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New Zealand – North Island or South Island? Why not both!

Posted: 29 April 2015 Updated: 2 August 2016

There is no denying the magnificence of New Zealand’s South Island. The dramatic contrast of landscapes and spectrum of colours, rugged snow-capped mountains, stunning blue lakes and green rolling hills, not to mention the endless range of sporting and adventure activities at hand to further enhance a traveller’s experience. I have not forgotten my trip to the South Island easily. However I was also delighted to discover this year that the quieter, slightly slower-paced North Island has just as much to offer! I am surprised that the North remains so largely underrated.

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Kia Ora! Welcome to New Zealand – Kate meets Tour Director Kevin

Arriving into Auckland I was instantly greeted by a friendly chorus of “Kia Ora” from locals. Kia Ora is a warm Maori greeting, which embodies everything about the very hospitable Kiwi’s! It’s a great first impression of New Zealand and all this charming country has to offer.

For wine lovers like myself, the glorious Waiheke Island is only a 1-hour ferry ride out of Auckland Bay. The very scenic Waiheke is well known by locals and visitors alike as New Zealand’s “island of wine”. You can easily navigate the whole island by bus and over a few hours taste New Zealand’s most delicious wines and sample famous vineyards – I certainly didn’t leave empty handed!

And for those who only have a short time in this beautiful city, there is plenty to see and do around the city itself, particularly with a great range of restaurants and entertainment in the Viaduct Harbour precinct. I did discover that Auckland is also well-known for some the best shopping from fresh-food markets to designer fashion. For history buffs I definitely recommend a visit to Auckland’s War Memorial Museum, housed in one of Auckland’s most iconic and beautiful buildings. The collections include fascinating exhibitions on New Zealand’s natural and military history.

For nature and scenery lovers, the North Island is not without magnificent sights. Just a short drive North out of Auckland led us to the beautiful Bay of Islands known for some of New Zealand’s best beaches. We sat back and relaxed on the coach watching the cityscape views transform into a magical sea-side town within a few hours. It seems uncanny when New Zealanders say you’ll discover natural wonders at every turn but they’re not just showing off it really is like that!

New Zealand is abundant with wildlife experiences, not only limited to the paddocks of sheep you see all over the countryside. Swimming with playful wild dolphins in the Bay of Islands is definitely one for the bucket list. Whale-watching is a pretty special experience too; it’s a thrill to see these magnificent creatures in the wild. I was even lucky enough to spot New Zealand’s rare and iconic kiwi bird! They are surprisingly very cute and fluffy!

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Dolphin watching on the Bay of Islands

At the very northern tip of the Bay of Islands the aptly named ‘Hole in the Rock’ attracts many tourists. It wasn’t until I witnessed this majestic sight for myself on a cruise of the Bay that I could truly appreciate its fame and natural beauty. This massive rock formation has been carved by centuries of wind and wave erosion at sea level. It was amusing seeing every gasp as we cruised right through the middle of this narrow hole – what a rush!

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Hole In The Rock up close

So before booking a trip to New Zealand, be sure to include the North Island on your itinerary! The North is regularly understated and deserves as much credit as the South. If you can experience the whole country top to bottom and what is has to offer they’re shouldn’t be anything stopping you.

 Do yourself a favour and visit the North Island on one of these great New Zealand holidays.

Kate Reekie, Guest Blogger