12 Best Cities in New Zealand to Move to for a Fresh Start

12 Best Cities & Towns to Live in New Zealand

Read on if you want to live in this beautiful country!

New Zealand is known for its lush, unspoiled landscapes, enjoyed by a population of five million spread out over an area the size of the United Kingdom. Since the arrival of the first European settlers, it has drawn immigrants from all over the world. If you’re thinking of moving here, read on to find the best cities in New Zealand to sink your roots. 

Also read: 10 Famous Movies Filmed in New Zealand & Their Breathtaking Locations

Best places to live in New Zealand

1. Auckland

best cities in new zealand

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Auckland is New Zealand’s largest city and the go-to choice for ambitious professionals. There are many MNCs based in Auckland’s CBD, including Fisher & Paykel, Xero, and Meridian Energy. Those working in the food and beverage manufacturing, tourism, and screen industries have ample opportunities here. 

For students, Auckland is an attractive choice for housing the country’s biggest university, the University of Auckland. The institution consistently ranks in the Top 100 of the QS University Rankings and runs a wide variety of undergrad and postgrad courses. 

Asian immigrants will find it easier to blend in with Auckland’s diverse population. In the 2018 census, 28% of the city’s population identified as ethnically Asian. The two largest groups of Asian residents here are Chinese and Indians. Other big Asian communities include Filipinos, Koreans, and Sri Lankans. 

Top things to do:

  • Hike up Maungawhau or Mount Eden. Embark on a walking tour to learn about its significance in Maori culture
  • Step onto the surreal black sands of Muriwai Beach, located a 40-minute drive from Central Auckland.
  • Bungee jump from the Sky Tower.
  • Take a ferry to Waiheke Island to visit its vineyards and beaches. 

Also read: 10 Stunning Airbnbs in Auckland for a Relaxing New Zealand Vacation

2. Christchurch

best cities in new zealand

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Christchurch is a smaller and quieter city than Auckland. It’s also known for being a Garden City, boasting more than 1,200 parks and gardens. Surrounded by the Port Hills, mountains, and the sea, the city’s residents are never far from nature. For those reasons, it is one of the best cities in New Zealand for families and retirees who want a laid-back lifestyle. 

In 2011, Christchurch suffered a devastating earthquake which took 185 lives and reduced 80% of the city centre to rubble. After more than ten years of sacrifice, the rebuilding is mostly complete. Commercial towers now line the streets of the city centre and cultural monuments have been restored. 

Top things to do:

  • Zipline at Christchurch Adventure Park and enjoy panoramic views of the city. 
  • Visit Quake City, a museum documenting the impact of the 2011 Christchurch Earthquake. 
  • Stroll in the Christchurch Botanic Gardens. See beautiful exotic flowers and a memorial dedicated to the earthquake victims. 
  • Shop for local produce and handicraft at the Riccarton Sunday Market

3. Wellington

best cities in new zealand

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Wellington is one of the best cities to live in New Zealand for urbanites who want a slower pace of life. Since this is the nation’s capital, the government sector is huge. Other top sectors by employment include healthcare, agriculture, and construction. 

With a well-developed public transport system and a smaller population, Wellington experiences lighter traffic compared to Auckland. There are many beaches perfect for kayaking and surfing located a short drive away or within the city itself. Furthermore, Wellington is one of the safest cities to live in New Zealand, taking seventh place in the Safe Cities Index. 

As of 2021, 11.29% of the population is foreign-born. Immigrants can easily find like-minded communities. Mexico, Netherlands, and India are common origin countries of immigrants in Wellington. 

Top things to do:

  • Eat your way down Hannah’s Laneway, a street known for its gourmet restaurants.
  • Visit the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa to learn about the country’s natural heritage and Maori culture.
  • Ride the 120-year-old Wellington Cable Car.
  • See native wildlife at Te Mara a Tane ecosanctuary. 

Also read: 5 Things You Need to Know About Living in Wellington, New Zealand

4. Queenstown

best cities in new zealand

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Queenstown is a small city with a big reputation. Despite having a population of 50,000, it is world-renowned for its beautiful landscapes and status as the Adventure Capital of the World. This is definitely one of the best cities in New Zealand for nature lovers and adrenaline junkies.  

However, Queenstown is not one of the cheapest cities in New Zealand. Monthly rent costs an average of NZ$2,216.19 for one person and NZ$3,035.85 for a family of four. The high cost of living here makes it more suitable for retirees and high-income digital nomads

Not as many jobs are available compared to Auckland or Christchurch due to the small population. That said, you might be able to find positions in the city’s booming tourism industry. Moreover, the low crime rates make Queenstown one of the safest cities in New Zealand. 

