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1 Week in New Zealand: North or South Island?

If you have just 1 week in New Zealand, you will need to choose which island to visit.

Both islands are equally captivating, but with only 7 days to explore, the North Island is your best choice. The South Island is deservedly popular, but 1 week isn’t enough to do it justice. You need at least 10 days or more to see the best of the South Island.

With the North Island, on the other hand, you can hit all the major highlights in 1 week. You can then visit the South Island when you return (as you definitely should do!).

Why is the North Island best if I have 1 week in New Zealand?

There are many reasons why the North Island is the best destination for a 1-week holiday.

North Island Self Drive Holiday Packages - 1 week in New Zealand
Driving through lush native bush on the North Island

1. Shorter driving times

Driving times between destinations on the North Island are shorter, so you can spend more time experiencing and less time driving. You can hit most of the top highlights without spending more than 2.5 hours driving on any one day.

On the South Island, most driving times are upwards of 3 or 4 hours, depending on how ambitious your itinerary is.

hobbit village
Hobbiton Movie Set Tour

2. A huge variety of sights within easy reach of Auckland

To minimize travel time on your 1-week holiday, you will likely fly into and out of Auckland.

Conveniently enough, there are countless sights within easy reach of Auckland, with plenty of variety and contrasts.

Situated within the central North Island, you will find:

  • Colorful geothermal reserves with geysers and sinter terraces
  • Otherworldly glowworm caves
  • Towering volcanic peaks
  • Maori heritage centers
  • The Hobbiton movie set
  • Idyllic lakes
  • Stunning beaches.
Hellsgate Mud Spa
Relaxing in the mud spa at Hells Gate

3. Opportunities for relaxation as well as sightseeing with just 1 week in New Zealand

If you have just 1 week in New Zealand, you probably want to fit in some time to relax in amidst your sightseeing.

Thankfully, on the North Island, you don’t have to travel far to find excellent opportunities to unwind. Soak in natural hot springs nestled in native bush around Rotorua, sunbathe at secluded beaches on the Coromandel Peninsula, or try a round of golf at on of New Zealand’s world-class golf resorts.

glow worm caves new zealand - 1 week in New Zealand
The Waitomo Glowworm Caves

4. Activities for everyone

Even the pickiest travelers will be enticed by the array of options on offer on the North Island.

Adventurers can choose from outdoor sports and thrills that range from rafting and adventure caving to skydiving and bungy jumping. Keen hikers won’t want to miss the famous Tongariro Alpine Crossing, widely regarded as one of the world’s best day hikes.

luge rotorua - 1 week in New Zealand
The family-friendly Skyline Luge in Rotorua

Families can sample child-friendly activities, from the stroller-accessible Ruakuri Cave Tour and the Glass Bottom Boat Tour to the Redwoods Treewalk and the Skyline Luge.

And travelers who enjoy the finer things can indulge in wine-tasting tours, dinner cruises, spa visits, and luxury lodge getaways.

Maori Culture New Zealand
A Maori culture show in Rotorua

5. Plenty of rainy-day options for 1 week in New Zealand

Rain is almost inevitable on a New Zealand holiday, but if you have just one week, you don’t want it to spoil your plans.

Thankfully, the North Island has many indoor sightseeing options that aren’t affected by the weather. The South Island is less lucky, as most of its sights are exposed to the elements.

Rainy-day options include Maori cultural shows, museum visits, cave tours, Agrodome farm shows, and soaking in geothermal hot springs.

Plan your North Island holiday for 1 week in New Zealand

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