Top 8 Best Cities To Live in New Zealand in 2024

Moving to New Zealand and looking for a city to live in? Well, choose wisely! Luckily, New Zealand offers a range of places to call home, but you still need to do your research to determine which city suits you the best.

Christchurch is the best city for jobs, studies, and an active outdoor lifestyle, but also for a quieter urban life, as it’s a very family-friendly city with plenty of affordable housing. Queenstown is best for outdoorsy people who want to enjoy stunning nature and work in tourism. Lastly, Tauranga is the best city in New Zealand if you seek a beach lifestyle with year-round warm weather.

So, now you know what cities should be on your list when moving to New Zealand. But let’s dive into this topic a bit more. Also, watch our video about the best cities in New Zealand.

1. Auckland

  • Population: 1,7 mil.
  • Best suited for: Professionals, ambitious go-getters, international students, and city life seekers.
  • Average rent for a two-bedroom house: starts at NZ$650 per week in Auckland’s outskirts.

Auckland is a top destination for professionals looking to advance in their careers. This city has the most jobs and the highest salaries in the country.

Most international and large companies in New Zealand are based in Auckland, in CBD, in particular. Auckland is also highly regarded among students, as it has the top university in the country.

It’s an extremely international and diverse place, with people moving here from all corners of the planet. However, keep in mind that while living in Auckland, you won’t experience a typical Kiwi lifestyle but rather a big city life.

Since it’s the largest city, public transportation is very well developed, with buses, trains, and ferries passing frequently.

Yes, no other place can compete with Auckland in terms of job and career opportunities; as of now, in March 2023, about 12,250 jobs are open for applicants in a wide range of industries and fields.

Besides, Auckland’s climate is pretty mild and warm; even in winter, it’s never cold and never snows (of course), yet, expect plenty of rainfall.

In addition to the pros a large city offers, it has drawbacks such as crowds of people in the CBD and traffic. It can be a bit stressful.

Wondering how much you will earn in Auckland? Read this guide.

2. Wellington

“A view from the Mt. Victoria”
“One of the famous streets in Wellington – Cuba street”
  • Population: About 203,000 in the city and 542,000 in the Wellington region
  • Best suited for: Young professionals, culture and art lovers, government workers, families, and international students.
  • Average rent for a two-bedroom house: NZ$650 per week.

Wellington is the capital of New Zealand and was ranked as the most livable city in New Zealand. It’s a very young city with a great vibe, popular among young professionals and students. It offers excellent job and study opportunities.

Regarding the jobs, as of March 2023, Wellington job boards have around 3,481 jobs listed across various industries.

And it’s the coolest small capital in the world; the art and culture attract younger and more creative people to Wellington. Here you will find plenty of concerts, festivals, and museums.

However, families also love the balance of working in CBD and living in stunning hills. They often choose to live in quieter suburbs and commute to work, which can be done in less than 20 minutes. The city is also in proximity to nature.

Check out the most beautiful places to live in New Zealand.

Plus, Wellington city is very compact and has developed public transport, so you don’t even need to own a car. It’s pretty rare in New Zealand. Many people say that Wellington looks somewhat similar to San Francisco, and I admit, it is.

The disadvantage of living in Wellington is windy and wet weather. It’s generally colder than Auckland, and its location in the bay benefits the wind all year.

To learn about salaries in Wellington, check out our in-depth guide.

3. Christchurch

  • Population: About 390,000.
  • Best suited for: All professionals, construction workers, quieter but urban life seekers, for buying a property, international & local students, outdoors and nature enthusiasts.
  • Average rent for a two-bedroom house: NZ$500 per week.

Christchurch is a very English city that is highly popular among Brits and European expats. It is best for people looking to experience the city’s vibrant atmosphere and get a decent job. There are plenty of career opportunities in Christchurch.

After the large earthquake in 2011, Christchurch is still rebuilding in new and creative ways. Because of this, there are many original and exciting restaurants, bars, and activities to balance a hard day’s work.

