The North Island of New Zealand holds more than three quarters of our population of nearly 4.9 million people despite being the smaller of the two islands, this is mostly due to the North Island having a warmer climate and being more accessible to the rest of the world despite being smaller than the South Island. Auckland is the North Island and New Zealand's largest city and is where most visitors first arrive to New Zealand. From Auckland it is easy to travel by rental car, camper van, tour or via domestic flights to the rest of the country.
The most Northern region of New Zealand, Northland is often referred to as the Winterless North due to it's subtropical climate and incredible coastlines. The region spans from Kaipara Harbour all the way to Cape Reinga, with Whangarei being the largest town with a population of nearly 60,000. Whangarei is considered the gateway to Northland, in particular the stunning beaches of the Tutukaka Coastline - only a short 30 minute drive away.
The region has a great deal to offer, including Cape Reinga, 90 Mile Beach, the Bay of Islands, Whangarei Falls and Tane Mahuta (New Zealand's largest Kauri Tree) just to name a few! Northland can be explored easily by rental car, camper van or by joining a tour - Northland is Sole Ventures birthplace and back yard so be sure to check out our Northland tours if you are interested!
The Auckland Region spans from Kaipara Harbour to Pukekohe and includes New Zealand's largest city, Auckland City has a population of over 1 million people and makes up for nearly a quarter of New Zealand's total population. Incredibly, Auckland is situated on top of an active volcanic field with 53 different volcanoes erupting within the last 200,000 years! Most of the volcanoes are located in the city itself, the most recent to erupt was Rangitoto only 600 years ago.
Volcanoes aside, Auckland city has some amazing features for travellers and locals alike. The 220-metre high Sky Tower is definitely worth a visit along with any number of our fantastic bars, restaurants and cafes throughout the city. If you're a coffee fan then you're in for a treat - New Zealand, and Auckland in particular have more coffee roasters per capita than anywhere in the world, and arguably some of the best coffee worldwide!
The wider region also has some great hotspots, the West Coast is fantastic with a number of picturesque black sand beaches such as Piha, Te Henga (Bethells), Muriwai and Karekare. Muriwai and the neighbouring Maori Bay are some of the most popular for visitors, with a year round gannet colony, stunning sunsets, famous West Coast surf and 50km of untouched beach it's worth a visit!
The Waikato is the North Island's largest region and spans from the Bombay Hills just south of Auckland City all the way down to Ruapehu and the Kaimai Ranges. Some of the region is also know as 'King Country' as this is where the Maori King Tawhiao found refuge after the Maori wars.
The heartland of New Zealand's farming and agriculture industries due to fertile soils and extensive plains, Waikato is full of open green spaces and scenic countryside. You can find a number of New Zealand's best attractions in the Waikato, including Taupo, the Coromandel Peninsula, Hobbiton and the Waitomo Caves. Because the region is quite spread out and there is so much to explore the best way to see it all is via rental car or a tour. Hamilton City has a population of around 160,000 people, making it New Zealand's fourth largest city, and serves as the central hub of the region.
The Bay of Plenty region covers a large costal region with nearly 260km of remarkable coastline to explore with stunning white sand beaches and a number of other attractions. Waihi Beach and the surrounding area is definitely worth a visit along with Mount Manganui's impressive views and surf beach. White Island is an active volcano off the coast than can be visited by boat or helicopter!
Tauranga is the main city in the Bay of Plenty, with a population of around 140,000 it is New Zealand's fifth largest city. Stretching from the base of the Coromandel Peninsula to East Cape, the region is easily accessible to those with cars, camper vans, or by one of the top notch tours that explore the region.
Located on the far east of the North Island, Gisborne region is named after the largest town in the area and has a population of just under 50,000. It is a 6-7 hour drive from Auckland City and is most popular for its picture perfect beaches, unreal surf and annual New Yeats festival 'Rhythm and Vines'. Up to 30,000 people gather annually in one of the local vineyards to party in the New Year!
There are dozens of beaches to choose from near Gisborne City, Wainui Beach is just out of town and the nearby Kaiti Hill offers impressive views of the city and coastline. If you follow State Highway 35 along the coast north of Gisborne you will find a number of marvellous beaches.
