Have you had the dilemma of whether you should travel to the North or South Island first when planning a trip to New Zealand? If you’re there for a trip that spans across over at least two seasons or you’re travelling there for your working holiday, read on to see what you should consider prior to your trip!

Personally, I’ve only been to New Zealand from the North to the South, so naturally I’m inclined to recommend this direction of travel. Essentially, it was because of that gradual transition from the Sun-kissed North to the White Winterland of the South. The drive downwards had a beautiful lush of green and evolved over shades of yellow, orange and finally to being white. It was the best considering how scenic the drives are in New Zealand. However, I still think this ultimate decision depends on a number of factors too, so here goes!

1. What’s the Season then?

If it’s Winter and you’re one who wants to avoid the extreme cold and prefer longer days, I would actually recommend going to the North first. You get to explore the usually warmer part of New Zealand in a cooler weather and even ski on New Zealand’s only skiiable volcano, Mt Ruapehu. This should make most of your trip supposedly more bearable already if you’re from a tropical country like Singapore and wish to experience cooler weather elsewhere!

If it’s Summer, I would still recommend spending it in the North. HAHA! Don’t be confused but because that’s when I feel that the North is actually one of the prettiest too. The good and clear weather then would make it ideal for longer hikes and even skydiving at the Bay of Islands. There are many beautiful beaches in the North too, such as the renowned Piha Beach at Auckland.

When it comes to Spring and Autumn, it has got to be South Island. The South just has this magical touch to it with those semi snow-capped mountains through the scenic drives. You can even visit Hagley Park at Christchurch for the cherry blossoms and yellow daffodils. What’s more, you can even participate in the annual Arrowtown Autumn Festival each year, where you’ll see beautiful autumn foliages. The best thing is you get to see these places without having to endure the bitter cold, and days are much longer during these periods too.

2. What kind of jobs are you seeking?

strawberry picker new zealand

The availability of jobs varies depending on which island you’re at, and also the period you’re there at. From my impression, there’s a lot of fresh food (fish, pork processing) processing jobs more in the South than the North. The South also has more ski resorts if you’re looking to work there during winter. I actually worked as a potato grader there when I got to the South sometime in March.

Whereas, more jobs in relation to fruits pruning, picking, grading and packing are available in the North. I was there in numerous packhouses and fruit fields, from apple thinning, strawberry picking to becoming a full-time blueberry grader and picker. If you’re seeking long-term administrative or office jobs, you’ll probably also have a higher chance of finding them in larger cities like Auckland and Wellington.

3. When are you planning to travel/work?

This question ties both the above questions together. It’s like completing a math equation! Put together what you want to work as, when you want to work and when you want to travel. That should give you a good idea of which island you should start off from!

Knowing your budget for your New Zealand working holiday is also a good gauge to help you determine and plan a rough outline of how you want your working holiday to be. I personally planned to work right from the start and then go all out with my travel plans once I’ve saved enough from working in New Zealand. I also especially wanted to experience the horticultural industry too since I would never get a chance to in Singapore. All these factors naturally helped me decide that the North would be where I’ll be starting from.

4. Is budget your concern?

On the same note, knowing the amount of budget you have set aside for your trip is also very helpful! Just for an illustration, flights to major cities in the North like Auckland and Wellington are generally cheaper than if you were to fly to Christchurch or Queenstown in the South. So if budget plays a part in your decision, it’s obvious where you should start from.

Also, if you’re planning to drive a lot, it’s a good thing to know that petrol actually costs more in the South than in the North too. It’s not significantly higher but if your trip extends longer than ten days, then the cost you incur would be proportionally higher too over the days.

So should I travel to the North or South Island first?

In conclusion, I don’t think it matters much where you start from because both islands are beautiful in its own ways irregardless of the seasons or anything else. If given a chance, I would want to experience both islands in all four seasons throughout the year. How about those of you who already had a trip? Do you recommend travel to the North or South Island first?

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