As a result of the significant reconstruction efforts ongoing, there are a large number of work opportunities in the construction sector. As well as this, there is a strong manufacturing and engineering industry in Christchurch.

Compared to many other places in New Zealand, Christchurch has a good ratio of income to expenses, meaning you will earn a good salary, and the cost of living isn’t as high as in the cities mentioned above. That allows people to have a good quality of life here.

Rents and other expenses are pretty affordable.

Besides, it’s home to the second largest university in the country, the University of Canterbury, where you can study almost anything, but engineering is particularly good there.

Thanks to the large size of the city, it’s widespread, allowing you to have enough space for yourself, a house, and land. In packed Wellington, for example, this won’t be possible.

Also, due to the flat nature of the city, you don’t have to drive to work/university; you can just cycle as many other people do.

Christchurch is best for family life in the comfortable urban environment, but also close to nature, like mountains, hills, and beaches for surfing and swimming.

It’s located just in the middle of South Island, meaning you can travel to the most epic places in the country within a short distance.

Christchurch is popular among outdoorsy people who love skiing and biking. It’s located on the River Avon and the doorstep of hills and beaches. For instance, choose Sumner if you like to surf.

The weather in Christchurch is colder than in the North Island, but it’s dry, with less rainfall and more sunshine. Overall, European expats enjoy its climate, which is very similar to Europe but warmer and with less rain.

Currently, over 3,000 jobs are open in Christchurch, giving you excellent career opportunities in this stunning city.

Read more about Christchurch.

4. Tauranga

  • Population: About 130,000.
  • Best suited for: Retirees, relaxed lifestyle, life by the ocean, coastal living, warm and comfortable weather all year round.
  • Average rent for a two-bedroom house: about NZ$650 per week.

Tauranga and Mount Maunganui, in particular, are some of the hidden gems in New Zealand because not many people are talking about them.

Located on the North Island, Tauranga has an 11 km long coastline, a dream for beach lovers!

It’s the best place in the country if you are after the beach, sun, and warm (almost tropical) climate year-round. Plus, there are enough houses near the beach to choose from. Tauranga is also more affordable if you want to purchase a property.

That’s why Tauranga and Mt Maunganui are among New Zealand’s most popular holiday destinations. You will be surrounded by beautiful, long beaches, parks, clean streets, and plenty of cafes and bars to enjoy.

Other popular destinations like Taupo, Rotorua, and the Coromandel can be reached within a short drive.

Tauranga isn’t only about holidays; professionals young and older can find a job within the city. As of March 2023, there are about 950 jobs advertised only in Tauranga.

However, the city doesn’t have a university, so it’s not optimal for students. Yet, some limited programs are available at Tauranga of the University of Waikato.

Read an in-depth guide on living in Tauranga.

5. Queenstown and Wanaka

  • Population: QT – 47,000 and Wanaka – 9,000.
  • Best suited for: Everyone who loves outdoor sports plus backpackers, work and holiday visa holders, retirees, investors, and high-income individuals.
  • Average rent for a two-bedroom house: starts at NZ$650 per week.

Queenstown and Wanaka are two small towns within an hour’s drive from each other. Located in the Queenstown lakes area, Otago region, they are the most luxurious and desired places to live in New Zealand.

It’s also one of the most visited by tourists areas in the entire country, thanks to the breathtaking nature and range of things to do.

Queenstown is the capital of extreme sport and a party hotspot for backpackers. The Queenstown area is also a dream place to live as an athlete, as you can do all outdoor sports possible.

Queenstown and Wanaka enjoy a drier and colder climate, which is very comfortable all year round with little snowfall in the winter. In the mountains, however, you will find plenty of snow to pursue all possible winter sports. It’s a very lively ski resort in the winter season. 

When considering living in the Queenstown area, not everyone can afford it, as housing is incredibly expensive. Yes, most locals and investors prefer using their properties for short-term, expensive leases rather than long-term rent.