Top things to do:

  • Test your courage at the Kawarau Bridge Bungy.
  • Cruise on Lake Wakatipu and admire the surrounding mountain range aptly named The Remarkables
  • Drive to the nearby town of Glenorchy, home to several filming locations from The Lord of the Rings
  • Try the iconic Fergburger, a classic burger joint loved by locals and visitors alike. 

Also read: 13 Breathtaking Airbnbs in Queenstown with Mountain and Lakeside Views

5. Dunedin


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Dunedin is a city steeped in multi-cultural Maori, Scottish, and Asian heritage. Maori populations have settled here since the 14th century and the city’s name came from the Scottish Gaelic term for Edinburgh. It is home to New Zealand’s oldest Chinese population, descended from workers who immigrated here during the 1860s Otago Gold Rush. 

Art enthusiasts will love Dunedin for its exciting street art and independent music. Another notable aspect of Dunedin is its university. Founded in 1869, the University of Otago is the nation’s oldest university. It has been ranked as one of the most beautiful campuses in the world. 

The University of Otago offers 140 courses and many choices for postgrad study. Student life is known to be lively as most students live near the campus at the residential colleges. Overall, Dunedin is one of the best places to live in New Zealand for international students. 

Top things to do:

  • Visit Larnach Castle, a lavish Gothic mansion built by a prominent businessman. 
  • Discover a vast array of natural specimens and artefacts at the Tuhura Otago Museum.
  • See a colony of Royal Northern Albatross at the Royal Albatross Centre.
  • Admire the dramatic sea caves and rock formations of Tunnel Beach.
  • Try balancing on Baldwin Street, the steepest street in the world. 

Also read: This Travel Expert Shares the Best Ways to Explore New Zealand’s South Island

6. Wanaka

best cities in new zealand

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Wanaka is a tranquil resort town and one of the best places to live in New Zealand for retirees. In this lakeside locale of about 8,800 residents, you won’t have to deal with big city traffic. On weekends, you can take strolls along the sparkling Lake Wanaka and watch adorable ducks swimming on its crystalline surface. 

Located a 50-minute drive away is Mount Aspiring National Park, where you can go skiing, hiking, and jetboating. If you want to work here, you may find jobs in the hospitality sector as Wanaka is a tourist hub. 

Top things to do:

  • Visit the Wanaka Lavender Farm during the summer months.
  • Get an Instagrammable shot of the Wanaka Tree: an iconic willow tree at the southern edge of Lake Wanaka. 
  • Kayak at Lake Wanaka, where there are guided kayaking tours available. 
  • Hike up the scenic mountain that is Roy’s Peak. 

Also read: How I Lived Out My Tolkien Fantasy in New Zealand

7. Napier

best cities in new zealand

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Napier is a coastal city on the North Island in the wine-producing region of Hawke’s Bay. The sunny climate and gravelly soil allow for the production of high-quality Bordeaux, merlot, chardonnay, and sauvignon blanc. The region is also known as New Zealand’s Fruit Bowl due to its high production of cherries and apples. You can sample the region’s finest produce at food and wine festivals such as the FAWC Classic and the Harvest Hawkes’ Bay Festival

After Napiers was hit by a devastating earthquake in 1931, many buildings were rebuilt in the Art Deco style that was popular at the time. This unique architectural style attracts enthusiasts from all over the world. Overall, this is one of the best cities in New Zealand for wine lovers and architecture nerds. 

Primary industries include fruit and vegetable agriculture, viticulture, beef and sheep farming, and tourism. If you are involved in these industries, you may find it easier to get a job here. In the 2018 census, around 4.8% of the Hawkes’ Bay population identified as Asian. Large Asian communities here include Indians, Chinese, and Filipinos. 

Top things to do:

  • Go on an Art Deco walking tour 
  • Climb up Bluff Hill to see a World War II battery 
  • Go on a Hawkes Bay Wine Tour 
  • Visit MTG Hawkes Bay Museum to educate yourself on the region’s history, Maori influences, and the 1931 earthquake 

Also read: 13 Filipino Restaurants You Should Visit in New Zealand!

8. Hastings


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Hastings is Napier’s twin city and the second-largest city in the Hawke’s Bay region. It is a major fruit production hub, surrounded by many orchards and vineyards. Related industries include food processing, agricultural services, and agritech. 

The city is home to New Zealand’s oldest farmer’s market, the Hawkes’ Bay Farmers’ Market. It is held on Sundays from 8.30am to 12pm. Here, you can unwind and purchase locally-produced fruits, wines, and artisan preserves. You can also chill out at Frimley Park, an English-style garden with over 5,000 roses. The park’s play area is perfect for children and designed for all mobilities. 

