adventure is yet to come, and one I am very much looking forward to. But for now, I just have a bunch of photos to share from the North Island in an attempt to reach out to my fellow outsiders planning a trip to New Zealand and say to them to give the North Island a chance (spoiler: they’re mostly waterfalls and some chickens).

No, it doesn’t have a nice big glacier you can walk on. But it does have a giant corrugated iron ram, and COME ON what more do you need?! 

Giant corrugated iron ram in Tirau
The giant corrugated iron ram in Tirau – so random, so fantastic.
The coastal view at Raglan
The view of the Raglan coast (we drove for an hour just to take this photo and race back home ha!)
The view over Mount Maunganui from Mauao
The view over Mt Maunganui from Mauao
Natural geysers and hot springs at Whakarewarewa
Natural geysers and hot springs at Whakarewarewa
Wharepuke Falls and the surrounding lake in Bay of Islands
Wharepuke Falls
The hole in the rock and a blue ocean
The hole in the rock – apparently it’s super famous!
boats docked at Russell in the Bay of Islands
Russell, Bay of Islands
a bird drinking some water at the Putaruru Blue Spring
Putaruru Blue Spring (very clear water, 70% of NZ’s spring water comes from here!)
view across the beach of Mount Maunganui
Mount Maunganui
little small island rocks off the coast of Mount Maunganui
Mount Maunganui
Auckland sky tower lit up at night
Auckland Sky Tower at night (can confirm I did not take this photo, because I suck taking photos at night – all © to my buddy G)
Rainbow Falls through some trees at Bay of Islands
Rainbow Falls, Bay of Islands
Rolling green hills and clear blue sky at Hobbiton Movie Set
Hobbiton, Matamata
Haruru Falls in Bay of Islands
Haruru Falls – Bay of Islands is basically just a bunch of islands and waterfalls
pretty view of the Bay of Islands from the top of a small hill
One of the many very purdy views in Bay of Islands
Mt Maunganui beach
Mt Maunganui beach

If you’ve been to New Zealand’s North Island, let me know your favourite part! I’m heading back soon and want to explore all the places and see all the things.

 

If New Zealand is on your bucket list but you aren't sure what the North Island has to offer, check out this article for 27 amazing photos of the North Island that'll have you booking your flight faster than you can say Whakarewarewa. #NewZealand #PureNewZealand #NorthIsland

28 Comments

  1. Ahh it just looks so stunning! Aaron’s grandmother was from NZ and so it’s somewhere that’s always interested him. And you know I love a bloody geyser or two. But when I looked into it, I found it really confusing, everything I wanted to do was spread so ridiculously far apart.

    Your post as always has me now wanting to jump on a plane. It would be a trip of a life time for sure, but one I hope we’ll do one day.

    https://amyevans.co.uk – Amy 💘

    • rhiydwi Reply

      Definitely! You’re right that everything is quite spread out. I booked my friend and me for a weekend at almost the most Northern tip of the island thinking it’d be a 3-hour drive max. It wasn’t until I got there, told him about the plan that he was like “You know that’s at least 5 hours driving, right?” And he’s the only driver – HA! We still went and it was amazing. It’s an epic country for road trips – my aunt is from the North Island (as mentioned in the post, don’t know why I’m telling you again haha) and she told me just before I went that she used to absolutely LOVE just driving up and down the coast on summer holidays with her parents when she was younger. If Aaron’s gran is from there, you should definitely go some day! I heard they have snow in the South too….just saying 😉

  2. Wonderful photos! I’m afraid I too am a South island lover. 😉 You’ll realise when you go, hehe. That said, I absolutely loved Rotorua, Hobbiton (obvs) and most of all Wellington! We were pretty keen on doing a working holiday just so we could live in Wellington. I honestly like both islands, and I think it’s a shame if people only visit the south and miss the north.

    • rhiydwi Reply

      Oh dang it, not another one 😉 Hoping to visit sooner rather than later so as to see for myself! Oh really?! I didn’t visit Wellington this time but am hoping to go back on a WHV veeeery soon and will have plenty of time to explore every nook and cranny. Quite a few people have told me the North is only good for the airport… Clearly not LOTR fans!

  3. Beautiful photos of my home country. I am a North Island girl but have been all over the South Island too – I always tell people that if you want amazing mountains and lakes – then head to the South Island, but if you want Maori and Pacific Island culture, incredible beaches and loads of thermal activity, then the North Island is the place to go.

    • rhiydwi Reply

      That’s exactly what I heard from a few people in the North Island! I really can’t wait to visit the South so as to be able to give a more objective opinion, but I can’t actually imagine anywhere as beautiful as the North Island… it really did take my breath away!