The Queenstown area is best for someone with money, either savings or a high-income job, because local jobs in tourism won’t provide you with a high paycheck, but your rent will be pretty high.

So, people with savings, remote workers, and retirees will feel most comfortable in Queenstown and Wanaka. However, if you are young and adventurous, there are plenty of opportunities!

Just grab one of the many jobs in tourism, rent a room, and enjoy endless outdoors and nature activities around you.

So what about jobs?

At the moment of writing, at the beginning of March 2023, there were 580 available in Queenstown and 193 jobs in Wanaka, mainly in the hospitality industry. Still, other options are also available, e.g., positions in marketing.

6. Nelson

” I absolutely adore Nelson!”
  • Population: 52,000.
  • Best suited for: Retirees and families, for living on the coast.
  • Average rent for a two-bedroom house: NZ$500 per week.

The cute city of Nelson is located at the top of the South Island, in the Tasman region. It’s known as the sunniest town in New Zealand, so all sun lovers should take notice. The climate of Nelson is warm, with a bit cooler winter, but overall pretty pleasant.

Nelson is a very arty and corky town, with a decent art scene – a great place for creative people.

Nelson has many beaches, parks, hills, and trails to hike and bike. It’s great to raise a family too. There is also a Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology should you decide to study here.

Ultimately, Nelson is best if you’re after some sunny days, affordable living, and a relaxed pace of life. Moreover, people looking to buy a property in Nelson and the Tasman area get a better deal compared to nearby Wellington.

Regarding the possible job opportunities, although it’s a small town, there are still some positions to be covered. In March 2023, you can choose from one of the 403 jobs advertised on Seek.nz in Nelson. Nonetheless, the job market of Nelson can be challenging, especially if you are looking for a high-paying position as the salaries tend to be “sunshine wages”.

7. Napier and Hastings

  • Population: 122,000.
  • Best suited for: Lifestyle seekers, retirees, families, and wine enthusiasts.
  • Average rent for a two-bedroom house: NZ$550 per week.

Napier and Hastings are located in slightly isolated from the main cities of Hawke’s Bay region. It’s on the East Coast of North Island.

Despite being a bit away, it has everything you need, jobs, schools, an institute, an airport, and over 70 vineyards. Coastal Napier and Hastings enjoy many sunshine hours, beautiful beaches, lower rainfall, scenery, and affordable cost of living & housing.

You can expect a warm climate most of the year but also significant rainfall, which is typical for the North Island.

When it comes to jobs, there are many seasonal options available, as it’s a main wine and fruit production region of New Zealand. As of March 2023, about 282 are available in Napier and 361 in Hastings, Hawke’s Bay.

8. Dunedin

  • Population: 130,000.
  • Best suited for: Students, professionals in particular industries, home buyers, and remote living.
  • Average rent for a two-bedroom house: NZ$520 per week.

Coastal Dunedin lies on the bottom of the South Island and is the most Scottish city outside Scotland. Generally, Dunedin is great for students and incredible for student life.

For professionals, there are several job opportunities, mainly in production, healthcare, or farming. At the time of writing, there are 647 jobs listed in Dunedin.

If you’re looking for an affordable family home, Dunedin and the area around is a great place to buy. The city has a very reasonable cost of living and housing (some of the lowest in New Zealand).

Dunedin has some of the country’s most unique, untouched beaches, which are great for surfing. Overall, the Otago Peninsula is just beautiful to explore.

Due to its location, Dunedin is also the coldest city on our list. Summer is warm but not hot, so don’t expect to swim often. The city also gets plenty of rain.

Best cities for students in New Zealand

Therefore, the best cities to study in New Zealand are:

  • Wellington – Victoria University of Wellington
  • Auckland – University of Auckland
  • Dunedin – Otago University
  • Christchurch – University of Canterbury

Keep in mind, if you want to study in New Zealand, not all cities have universities. The main universities are located in Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, Palmerston North, Christchurch, and Dunedin.

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