New Zealand Islands


New Zealand consists of three islands that are larger than the rest. Find out about each New Zealand island on NZS.nz.

Find out about New Zeland’s largest three islands. The North Island, South Island and Stewart Island.

At first glance, many would say that New Zealand is split into two islands; the North Island (or Te Ika-a-Māui in Māori) and the South Island (or Te Wai Pounamu in Māori).

However, there are a number of smaller islands albeit with much smaller populations. For anyone looking to travel to New Zealand from overseas, it can be a good idea to learn a little about the main islands to ensure you see all that you would want to see while in our beautiful country.

New Zealand Islands

The core New Zealand islands are:

  • North Island
  • South Island
  • Stewart Island
  • Chatham Island
  • Auckland Island
  • Great Barrier Island
  • Resolution Island
  • D’Urville Island
  • Campbell Island
  • Adams Island
  • Waiheke Island
  • Secretary Island

although there are a lot more smaller islands in New Zealand’s bays, lakes, rivers and surrounding oceans.

The North Island Of New Zealand

The North Island of New Zealand is by far the most populated island with over 75% of the total population. The North Island is also home to New Zealand’s capital city, Wellington. Wellington itself is considered by many to be the cultural centre of New Zealand and hosts many large events and performances.

Other substantial cities of note include Auckland, Hamilton and Gisborne. Auckland is the most populated region of New Zealand and is home to many large businesses. Known as the ‘City of Sails’, Auckland is also highly popular with sail boat and watersports enthusiasts.

Hamilton is New Zealand’s largest inland city and provides a central location for all those travelling to all parts of the North Island.

Gisborne is situated on the North Island’s east coast and is notable for its title as the first city in the world to see the sun on each new day.

The South Island Of New Zealand

The South Island of New Zealand is considered to host more of New Zealand’s adventure activities and outdoor pursuits. Many fresh visitors to the country travel to Christchurch before heading further afield to explore the remainder of the South Island.

Running almost the whole length of the island are the Southern Alps. This mountain range is snow-capped for a large portion of the year and can be seen from most vantage points around the island. Nestled in the Southern Alps is Mt. Cook – New Zealand’s highest peak and past-playground of the world’s most recognised mountaineer, Sir Edmund Hillary.

Cities of note around the South Island include Nelson – an attractive city surrounded by popular vineyards, Dunedin – an energetic city with a vibrant student nightlife, Queenstown – located perfectly for access to many winter activities and considered by many to be the adventure capital of the world, and Christchurch.

Christchurch is New Zealand’s second largest city following Auckland. Christchurch hosts an international airport as well as a sea-port. Between them, these two ports make Christchurch the international gateway to the South Island and is where many overseas visitors begin their travels around New Zealand.

Stewart Island

Stewart Island is far smaller than the other two main islands but almost twice as large as the next smallest island. Located right at the south of New Zealand, Stewart Island is sparsely populated although popular with many hikers looking for an adventure far from the beaten track.

Stewart Island is notorious for its tough-going tracks but walkers are rewarded by a sense of peace and quiet as well as some beautifully clear night skies.