The Hawkes bay region spans from Gisborne in the North down towards Palmerston North in the south and is well known for it's fabulous vineyards and amazing coastline. The regions two largest cities, Hastings and Napier, sit 10 minutes apart on the coastline and have a combined population of over 140,000.
Top things to do include a visit to one of the regions many renowned vineyards such as Elephant Hill Estate, Craggy Range or Mission Estate. These and many more host fantastic restaurants, lovely views and produce world class wines. The Hawke's Bay Coastline also offers some fantastic attractions such as Cape Kidnappers and the surrounding area, here you can find a year round colony of Australasian gannets and beaches that look like they have been pulled straight from a postcard.
Recently rated by Lonely Planet as the second best region in the world to visit (incredible, we know!!), Taranaki is on of New Zealand's seriously underrated regions. Never too crowded, host to one of our world famous National Parks (Egmont National Park) and with alpine hiking and some of the best surf in the country only an hours drive apart - what's not to get excited about!
Because it lies to the West of the North Island and takes a large detour from the main highway between Auckland and Wellington to reach, fewer people visit Taranaki but those who do are always blown away. Mount Taranaki lies in the Egmont National Park and is considered one of the world's most symmetrical mountains (Similar to Japan's Mount Fuji), and holds some incredible hiking, sightseeing, waterfalls and mountaineering for the outdoor enthusiast.
Surf Highway 45 is sandwiched between the mountain and the coast and is aptly named for it's dozens of extraordinary surf beaches that provide 180 degrees of ocean swells and wind protection. There are less than 80,000 people living in the region and with nearly 80% of them living in the main town (New Plymouth), it is easy to feel like you are the only people around at times.
Located in the lower North Island, the Manawatu-Whanganui region's two largest towns are Palmerston North and Wanganui with populations of 87,000 and 40,000 respectively. Both towns are unique but are nearby to the number of incredible attractions in the region.
The main attraction lies in the Northern part of the region and borders Lake Taupo - The Tongariro National Park. One of 13 National Parks in New Zealand, Tongariro is famous for its volcanoes, ski slopes, natural features and striking hiking trails, the most famous being the Tongariro Alpine Crossing which is considered one of the best day hikes in the world!
The region also shares another of our National Parks, the Wanganui National Park, with the Taranaki Region. Wanganui National Park is home to the Forgotten World Highway, remarkable kayaking and rafting and a host of other natural attractions.
The Wellington region's largest city and the New Zealand Capital, Wellington, is located at the southernmost point of the North Island which also makes it the southernmost capital city in the world! A wonderful city with a population of 412,000 and full of culture, Wellington is host to a vast number of festivals, theatres, museums along with our iconic parliament building - the 'Beehive'. The compact city is great to explore on foot, otherwise there is a fantastic public transport system to easily enjoy the city.
The city CBD is situated on the harbour side so it makes for great dining views in any number of world-class cafes, restaurants and bars. Te Papa Museum, also located on the city’s water front displays some amazing artwork and photography along with regular exhibitions. The exhibitions range from culture to lego to art and everything in between! A guided tour of the Museum can be a great option as the staff are friendly and highly knowledgeable.
In the wider region, the Tararua Forest Park offers remarkable hiking, the wild coastline is well worth exploring and the Martinborough area has more then 20 boutique wineries to choose from. For those venturing further south there are inter-island ferries that run daily crossing the Cook Straight in around 3 hours, opening the gates to exploring the South Island, or regular domestic flights from Wellington Airport.
The larger of our two main Islands, the South Island has total population of only 1.1 million and vast swathes of untouched wilderness. The largest city of Christchurch is located on the more populous East Coast and serves as a good starting point for many visitors, or alternatively you can fly to Queenstown, Dunedin or Nelson to get closer to your destinations especially if you are short on time. In the South Island there are snowcapped mountains, pristine lakes and crystal clear rivers at every turn, it is definitely worth investing the time to explore properly!
Nelson City is located at the top of the South Island, a coastal city with a population of a little over 50,000 that acts as the jumping point for the staggering number of natural attractions within the Nelson-Tasman Region.
