The northern portion of North Island has vibrant cities and some of the most extraordinary scenery anywhere in the world. Northland peninsula stretches out to form the northerly tip of the island. The peninsula has long been a popular destination for tourists, boasting some truly stunning scenery with huge areas of untouched forest, vast sand dunes, enormous expanses of beach and unique geological formations.
Auckland is a bustling, cosmopolitan city with plenty in the way of restaurants, bars, cafes and museums. It is also unique in New Zealand in being relatively ethnic diverse as well as having a strong Maori presence. East of Auckland, the Coromandel Peninsula pokes out into the sea and is popular for its magnificent sandy beaches and its dramatic coastal scenery. South west from here, Hamilton is fast emerging as an exciting and fun city with bars and restaurants to rival those in Auckland.
The city of Wellington sits at the southern most point of North Island. It is New Zealand's capital city culturally as well as politically and boasts a fine array of galleries, museums, dining and entertainment options. It also has a beautiful harbour area, gazing out towards the South Island. Due north of Wellington is the Tongariro National Park. This is the oldest national park in New Zealand and boasts some breathtaking volcanic landscapes, a stunningly diverse flora and rich birdlife.
The town of Taupo has made a name for itself as an adventure sports hub and offers a whole range of pastimes for adrenaline junkies including bungee jumping, sailing, skydiving and jet boating. The more culturally minded traveller should head to Napier. This city was all but wiped out by an earthquake in 1931 and subsequently rebuilt in an art deco style. It calls itself the 'art deco capital of the world' and has some truly fine examples of the style.
The northern tip of South Island is made up of a series of islands and submerged valleys. The Marlborough Sounds are a stunning and unique series of these islands. They can be explored by boat and offer the prospect of glimpsing dolphins, whales and lots of sea birds. Due west, Nelson is a good base for exploring the Abel Tasman National Park. It is also a fun and exciting city in its own right and is best known for its plethora of wineries and its adventure sporting opportunities. The attractive city of Christchurch on the east coast is famed for its laid back lifestyle, its amazing collection of gothic revival architecture and its beautifully maintained botanical gardens.
In a country of stunning scenery and rugged wilderness, the southern portion of the South Island distinguishes itself as perhaps the most stunning and wild part. There are a few urban centres here- Invercargill, Queenstown and Dunedin numbering among them but the population is otherwise extremely sparse. The Southlands are an area of jagged mountains with vast tracts of icy glacier. Nearby, Fiordlands is about as untouched as it gets. One of the most expansive national parks in the world, it is speculated that there are species in its interior that have long been considered extinct. This is where you'll find the Milford Sound, perhaps the most iconic sight in the country, with sheer jagged cliffs rising straight out of the sea.
Head to Queenstown for your fill of adventure sports and choose from skiing, parapenting, luge, bungy jumping, rafting and hiking; All this against the backdrop of the Remarkables - a staggering sawtooth mountain range. Finally, don't miss out on Dunedin. The 'Edinburgh of the South', Dunedin prides itself on its Scottish heritage (you'll even find a statue of Robbie Burns here!). It also has the dubious claim to fame of having the steepest street in the world.