The 7 Best Places to Live in New Zealand
New Zealand is pretty much an expat paradise – it’s handled COVID better than most other countries, its progressive leadership has made it one of the most inclusive nations in the world, and there are breathtakingly gorgeous views at every corner.
If you’re considering moving to New Zealand, you’ll be pleased to know that there are plenty of places to consider.
Looking for a quiet country nook to retire in? One of the many rural areas will be right for you. Or perhaps you’re after some buzzing nightlife? Head for the cities, where Kiwis know how to party. There’s something for everyone here.
If you want to find the perfect new home, check out our guide on the best places in New Zealand below.
As one of New Zealand's cultural hubs, Queenstown has plenty to offer expats
What’s on this page?
Best places to live in New Zealand – at a glance
If you don’t have time to read the whole article, here’s a quick run-down.
|Hawke’s Bay||Best for food and drink|
|Waikato||Best for rural escapes|
|Wellington||Best for families|
|West Coast||Best for affordable property|
|Queenstown||Best for culture|
|Whangarei||Best for climate|
|Auckland||Best for career opportunities|
Best for: food and drink
Foodies will fall in love with Hawkes Bay – a rural area of New Zealand that’s renowned for fresh dishes and unmatched local wines.
Also known as the Fruit Bowl of New Zealand, Hawke's Bay is one of the main producers of stone fruit – which means summer is greeted with Golden Queen peaches, yellow-fleshed nectarines, apricots, and Black Doris plums.
Some of the region’s best food and drink experiences include:
- The Food and Wine Classic – This annual festival showcases the very best of Hawke's Bay’s food and drink, with restaurants, food trucks, and eateries serving gourmet cuisine
- Crab Farm Winery – This unique venue is a favourite among locals. Its menu features sharing platters, venison, and seafood, which you can enjoy next to an open fireplace, with live music to set the scene
- The Mission Estate – Established in 1851 by French missionaries, this is the oldest winery in New Zealand. It also draws in big crowds when it holds international music concerts
On top of this, Hawke’s Bay also benefits from glorious east coast weather. So, if you’re after a peaceful spot where you can tuck into good food, drink world-class wine, and walk it all off on a sandy beach, head to the Bay.
|Excellent food and drink scene||Isolated from other cities|
|Beautiful scenery||Limited employment opportunities|
|Low crime rates|
Best for: rural escapes
Ever dreamed of a life in the Shire from The Hobbit? Well, now’s your chance. Waikato is the location where these incredible scenes were shot – and it’s even more beautiful in real life.
In this part of the North Island, you can find a huge array of plants and animals, including more than 900 native plants and 124 native bird species.
Within this region, the city of Hamilton is a popular area for expats. Here, you can find the Hamilton Gardens, which are dedicated to sharing examples of exquisite gardens around the world.
Elsewhere in this luscious green region, you can find:
- The seaside town of Raglan – Known for its black-sand Ngarunui Beach and the long surf break at Manu Bay
- Bridal Veil Falls – Sitting just outside of Raglan is this 55-metre-high waterfall, which has also formed a majestic pool at its base over the years
- Waitomo Glowworm Caves – Float your way down the Waitomo stream and admire its population of Arachnocampa Luminosa, a glow worm species found exclusively in New Zealand
|Breathtaking scenery||Limited job opportunities|
|Plenty of outdoor activities||Limited indoor activities|
|Friendly locals||Restricted transport options|
|Low crime rates|
|Roughly an hour and a half drive from Auckland|
Waikato is home to some of New Zealand's most beautiful landscapes
Best for: families
Coming in at fourth in a global ranking of the most livable cities, Wellington is perfect for solo travellers, couples, or big families.
There are plenty of opportunities for days out with the kids – several of New Zealand’s largest and oldest cultural institutions, as well as many arts and cultural events, are located in Wellington. And after a day packed with learning, you can indulge in some of the country's cutest cafes and restaurants.
On top of this, living in Wellington means you can rest assured your children will receive top-quality education, since two of the country’s top ten schools are situated here:
- Scots College – An independent day and boarding school for boys and girls
- Queen Margaret College – An independent girls’ school
Bringing older children along with you? Wellington also boasts one of the best universities in New Zealand – the Victoria University of Wellington – which continuously performs well in world university rankings.
|Plenty to do||The climate is colder and windier than in other parts of New Zealand|
|Good school opportunities||Property/renting is expensive|
|Good job opportunities||It’s a very small city|
|Beautiful scenery on the outskirts|
There's something for everyone in Wellington – culture, excellent quality of life, and beautiful views
Best for: affordable property
If you’re moving to New Zealand on a budget, you won’t have to settle for a rubbish flat in a shoddy area. Instead, try looking into property on the West Coast.
