Sharing's caring! Share this awesome article with your friends, you know u wanna...
Share on Facebook
0Tweet about this on Twitter
Share on LinkedIn
Pin on Pinterest

Alright, my blog gets quite a few hits these days so I should maintain (begin?) some level of professionalism and give a balanced argument. However, I have no intention of doing that.

I’ve recently returned from driving a campervan around New Zealand and if you’re trying to choose which island to visit in New Zealand, north or south, the answer is simple. The South Island.

Just to make that clearer : If you don’t have time for both, choose the south. Done.

Milford Sound NZ
Milford Sound
Here are 3 reasons why:

Natural Beauty

All of New Zealand looks good, that’s what makes it so attractive to us backpacking folk. However, the South Island beats the North hands down when it comes to natural beauty. The North island is more forest, bush and beachy. The South island is what you hope and expect New Zealand will look like – glaciers, lakes, fjords, endless vistas. Any iconic image you’ve seen of NZ was probably taken in the South Island

Lake Matheson NZ
Lake Matheson (South Island!)


If I had to choose where to live in New Zealand, I’d probably choose the north island, but to travel? It’s a no brainer, head south. The North Island activities tend to revolve around the fact that they have the majority of the population. Big city life, nightclubs and beach visits. Personally speaking, I find that New Zealand north island tastes very similar to Australia. Now that’s not a bad thing, I lived in Australia a few years ago (come on, it’s an Irish right of passage these days). But if you want the true NZ experience, it’s not to be found up north.


john ward Kayaking at Milford Sound
Kayaking at Milford Sound

The South Island however, it’s the home of the backpacker. Hiking, zip lines, kayaking, bungee jumping, skydiving, Queenstown has more activities per person than any other town in the world, so if you haven’t been here and done some adrenaline orientated activity with a dirty hangover well my friend, you haven’t traveled.

johnny ward john ward new zealand helicopter ride
Me on a helicopter ride in New Zealand’s South Island


The People

You don’t come to New Zealand to look at a concrete jungle, forget big city life. Part of the beauty of traveling is the people that you meet on the road. And although the South Island is much more sparsely populated than the north, the kinda people you meet on the South Island are just generally more awesome than the people in the North (sorry to offend, actually no I’m not).

johnny ward johny ward skydiving in New Zealand south island
Skydiving with some awesome people in the South Island


Backpackers in the south wanna ‘really travel’, they wanna see the true New Zealand. They wanna camp and sleep in a campervan, trek and bungee jump. They wanna drink cheap booze and have fun.

My sexy campervan from

The North Island is more diesel jeans and designer haircuts, which certainly has its place, but they’re not my peeps. At least not when I’m on the road.

The locals in the South Island are famously friendly, so get your traveling asses here asap and confirm my beliefs on the North South debate! Happy travels!


Remember, never travel without travel insurance! And never overpay for travel insurance!

I use HeyMondo. You get INSTANT quotes. Super cheap, they actually pay out, AND they cover almost everywhere, where most insurance companies don't (even places like Central African Republic etc!). You can sign-up here. PS You even get 5% off if you use MY LINK! You can even sign up if you're already overseas and traveling, pretty cool.

Also, if you want to start a blog...I CAN HELP YOU!

Also, if you want to start a blog, and start to change your life, I'd love to help you! Email me on In the meantime, check out my super easy blog post on how to start a travel blog in under 30 minutes, here! And if you just want to get cracking, use BlueHost at a discount, through me.

Also, (if you're like me, and awful with tech-stuff) email me and my team can get a blog up and running for you, designed and everything, for $300 - email to get started.

Do you work remotely? Are you a digital nomad/blogger etc? You need to be insured too.

I use SafetyWing for my digital nomad insurance. It covers me while I live overseas. It's just $10 a week, and it's amazing! No upfront fees, you just pay week by week, and you can sign up just for a week if you want, then switch it off and on whenever. You can read my review here, and you can sign-up here!


So if you’re ready to…..

1) Change your life
2) Travel the world
3) Get paid to travel
4) Create a positive influence on others
5) Be free of offices and ‘real world’ rubbish

Then Sign Up Below and Let’s Get Started!


Got a question? Wanna comment? I'd love to hear from you

8 thoughts on “New Zealand; Is the North Island or South Island better?

  1. Pingback: 新西兰;北岛好还是南岛好?| 一步之遥 4Ward-数字游民指南
  2. I’ve been on a working holiday. So I travel both islands. I love South the most! stunning natures/scenery, sleeping in campervans, trekking like what you said! cheers!

  3. I’m all for the South Island Johnny… Heading for Franz Joseph and along the west coast next week and loved Milford Sound.. New Zealand is such a good spot!

  4. Nice debate Johnny!! Call me an eejit but I preferred the north island! Each to their own. Rotorua is an amazing city, and Taupo and the Tongariro are fantastic terrains. Taupo also has the worlds cheapest available skydive. I found the south a bit too “backpackery” and not so many locals, I made friends with locals in the north in places like Papamoa and Hamilton. Plus I think Wellington is a very underrated city – good for a pub crawl, and one of few cities in the world which has an English, Irish, Scottish and Welsh pub in it! Your pics are great and your south island stuff reminds me of my time there too. Both islands are worth it, I just favoured the north!

  5. Mate, I’m glad you said ‘If you don’t have time for both’ because in that case then yes I’d agree with you, choose the South Island. But Northland, the finger peninsula north of Auckland, & the volcanic centre, especially The Tongariro Crossing in Tongariro National Park, of the North Island are both breathtaking & on a par with anything the South Island can offer. Different breathtaking, but breathtaking nonetheless.

  6. I can’t argue that the south island is awesome, because, it is and there’s no denying it. If someone only had enough time to do one island, I’d probably recommend the south as well… but I wouldn’t knock the north. It’s not quite the bad guy you make it out to be lol.

    Yeah, there are more cities and therefore more people in the north island, but if the cities are all you visit, then they’re all you’ll see. There are plenty of small towns, out of the way and off the map places that are worth a visit.

    Although, if you’re looking for an authentic experience with traditional New Zealanders (aka the native, Maori, who have a completely fascinating culture) you won’t find anything remotely close to that in the south island (what you do come across will be fabricated for tourists, as the south island is predominately white europeans).

    I spent a year living on the south island, and over 3 years living in the Far North of the north island (and trust me, not many make the venture north of auckland, and if they do they get stuck in the bay of islands trap, and miss out) so please excuse my defensiveness, I mean no harm 😉

    1. dont apologise Kate, u know more about it than me! I was hoping for someone to defend the north island 😛 You’re right about the Maori culture, no arguments there. However, I stand by my statement that if you wanna feel like you’ve seen the NZ you’ve dreamt about, then it’s the South Island that’ll make those dreams a reality 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Follow me on Instagram @onestep4ward