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The Best Places to Live in New Zealand – 10 of our favourite destinations

Destinations

New Zealand is an awesome place to live and work. So many people come here on holiday, fall in love with the place and eventually move back here to live and work.

But how do you ensure that your move to New Zealand is a success?

It can be difficult to capture that holiday magic. How many times do you go on an amazing holiday where you think you could quite easily live there forever but the reality of going to work every day doesn’t always live up to the holiday vibes.

Finding a place to live and work that best suits you is one way of ensuring your move to New Zealand goes without a hitch. That’s why we’ve taken a look at the best places to live in New Zealand and drawn up our top ten.

You can find heaps of lists out there that will tell you about ‘the cheapest places to live in New Zealand’ and ‘the sunniest places to live in New Zealand’ which are really cool (so check them out!) but ours is all about our staff and customers – where do they think is the best place to live in New Zealand.

Let’s GO!

10 Best places to live in New Zealand

1.      Queenstown

View from the top of the Skyline Gondola in Queenstown

View from the top of the Skyline Gondola in Queenstown

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Queenstown came out as the number one destination that people would choose to live here in New Zealand. Queenstown is an amazing place. It’s a year-round destination with amazing outdoor activities in the summer months and world-class skiing in the winter.

It’s great for people of all ages, young and old and with so many different industries based in and around the city, it’s also a great place to find work. House prices are high (recently overtaking Auckland as the highest in the country) so you may have to live in one of the suburbs but that’s pretty cool – the views are amazing all around the Central Otago region.

Queenstown is deserving of its place at the top of our list of best places to live in New Zealand.

For more information on the area, make sure you check out our Queenstown City Guide.

2.      Napier

Napier Promenade

Coming in at number two on our list is Napier. Located in the heart of the Hawke’s Bay, Napier is a wonderful place to base yourself if you are planning a move to New Zealand. The cost of living in Napier is much lower than the bigger cities like Auckland, Wellington and Queenstown making it an attractive proposition but there are still enough businesses located in and around the city to make it a good place to find work.

Outside of work, Napier has it all going on. Great vineyards, a stunning coastline, amazing golf courses and some fantastic cycleways. It also enjoys its fair share of sunshine all year round and tends to be a bit warmer than Auckland, certainly during the winter months making is super attractive to recent arrivals from the UK.

Find out more about the Napier and Hawke’s Bay region in our City Guide.

3.      Rotorua

Image of the impressive Rotorua Museum in the iconic Bath House building

If you are looking for somewhere a bit different, Rotorua is definitely up there as one of the best places to live in New Zealand. It’s a tourist hotspot which means lots of jobs. It’s also a year-round destination thanks to the geothermal attractions that the city is most famous for which means plenty of visitors still flock here during the winter months.

Rotorua enjoys a central location on the North Island making it super-accessible. It’s under 3 hours to drive to Auckland, Napier, the Coromandel Peninsula and Mt Maunganui and the ski fields of Mt Ruapehu are around 2.5 hours away.

Rotorua is definitely one of our favourite places to travel and certainly popular with our visitors. That’s why it features at number three on our list of best places to live in NZ.

Find out more about Rotorua in our City Guide.

4.      Auckland

The beautiful Auckland skyline at dusk

So Auckland is probably the most popular place for people arriving from overseas to base themselves. There are more jobs in New Zealand’s biggest city so it’s a natural draw, however, Auckland is about way more than just big city jobs. Auckland is an awesome place to live and one of the best waterfront cities in the world.

With an abundance of beaches, amazing regional parks, awesome restaurants, great places to head out, theatres, walks, watersports and more, Auckland is a city with a lot to offer. The reason it comes fourth on our list is down to traffic and housing. There are a lot of cars on the roads around Auckland and house prices are pretty high.

That is not to take anything away from Auckland though – it’s definitely one of the best places to live in New Zealand.

Discover more about the fantastic City of Sails in our Auckland City Guide.

5.      Tauranga/Mt Maunganui

Red Square Tauranga - home of the National Jazz Festival

The popularity of Tauranga as a destination for Kiwis and expats over the past few years has rocketed and it’s easy to see why. Tauranga is a stunning waterfront city, located on the east coast of the North Island.  With lots of industries based down here (it’s a busy port city) there are plenty of job opportunities and whilst house prices are on the rise, it’s still a reasonable place to set up home.

Tauranga and the nearby Mt Maunganui are two of New Zealand’s most popular holiday destinations, especially for Aucklanders. With stunning beaches, a great nightlife and close proximity to places like Taupo, Rotorua and the Coromandel, Tauranga is one of the best places to live in New Zealand.

Find out more about Tauranga in our City Guide.

