5 Best Cities To Live In New Zealand

Though New Zealand is a popular travel destination, many want to move and start a life there too. If you’re planning your move, then you need to consider these 5 best cities to live in New Zealand! 

New Zealand has many expats and working holidaymakers for multiple reasons. The locals are friendly, life is relaxed, and the scenery is nothing less than magnificent.

Furthermore, New Zealand offers working holiday visas to nationals from several countries. These include the UK, Canada, the USA, many European countries, and parts of South America.

For most countries, the working holiday visa allows you to live and work in New Zealand for up to 12 months, and for a select few, up to 23 months.

I spent one month traveling around New Zealand when I was on an Australian working holiday visa. I explored the top cities and towns in the north and south islands, and I met many expats living there.

If you’re considering moving abroad to New Zealand, read on to discover the best places to live in New Zealand.

Best places to live in New Zealand

1. Queenstown

Queenstown was undoubtedly the highlight of my trip. Many expats believe this alpine city to be one of the best cities to live in New Zealand because of its majestic landscapes and adventure activities like bungee jumping! 

Queenstown is a resort town on the south island, situated between the shores of Lake Wakatipu and the impressive alpine ranges.

Although it’s a small town, there is so much to do and a thriving community atmosphere. There are frequent events and festivals in the summer, and as it’s a ski resort, the town is just as lively in the winter. 


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Queenstown is a thrillseekers playground, and here you will find the legendary AK Hackett Bungy jump and Shotover canyon swing.

These activities aren’t for the faint-hearted. Still, if you can muster up the courage, you’ll have one of the best experiences of your life. 

Queenstown also has New Zealand’s best ski slopes, which is another reason why many expats in New Zealand choose to live here.

During the winter, you can spend your free time skiing and snowboarding, surrounded by breathtaking scenery. The only downside of living in Queenstown is that rental costs have become very high because of its popularity. 

best cities to live in new zealand

2. Auckland

Auckland is New Zealand’s biggest city, with over 1.5 million people residing there. It is the business hub of the country and, therefore, attracts plenty of expats.

As a result, this cosmopolitan city is the best place to live in New Zealand for job opportunities, education, and healthcare.

Even so, life in Auckland is not all work and no play. The north island city sits on the Hauraki Gulf of the Pacific Ocean, boasting stunning nature reserves and beautiful beaches.

What’s more, the city’s location means you can catch a ferry to many islands, such as Waiheke Island, which is just 40 minutes away from Auckland downtown. 

However, being a busy city, there is lots of traffic, and living costs are much higher than in other regions.

Even so, if you like the hustle and bustle during the week and the opportunity to escape to nature on the weekend, you’ll love Auckland. Plus, being on the north island, Auckland stays much warmer than cities in the south.

3. Wellington

Wellington is New Zealand’s capital, so it is naturally one of the best cities to live in New Zealand. The city of Wellington isn’t as big as Auckland, but it still has a lot to offer.


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The waterfront city has beautiful beaches, a small CBD that is easy to navigate, and super friendly residents. 

Wellington is less urban and built-up than Auckland, so there are fewer job opportunities.

However, saying that, the finance, tech, and creative fields are currently thriving here. Plus, with much less traffic, you don’t have to deal with a hectic commute every day! 

Wellington has some nice, quiet suburbs that offer a peaceful lifestyle. There’s also a great cafe culture and an abundance of events and festivals.

Therefore, it provides a balance between peacefulness and community activity, making it one of the best places to live in New Zealand.

Moving to New Zealand

4. Tauranga

Tauranga has recently become a much-loved city for expats in New Zealand and a favored holiday destination for kiwis.

The waterfront town in the North Island has beautiful beaches and, surprisingly, vibrant nightlife, despite its low population.

Tauranga is also close to the geothermal wonderland, Rotorua, and the beautiful Lake Taupo. Therefore, living here, you’ll have plenty of day trip options whenever you feel like leaving the city. 

Tauranga is an affordable place to live. Plus, being a port town and holiday destination, there are enough job opportunities for working holidaymakers.

What I most liked about this beach town is the all-year-round vacation vibe it has. Therefore living and working here could easily feel like an extended holiday.

5. Napier

Napier is a small coastal city in the North Island’s Hawke’s Bay region. With a population of fewer than 66,500 residents, you won’t find a busy city atmosphere here.

Instead, you’ll enjoy a stunning coastline, over 70 vineyards, and Marine Parade, a lively tree-lined boulevard on the waterfront. 

Napier has a seaport and many rivers that run through the city and beyond. This makes Napier one of the best cities to live in New Zealand if you like watersports.

You can enjoy a vast array of water activities in Napier, such as jet skiing, kayaking, and rowing. The cost of living in Napier is significantly lower than in other cities and towns.

However, the downside is there are fewer jobs to be found. Therefore, unfortunately, most expats living in New Zealand opt for the bigger cities instead.

Best place to live in New Zealand

Final Thoughts

Thanks to the working holiday visa scheme, New Zealand is an accessible country for most people to live and work temporarily.

However, because of the ongoing COVID-19 travel restrictions, visas are currently suspended for some countries.

Therefore, if you’re planning on moving to New Zealand, be sure to check the latest travel requirements with your embassy first.

For more Kiwi inspiration, check out these unique things to do in New Zealand!

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