North-west of Nelson City the Abel Tasman National Park is our smallest National Park and is know for incredible hiking trails, kayaking, camping and beaches thats to the region being one of the sunniest in New Zealand. Further South is the Nelson Lakes National Park, renown for picturesque lakes, winding rivers and unreal hiking. Out to the east lies the Kahurangi National Park that hosts the famous Heaphy Trail, many of these areas also have great mountain biking for all levels.
As if having three National Parks to choose from wasn't enough, the region is also know for the fascinating Golden Bay and Farewell Spit. If you are planning on doing some hiking the best option is to organise a shuttle from Nelson or join a tour.
Contained in the north-east portion of the South Island, the Marlborough Region is most famous for incredible wines and the awe-inspiring Marlborough Sounds (you get a taste of the sounds if you catch the inter-islander ferry from Wellington to Picton).
Considered one of the finest growing regions in the country alongside Otago and Hawke's Bay, the wineries here are not to be missed. The Marlborough Sounds are home to to the famous Queen Charlotte hiking track and D'Urville Island along with hundreds of kilometres of untouched coastline, islands and hidden coves.
Alongside visiting the prestigious wineries there are many other great attractions such as great walking and cycling trails. This region is best explored via car although many tours run out of Blenheim even taking you on water based journeys throughout the Marlborough Sounds. Picton is the main port where ferries between here and Wellington run daily to connect the two Islands.
Never more than 50km wide but stretching more than 600km north to south, the West Coast region is sandwiched between the Southern Alps and the coast. One of the most unpopulated regions in New Zealand, the region is made up of several towns with the major ones being Hokitika, Westport and Greymouth with a combined population of around 20,000.
Thanks to it's unique geography the West Coast has a striking landscape of 3000m snow-capped mountains and rugged coastline, including numerous rivers, beaches, glaciers, forest and other natural attractions. Accessible via Arthur's Pass from Christchurch or Haast Pass leaving from Wanaka or Queenstown, most people explore the area via car or camper van due to the size of the region.
The Canterbury Region is located on the east coast of the South Island, spanning as far north as Kaikoura and down to Makikihi in the South. The main city is Christchurch and with a population of about 370,000 it is the largest city in the South Island. The city has a great international airport making access to the surrounding regions fairly easy via bus, plane or even helicopter.
The region has a lot of farm country on the Canterbury Plains before the terrain steepens substantially as it rises up to the Southern Alps running down the middle of the Island. Many people will venture south toward the lakes of Tekapo, Mount Cook, Wanaka and Queenstown while others explore the city or head north to see the breaching whales in Kaikoura! The region is also home to one of our most famous National Parks - Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park.
Home to the famous towns of Queenstown and Wanaka, the Otago region is located near the bottom of the South Island amongst a mixture of rugged coastline, snowy peaks and picture perfect mountain lakes. This region is truly breath taking so it is worth taking the time to explore it properly!
There are hundreds of attractions and activities to do in the region, the main ones being ski fields, hiking, sightseeing, mountain biking and mountaineering depending on the season. Home to the Mount Aspiring National Park and the gateway to Fiordland and the West Coast the Queenstown/Wanaka area in particular is one of the adventure hubs of the world and cannot be missed!
You can fly directly into Queenstown or alternatively fly to Dunedin or Christchurch and then drive or bus wherever you would like to go in the region. Often people join tours in Otago as there is simply so much to see and do.
The Southland region is the southernmost of New Zealand, Invercargill is located right near the bottom of the country and is the regions biggest township. One of the main attractions in the region is Fiordland National Park, nearly as big as all of our other National Parks combined, the vast and untouched wilderness to be found in Fiordland is truly impressive. It is home to 13 seperate sounds including the famous Milford Sound, towering mountains, thundering waterfalls that drop into the sea and much more.
Southland also includes Stewart Island, with the Rakiura National Park covering 85% of the Island's 1570 square kilometres, as well as sharing the stunning Catlins Coast with Otago. At times you can see the southern lights thanks to minimal light pollution and clear skies.