6.      Wellington

Oriental Bay, Wellington

New Zealand’s capital city has got to appear on the best places to live in New Zealand – it’s one of the coolest capital cities in the world! It may be small (as capital cities go) but Wellington has a lot going on. It’s New Zealand’s second largest city (by population) behind Auckland so plenty of people choose to call Wellington home.

Wellington is not only home to New Zealand’s parliament, it’s also home to our national museum, Te Papa. Like Auckland, Wellington enjoys a waterfront location and Oriental Beach regular tops the charts when it comes to New Zealand’s favourite beaches. With a great train and bus network, it’s also pretty easy to live in one of Wellington’s cool little suburbs and commute to work without having to deal with traffic every day, another big draw for the city.

Discover more about our cool little capital in our Wellington City Guide.

7.      New Plymouth

New Plymouth

When the Lonely Planet voted Taranaki as one of the ‘Must Visit’ destinations of 2017, it helped to put the region on the global map. Located in the south-west corner of New Zealand’s North Island, New Plymouth can seem out on a limb a little bit but those who travel and live there are in on the secret – New Plymouth is a pretty awesome place.

It has fast become a town for the ‘hipsters’ and with that, the cost of living has gone up somewhat. You do however get some bang for your buck. New Plymouth has one of the best art scenes in New Zealand with lots of great galleries and a bohemian, arty feel to the city. This is enhanced by the surfers who frequent the beaches down this way, looking for the perfect break.

With a great nightlife and close proximity to the magnificent Mt Taranaki, it’s easy to see why so many people choose to call New Plymouth home.

Find out more about New Plymouth in our complete City Guide.

8.      Christchurch

Image of Christchurch post-earthquake with the redevelopment that has taken place

Christchurch is the South Island’s biggest city in terms of population and a hugely popular location for expats to base themselves. Christchurch is a wonderful city which is in the process of being redeveloped following the massive earthquake that struck in 2011. Despite the setbacks, the city is built of stronger stuff and it has really brought the people of Christchurch together and there is a thriving community in and around the city making it one of the best places to live in New Zealand.

Christchurch has a lot going on. Located on the banks of the River Avon, the tranquil city centre is a wonderful place to work. Away from the city, some beautiful beaches are within close driving distance and are a great place to base yourself. Sumner is one of the most popular, attracting many tourists during the summer months.

You can find out more about Christchurch in our City Guide.

9.      Hamilton

Image of Hamilton Gardens

Hamilton often plays second fiddle to Auckland. It’s only a short 1 hour 30-minute drive from Auckland to Hamilton but the two cities are worlds apart. Hamilton is set on the banks of the Waikato River which runs through the heart of the city and forms a beautiful backdrop for the city. Enjoying a pretty central location, Hamilton enjoys a much lower cost of living than Auckland with house prices that are much more affordable. There is no shortage of industries in and around Hamilton making it an attractive place to live.

The location of Hamilton means you are in the perfect spot for exploring nearby Raglan, the surfing capital of New Zealand, Taupo, Rotorua and the Waitomo Caves. There is plenty to see and do in Hamilton and the leafy city has one of the best gardens in New Zealand – the Hamilton Gardens.

10.  Dunedin

Dunedin City Centre

The final place on our list of best places to live in New Zealand is Dunedin.  Dunedin was voted as New Zealand’s best city to live in 2016 based in affordable housing, civic pride and a strong sense of safety and is deserving of its place in our top ten places to live in New Zealand. Dunedin, however, is about so much more than stats and surveys. Dunedin is a really cool place to live for so many reasons. It’s home to New Zealand’s only castle. It has some of the country’s most amazing wildlife living on the nearby Otago Peninsula. It has a stunning historic train station and some beautiful gardens and it’s also home to the world’s steepest street.

Throw into that the very creative vibe around the city, helped by the University of Otago students who boost the population of the city and you find yourself with a very cool city in which to base yourself. Whilst it may be in the deep south (they get cold winters down there), it’s also pretty close to Queenstown for great skiing in the winter.

Find out more about Dunedin in our City Guide.

Explore Fans Suggested Locations

We love to hear from our GO Explore fans around New Zealand and the world and we have had some great suggestions sent in as alternatives for the best places to live in New Zealand. Here are a couple of our favourites:

Whangamata – recommended by Mollie-Rose Robinson

The award-winning beach at Whangamata

Whangamata Beach – voted New Zealand’s best beach in 2018. Image credit: https://www.thecoromandel.com/explore/listing/whangamata-beach

Whangamata is located on the Coromandel Peninsula and was voted best beach in New Zealand in 2018. A pretty impressive reason to live here but by no means the only one. Whangamata is the perfect mix of beach and rainforest, perfect for surfers, walkers and those who just love kicking back and relaxing on the beach.