Here, you’ll find the country’s most affordable housing, with equally beautiful views, laid-back vibes, and miles of coastline to explore.
The cheapest housing can be found on the West Coast, with an average price of NZ$285,000 (£141,325).
To compare, Auckland’s average property price is NZ$1,040,000 (£515,715), Wellington’s is NZ$812,251 (£402,779), and the national average price is as much as NZ$749,000 (£371,414).
Plus, though it might be slightly out of the way, the calm way of life means locals love it here.
|Affordable properties||Very isolated|
|Beautiful scenery||Limited job opportunities|
|Lots of outdoor activities|
Best for: culture
Between the shores of Lake Wakatipu and the impressive alpine ranges sits Queenstown – a ski resort town on the South Island.
Despite being a small town, Queenstown throws frequent events and festivals in the summer and transforms into a lively ski resort in the winter. You’ll never be short of things to do!
Queenstown is also home to some of New Zealand's most notable heritage walks, which wind their way through the unforgettable natural scenery. There’s a lot to learn from these places, since they formed the backbone of this region's fascinating history.
This area also has a rich Māori heritage. In Māori mythology, Lake Wakatipu was formed when the indentation left by a sleeping giant was flooded. Members of South Island tribes ventured into the Wakatipu Basin in search of food and pounamu (a precious stone). Today, you can take in one of the many tours around these areas, and learn about it from locals.
And if history is your thing, you can head to the Lakes District Museum in Arrowtown to delve into the incredible pioneering background of the Southern Lakes. This collection of items from the region's European and Chinese settlers is just down the road from Queenstown.
|Plenty of things to do||Very dependent on tourism|
|Picturesque town||Small town|
|Great nightlife scene||Far from most major cities|
|Very safe area|
Best for: climate
The further north you venture through New Zealand, the warmer the climate gets.
If it’s warm weather you’re after, you should head to Whangarei. Here, you’ll find temperatures in the 20s from November to April, which then dip to about 15-17°C from May to October.
If you’re moving to New Zealand from a chillier country, you’ll be amazed to hear that in Whangarei’s coldest month – July – temperatures only drop to 15°C.
Here, life is simple. With good weather conditions all year round, you can expect plenty of outdoor activities, an excellent quality of life, and incredible scenery.
Located in the Northland, you’ll also be in “the birthplace of New Zealand”, with Whangarei offering fascinating Māori cultural experiences, as well as the world's largest Kauri Tree.
|Glorious weather||Not as safe as some other areas in New Zealand|
|Beautiful scenery||Limited public transport|
|Lots of things to do|
Best for: career opportunities
This cosmopolitan city has a population of a little over 1.7 million. It has a lot to offer expats, including a vibrant atmosphere and plenty of things to do – not to mention it’s the economic capital of New Zealand. All of these factors make Auckland an excellent place for expats looking to further their careers or seek new opportunities.
Although teaching is a very common job for expats to pick up in the big city, there are plenty of other things you can dip your toes into. For example, newcomers can explore the buzzing hospitality sector and its huge diversity of food and entertainment venues, which generate a lot of job opportunities.
The technology scene in Auckland is also thriving and covers various different fields including big data, fintech, medtech, and cybersecurity. In fact, 58% of all New Zealand IT companies are based in Auckland.
Want to stick to something creative? Auckland is just the place for you. From TV production and design to media and theatre, you can find it all within the city limits. In fact, half of all people employed in the creative sector in New Zealand are based in Auckland.
|Excellent job opportunities||Very expensive cost of living|
|Plenty to do||Property prices are expensive – and still rising|
|Brilliant food scene||Unpredictable weather|
|Has some of New Zealand’s best schools|
Auckland's skyline basking in the sunshine
Best places to live in New Zealand: the verdict
With so many wonderful locations on offer, it’s no wonder New Zealand is ranked sixth in a global comparison of best places for expats.
Whether you’re a solo traveller looking for a buzzing city to start your career in, a family looking for a fresh start, or a retiree wanting to set up camp in a peaceful corner of the country, New Zealand has it all.
As a recap, the best places to live in New Zealand are:
- Hawke’s Bay: Best for food and drink
- Waikato: Best for rural escapes
- West Coast: Best for affordable property
- Queenstown: Best for culture
- Whangarei: Best for climate
- Auckland: Best for career opportunities
Once you’ve figured out where you’re going, you just need to know how to get your stuff over there – that’s where we come in.
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