New Zealand has something to offer every student backpacker, whether you’re looking for an adrenaline rush, beautiful scenery, chilled-out beaches, or hardcore hiking. With such a diverse landscape, we always recommend spending at least two months in New Zealand – and you’ll still feel like you’ve barely scratched the surface.

Even choosing between North Island and South Island can be difficult, so if you find yourself caught up in academic commitments, you can always consider seeking assistance from a reliable custom essay writing service to free up some time for your travel plans. 

Nevertheless, we've put together an article listing the top spots in each location to help you narrow down where to visit. There are fantastic aspects to both islands, so have a read through our list and see which places best suit what you're looking for.

North Island


Like most visitors to New Zealand, you’ll probably fly into Auckland, especially if you’re planning on traveling through the North Island. The largest city in New Zealand, it feels just like that. A large city. It's worth seeing but not for more than a few days -- the country has much more to offer!


Paihia, in the Bay of Islands, is the perfect base for exploring the northern region of the North Island. This area offers spectacular scenery and day hikes, and you can even take a day trip up to Cape Reinga, the Northernmost Point of the North Island. You can stop off at a 90-mile beach along the way to see the huge stretch of sand along the east coast.


Raglan is a surfer’s paradise but there’s still plenty to do here if you don’t want to catch some waves. This chilled-out hippie-style town is chilled out and relaxing with some beautiful black sand beaches. Use Raglan as a place to rest from all the travel you’ve been doing. Learn yoga, meditate, have a massage, and eat healthily for a few days.

Rotorua Lake, New Zealand Lake Rotorua, New Zealand


Like a mini-version of Yellowstone, Rotorua is unique, colorful, smelly, and well worth a visit. Located in an area that’s full of geothermal activity, you could easily spend a couple of days spotting some of the unbelievable colors you can find there.


Taupo, located on the shores of Lake Taupo, is one of the main places to skydive in New Zealand, so if you fancy a bit of adrenaline rush, be sure to head here. You can also go jetboating or bungee jumping if skydiving isn't your thing.


Wellington is a beautiful, windy, hilly city in the south of the North Island that has lots to keep you busy. Whether it's strolling along the waterfront, learning about New Zealand at Te Papa Museum, or taking the famous red cable car up to the Botanic Garden, Wellington is the perfect city.

South Island


Christchurch is the largest city on the South Island and one with a recent tragic event. From September 2010 to December 2011, Christchurch had been rocked by four large earthquakes with magnitudes of 6.0 to 7.2, which left much of the city in ruins. With the "red zone" cordon recently lifted, you can now explore the entire city and see some of the areas that were worst hit by the earthquakes. Though not a particularly uplifting travel experience, it's still worth visiting to witness the power of nature and a city rebuilding itself from the rubble.


Located on the shores of Lake Tekapo, Tekapo is where you head if you need a bit of relaxation. Known for having some of the clearest skies in the Southern Hemisphere, it's ideal for a spot of stargazing. There's also Tekapo Springs, a series of hot springs with a sauna and steam room, which help to aid relaxation. Tekapo is a great place to use as a base if you want to spend a day hiking at Mount Cook, the highest mountain in New Zealand.


Dunedin is a University Town and so is geared up for students with great nightlife options. Aside from the student scene, Dunedin is a charming historic city with a thriving art scene and cafe culture. Dunedin's biggest claim to fame is Baldwin Street, the steepest street in the world -- worth a visit if you'll be passing through.

The Catlins

Not many student travelers bother to make the effort to visit the Catlins -- it's far away from anything else and doesn't have any well-known attractions. However, this can be a huge benefit to you as you’ll feel like you have the entire region to yourself! Located in the Southernmost part of the South Island, here you’ll find deserted beaches, wild sea lions and penguins, rolling hills, blowholes and waterfalls, and plenty of hikes to keep you busy. Just don’t expect to get much of a cellphone signal while you’re there!

Fox/Franz Josef Glaciers

One of the most memorable things you can do on the South Island is head to Fox or Franz Josef Glacier and go hiking. You can usually choose between a half or full-day hike, and there's even an option to do a heli-hike to get further up the glacier. Whichever hike you decide to do, on whichever glacier you decide to visit, you'll be guaranteed a fun and fascinating experience.

Milford Sound, New ZealandMilford Sound, New Zealand

Doubtful/Milford Sound

Located in the Southwestern region of the South Island, Doubtful and Milford Sound are fiords, created due to the erosive effects of glaciers. Milford Sound is the smaller, more popular one to visit and Doubtful Sound is the quieter and off-the-beaten-track. The best way to explore the Sounds is via a cruise that takes you down the sound towards the ocean. I prefer Doubtful Sound but Milford Sound is still worth a visit.


Queenstown is the adrenaline capital of New Zealand, where you'll be able to try skydiving, bungee jumping, jet boating, white water rafting, skiing, paragliding, and more! Don’t forget to check out Fergburger too, which makes some of the best burgers in the world.

Wrapping Up

New Zealand, with its stunning landscapes and vibrant culture, offers an incredible adventure for student travelers. Whether you choose the North Island or the South Island, you're in for a treat. The North Island boasts Auckland, a bustling city with much to explore. Paihia provides a gateway to the Bay of Islands' natural beauty, while Raglan offers a chilled-out escape. Rotorua's geothermal wonders and Taupo's adrenaline-pumping activities add variety. Wellington, with its unique charm, completes the North Island experience.

On the South Island, Christchurch reveals the resilience of a city rebuilding itself after natural disasters. Tekapo's serene skies are perfect for stargazing, while Dunedin's student-friendly atmosphere is enticing. The Catlins offer a secluded, natural haven, while Fox/Franz Josef Glaciers promise unforgettable hikes. Doubtful and Milford Sound showcase breathtaking fiords, and Queenstown is an adrenaline junkie's paradise.

So, which island is best? It ultimately depends on your interests, but both offer an array of experiences for student adventurers. Explore, learn, and savor every moment in this remarkable land of the Kiwis.



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