10 Things You Didn’t Know About New Zealand’s North Island

By Kat Harrell, ISA New Zealand Site Specialist

New Zealand—two major islands that are home of sheep, bungee jumping, LORDE, and Sir Peter Jackson. We all know that. But here are a few things you probably didn’t know about New Zealand’s North Island.

  1. Over 3 million people live on the North Island—that’s more than 75% of New Zealand’s population!
  2. In Rotorua, near the middle of the North Island, you can raft the highest commercially rafted waterfall in the world. Tutea Falls on the Kaituna River is 23 feet high!
  3. The North Island is home to New Zealand’s capital, Wellington, and its largest city, Auckland. Auckland is near the north end, with beaches on both sides and three harbors dotted with volcanic islands. Wellington, on the southern coast, is known for its great coffee, fantastic art, and beautiful beaches.
  4. You can go to school in the Shire. Really! The University of Waikato in Hamilton is a 40 minute drive across rolling green hills from Hobbiton, where the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies were filmed and where you can still see the hobbit holes and buildings used in the movies.
  5. According to Maori legend, the North Island is an ancient fish pulled up from the sea by Maui, a Polynesian demigod. Supposedly, the fish that became the North Island was so powerful, it flipped Maui’s canoe, creating the South Island.
  6. On a clear day, when skydiving from 15,000 feet over Lake Taupo, you can see both the east and west coasts of the North Island.
  7. In 8 hours, you can complete New Zealand’s most famous day hike, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, which takes you over a volcano, past turquoise lakes and through lush forests.
  8. The northernmost part of the North Island, Northland, enjoys a warm, sub-tropical climate all year long, while the southern areas, particularly Tongariro National Park, have snow much of the year. As a result, you can spend the morning on a beach and the afternoon on the ski slopes with only a few hours of travel in between.
  9. Speaking of beaches, Raglan Beach, on the North Island’s west coast near the city of Hamilton, is known for some of the best surfing breaks in the world.
  10. It’s really easy to get from almost anywhere on the North Island to almost anywhere else on the North Island—or the South Island, for that matter. A fantastic bus system and regular flights connect several New Zealand cities and a ferry runs several times daily between Wellington and Picton on the South Island. So there’s no excuse for not exploring all of the North Island and all of New Zealand.

Want to know more about studying on New Zealand’s North Island for a semester, year, summer, or January term?

Check out the New Zealand page on the ISA website or contact the ISA New Zealand Site Specialist.


Author: International Studies Abroad (ISA)

Since 1987, International Studies Abroad (ISA) has provided college students in the United States and Canada the opportunity to explore the world. ISA offers a wide variety of study abroad programs at accredited schools and universities in 73 program locations throughout the world.

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