  4. New Zealand looks like an amazing country, so much natural beauty and your photos of North Island are really appealing. I love the mix of greenery, coastal landscape and the quirky sights such as that giant ram in Tirau!

  5. I’ve never been to NZ, but if this is what the North Island looks like, and the South Island is even more gorgeous, idk I can’t even handle that. Everyone I’ve ever known who’s been to NZ has absolutely fallen in love – and actually one of my friends who went there for holiday ended up staying there for good, that’s how much she liked it! That giant ram is so random haha. Kind of reminds me of these giant dinosaurs I saw on the side of the highway near Los Angeles. Love it haha. I need to get my butt over to NZ (and Wales ;)) ASAP!

  6. Your title is so spot on because I definitely want to visit here now! Such a beautiful places and pictures!

  7. I LOVED the North Island.

    My friend lives there and we visited for a wedding, so we managed to visit both islands but we had to start North. The thing I liked best ‘oop north were all the volcanic areas. I thought Tongariro National Park was stunning, and I LOVED Wai o Tapau for all the crazy volcanic hot pools.

    We then went to the South Island for the second part of our trip…but I feel like I could spend months in both!!

  8. It all looks amazing! I only went to New Zealand for 5 days so didn’t get to see a lot other than Auckland. Definitely want to go back again some day and see a lot more!

  9. Oh my goodness, your photos are so beautiful! I, too, have noticed the rivalry with north vs. south island and I haven’t understood why… I mean, why do we even need to choose? Let’s just all go to both! Haha with that said, after seeing these photos I think I’m going to have an even tougher time choosing between the two since I simply won’t have enough vacation time to visit both in one trip. However I gotta say, your photos are definitely making me lean towards north for now!

  10. Very nice pictures! Thanks for showcasing NZ’s North island, it is very much under-appreciated compared to the south! haha 😛

  11. I love your pictures! I was only there for 10 days but we pretty much covered a lot of the same area. Did you love Bay of Islands as much as I did?! I am still not over how beautiful the different areas were!

  12. Hahaha The island rivalry is SO real! I seasonally work on cruise ships and have done a lot of New Zealand contracts. Everyone I talk to is either super convinced the North is better or super convinced the South is. I’d love to come back on my own time and rent a VW bus to roadtrip both islands!
    Great photos by the way!

  13. These photos are beautiful! I used to live in New Zealand and Wellington is one of my favourite places in the world so I guess I could claim that the North Island is my favourite. The South Island is a must see if you’re heading back again though. Just an excuse for another trip though isn’t it!

  14. BOOK ME A GOD DAMN PLANE TICKET RIGHT NOW. LIKE, RIGHT NOW. Eurgh, I have the worst case of wanderlust after this post!!

  15. UHHHH, I so need to be there – like yesterday. I have been wanting to go to NZ forever. Your photos are just incredible and inspiring – the rolling hills, cliff views, waterfalls….ahhhhh I can’t wait to go and see it in person~

  16. Never been to New Zealand . But it has been on my list for ages now. Will definitely keep South Island in my itinerary now after seeing this post. It’s absolutely beautiful especially the Haruru Falls.

  17. Oh damn… You’re right! Even I thought NZ is hardly an hour flight from Aus!!! 3.5hrs is from one end of EU to another! That’s not near at all….
    Indeed North looks incredibly gorgeous. I haven’t been to the Oceania at all, so I have nothing to comment about even Aus for that matter. I didn’t know of the north south divide of NZ. I’ll bother about it when I decide to go there…
    Btw, I did miss Ireland when I was in UK but I managed to visit Wales! Peace… 😉

  18. New Zealand has been on our mind for so many years. It is such a stunning place. Would love to visit the Hobbit village for sure. The landscape looks so stunning.

  19. Hey there! I think this is my first time on your blog and you really made me chuckle! love your humour and writing style 🙂 I spent over two months in New Zealand last year and I’ll admit, I haven’t decided which one of the islands I prefer yet! LOL! I loved them both and why should we choose anyway?

    • rhiydwi Reply

      Hi Sabrina!! Thanks for reading, I’m glad I gave you a bit of a laugh!
      Totally with you on the why do we need to choose! We can have our Kiwi cake AND eat it… on both islands!

  20. Every place here looks out of the world. NZ is just so pristine and lovely. It has been climbing up on my wander-list every day and with pictures like these, it has made it to the top five now. Fingers crossed that I can get there with my own camera. I sure want to capture these

  21. I went to North Island of New Zealand for the New Years several years back and loved it so much. There’s so much to explore. I loved Wellington and Rotorua a lot.

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