Top things to do:

  • Spend a Sunday morning at Hawkes Bay Farmers’ Market
  • Go on a guided wine tour to better appreciate local wine culture. 
  • Hike up Te Mata Peak
  • See the 18 Maori carvings or pou in Civic Square
  • Cool off in the summer at Splash Planet, an amusement park and waterpark. 

9. Rotorua


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Rotorua is a city in the North Island’s Bay of Plenty Region known for its geothermal pools and rich Maori culture. It is also one of the cheapest cities in New Zealand to live in; monthly rent is about NZ$1,318.31 for one person, while monthly food costs are about NZ$712.11. 

If you’re looking for work, try searching for positions in the city’s key industries. This includes agriculture, forestry and wood processing, geothermal energy, and tourism. Hence, it is one of the best places to live in New Zealand for those who want to experience an authentic Kiwi lifestyle on a budget. 

Top things to do:

  • Experience Rotorua’s natural wonders at Wai-O-Tapu Geothermal Wonderland.
  • Soak in a geothermal wellness spa at Hell’s Gate spa.
  • Take a walk through Kuirau Park, a geothermal park and hot pool with free entrance. 
  • Immerse in Maori culture at Whakarewarewa Maori Village. 

Also read: 5 Hot Springs in New Zealand That Have Picture-Perfect Views!

10. Hamilton

Hamilton is a calm, inland city on the banks of the Waikato River. Far from the coast, it is protected from tsunamis and has low seismic risk. Favourable geography and a low crime rate make Hamilton one of the safest cities in New Zealand. 

Another thing the city is known for is the acclaimed Hamilton Gardens: a public park with themed areas ranging from Italian Renaissance and Chinese Scholar. It also has a Maori garden, Te Parapara, which showcases traditional methods of food production and storage. 

Overall, Hamilton is one of the best places to live in New Zealand for those who want a relaxed lifestyle. The cost of living here is lower than in the big cities. Outside the city centre, monthly rent costs an average of NZ$1,148.83 for one person. Meanwhile, the cost of buying an apartment is NZ$6,867.09 per square metre. 

Top things to do:

  • Visit the Hamilton Gardens. 
  • See a waka taua (Maori war canoe) and many more historical artefacts at the Waikato Museum.
  • Take a hot air balloon to see the city landscape from above. 
  • Go to Hamilton Zoo, which holds the largest free-flight aviary in New Zealand dedicated to native birds. 

11. New Plymouth

best cities in new zealand

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New Plymouth is one the best places to live in New Zealand for those who want a peaceful neighbourhood and an active lifestyle. This small city in the North Island’s Taranaki Region has a well-developed infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists, receiving the title of ‘Walking and Cycling’ model city in 2010. In 2021, it was recognised as the most liveable city for its size by the International Awards for Liveable Communities. 

The cost of living here is also quite affordable. Monthly rent costs an average of NZ$1,246.61 for one person, and food costs NZ$721.89 a month. 

Top things to do:

  • Walk or cycle on the New Plymouth Coastal Walkway
  • Visit the Pure Ariki Museum to learn about the Maori and European settler history of the town.
  • Go surfing at Fitzroy Beach. 
  • Hike in Egmont National Park, which is only a 30-minute drive from the city. 

12. Tauranga


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Tauranga is the largest city in the Bay of Plenty Region and a fast-growing population centre. It has a high employment rate due to its thriving port and tourism industries. Other top industries here include healthcare, retail, construction, and education. Hospitality jobs are plentiful during the summer, when the nearby Mount Maunganui draws many tourists.  

The climate is mild, winters are not freezing cold, and summers are warm. Over the weekend, you may take a 15-minute drive to Mount Maunganui’s Main Beach, a sublime stretch of white sand which has been ranked one of the best beaches in the world. There, you can ride the waves or hike up the mountain to enjoy sweeping views of the entire Bay of Plenty. 

Top things to do:

  • Go hiking in Mount Maunganui. 
  • Spot dolphins and orcas on a marine wildlife tour.
  • Camp at McLaren Falls Park. You can see glow worms along the park’s Waterfall Track after dark.
  • Check out boutique shops and art spaces at The Historic Village, an outdoor shopping mall downtown.

Also read: 10 Fantastic Reasons Why You Should Visit New Zealand

With that, we round up our list of the best places to live in New Zealand. Ultimately, moving to another country is a big decision that requires extensive deliberation. If you’ve got any advice about moving to New Zealand, why not share it on our Facebook page?   

Featured image credit: New Zealand Tourism | Official Website

Facebook image credit (right): New Zealand Tourism | Official Website

About Author

Joyce Lee
Joyce Lee

Joyce is an aspiring writer who lives on black coffee and Netflix. In her free time, she reads, goes for long walks at sunset, and dreams of faraway places.