New Zealand's North Island is particularly known for its beaches and "kiwiana" culture - premised on the picture-postcard ideal of summer beaches, pohutukawa (kiwi xmas trees) along coastlines, and a laid back approach to life that includes the quintessential kiwi jandals. Admittedly, this is very much a nostalgic picture. The pace of todays New Zealand is generally significantly faster. In recent years, Auckland (the "big smoke") has become an international city, complete with sky rocketing house prices to match. There is now a large and growing foodie culture, and both the north and south island offer an excess of vineyard to explore. In summer the North Island is particularly good for its open-air concerts showcasing local music (often also in vineyards) and summer picnics and festivals.