The town is relatively quiet most of the year round although it does get packed out for the annual ‘Beach Hop’ event; a 5-day celebration of 50s and 60s culture. Christmas tends to get pretty busy too!

There are so many activities available in Whangamata like kayaking, tramping and surfing and no shortage of accommodation options. Check out this great site for more info.

Raglan – recommended by Micheal Kidd

Raglan Surf Beach

Raglan is home to world-class surfing, stunning scenery, beautiful beaches, inspiring arts and more. Located on the west coast of the North Island in the Waikato region, Raglan is such a cool, laid-back place to live that it’s no wonder it’s so popular with our GO Explorers.

Raglan is the complete epitome of life in New Zealand and a big reason why so many people choose to visit our beautiful country.  Chilled out doesn’t do this place justice. Grab a coffee in one of the artisan cafes in town, head to one of the stunning beaches, spend the day catching the awesome left-hand breaks or maybe look up some of the awesome gigs and live music in town.

For more information about the town, check out this great website.

We hope you find our list helpful if you are planning a move to New Zealand or you’re a Kiwi who fancies a change. We’d love to hear your thoughts – there are so many amazing places to live in New Zealand that picking a top ten is super tricky. We’ve also stuck to the bigger towns and cities in New Zealand. Whilst it would be cool to live in some of New Zealand’s beautiful rural towns or beachside resorts, there just aren’t the jobs for most people to make the move realistic although we can all dream of winning the lottery!

9 thoughts on “The Best Places to Live in New Zealand – 10 of our favourite destinations

  1. Hey Mollie-Rose – thanks for your comments. We’d love to know more about Whangamata – what makes it such an awesome place to live? Sell it into us and we will look to get it added to our list!

  2. it was voted one of the best beaches in new zealand and it has sunshine mostly every month and its a quiet town apart from on new years and beach hop

  3. Really stupid list … not sure what they were drinking ,clearly not from NZ . Must be Brit .. or worse Aussie wrote this . Bay islands ,Nelson , wanaka , Raglan ,
    MT Maunganui and New Plymouth okay … but rest tourist traps ( Auckland / Christ church really?)

  4. Hey Micheal – thanks for your comment. We’d love to hear some of your suggestions for this top ten – we spoke to lots of people to help compile our list and these were the results that came back – we suppose it’s always going to be the case with big areas like Auckland, Christchurch and Queenstown that they will get a lot of support – there’s just more people living there! Plus we talked to a lot of our staff and they love the places they live which is never a bad thing!

    Let us know where you would include on the list and why and we can look to get your top place added to our list!

  5. Now don’t be all nice … ha
    NZ life style isn’t just big cities , it’s rural outdoor country and that’s what makes it special ,you can find cities anywhere in world .

    The real NZ is in country. The smaller towns is real NZ.

    Bay of Islands .. kerikeri, Russell ,Paihia

    Wanaka is what Queenstown twenty years ago , when I first came to NZ without hordes of tourists .

    Nelson is a Wonderful combination of foodie / arts and wonderful Abel Tasman Park and sunniest part of either Islands .

    Raglan is a wonderful surfer / outdoor lovers blend of nature and respect for the ocean .Known as Surfers Mecca , around world , a dream of surfing its famous left hand break .

    We spent 12 yrs looking for perfect place ,and all above were our finalists . Could selected any of above ,

    We settled on far north ( forty miles north bay of islands ) in wonderful small beach community of Taupo Bay , above Bay of Islands close enough we can go Kerikeri market every week yet still be forty
    Miles away on beautiful rural beach.

    Yes NZ has wonderful cities but it’s soul is in country

  6. Hey Micheal – some great suggestions in there for sure. We definitely love our beautiful rural New Zealand and we do try to cover off all the small places around New Zealand as well as the big ones and we have some great blogs on some of the places you talk about (https://explore.gorentals.co.nz/blog/wanaka-queenstowns-chilled-little-bro/). We also have our Complete Guides which try and take a deeper dive into some of the most popular places to travel in New Zealand – your beautiful home in Taupo Bay made it into our Bay of Islands Guide in the best beaches section but we are always looking for great tips from people who are passionate about New Zealand so any tips you have we would love to use them! Check out the guide – https://explore.gorentals.co.nz/complete-guides/bay-of-islands-complete-guide/

    We are also about to launch a Hidden Gems section on the site which really looks into some of New Zealand’s smaller towns and rural communities like Porirua, Hanmer Springs, Akaroa, Waipu, Cromwell and Matakana – if you have some of these hidden gems you think we should include (maybe Raglan) then let us know!

    We really appreciate your comments and will look to add some of your top tips to our blog above.

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