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.
10 Best places to live in New Zealand
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.
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.
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.
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.
5. Tauranga/Mt Maunganui
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.
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 regularly 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.
7. 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.
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.
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.
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. Dunedin is also the home to one of our car rental branches, so you can get amazing car rental deals in Dunedin with GO!
Find out more about Dunedin in our City Guide.
Best Places To Live In New Zealand For Families
For families, New Zealand is a wonderful country to live in. Not least because it boasts several destinations that feature a high quality of life, plenty of outdoor activities, and access to excellent education and healthcare.
On the North Island, both Auckland and Wellington are vibrant cities that offer cultural diversity in abundance. They also have charming neighbourhoods, a terrific shopping and restaurant scene and very good schools. In addition, there are lots of parks, playgrounds, green spaces and beautiful beaches for residents to enjoy, as well as a strong arts and culture scene.
On the South Island, Christchurch offers this too, as well as a very family-friendly lifestyle and a strong sense of community. While Tauranga boasts a warm climate, beautiful beaches and a range of nature pursuits. Both of them have a lower cost of living for families than cities on the North Island, as well as being safe places to live on the whole.
Best Places To Live In New Zealand For Expats
New Zealand is a popular destination for ex-pats looking for a new adventure and a better quality of life. Within each city, there are enclaves of different nationalities. So depending on where you are from, the best places for expats to live in the country will vary.
In Auckland and Wellington, there are a lot of ex-pat Brits permanently residing there. On the South Island, Christchurch has a sizable population of former British nationals, while it also has a distinctive English heritage, with lots of beautiful gardens.
Auckland and Wellington are also home to a large population of expat Chinese and Indian nationals, as well as Australians, South Africans, Fijians, Americans and Samoans.
Significant populations of these nationalities also live in Queenstown, possibly attracted by the stunning scenery, range of outdoor activities, and thriving hospitality industry, in which many of them work.
Christchurch, Tauranga and Hamilton are also experiencing growth in the number of expat residents as people move from Auckland and Wellington for new job opportunities and a better work/life balance.
Best Places To Live In New Zealand For Retirees
For retirees looking for a peaceful, safe, and comfortable place to call home, New Zealand offers several terrific destinations to enjoy your retirement. One of the most popular places for retirees is Tauranga. Located on the east coast of the North Island, it offers a warm climate, beautiful beaches, and a relaxed lifestyle. It also boasts several retirement villages and amenities that are well set up for seniors.
Not too far away from it, Hawke’s Bay is another region with a thriving community of retirement villages. Known for its outstanding food and wine produce, it also has a mild climate most people enjoy.
For those who would prefer to be on the South Island, Nelson has sunny weather, breathtaking scenery, and artistic culture that attracts many people over the age of 60. Christchurch is also an attractive place for retirees, boasting a thriving arts scene of its own, as well as beautiful gardens, and a strong community spirit.
Although a more expensive and touristy area, Queenstown also offers a fabulous lifestyle for retirees who enjoy the great outdoors.
Best Places To Live In New Zealand For Young Adults
Whilst New Zealand has a range of cities and towns that are well suited to retirees, the same can be said for young adults too.
Auckland is an excellent example. As the largest city in New Zealand, the bustling metropolis offers plenty of job opportunities, a very good bar, cafe and restaurant scene and several sporting opportunities for those in their 20s and 30s. It also has a vibrant arts and culture scene, as well as an eclectic mix of neighbourhoods that suit different lifestyles and budgets.
Like Auckland, New Zealand’s capital city of Wellington is a thriving city for young people. Offering a strong creative culture, it also has an impressive food and drink scene and plenty of job opportunities, particularly in the tech industry.
Elsewhere, Dunedin on the South Island is a university town with a strong student culture. It is also notable for its more affordable housing options, thriving music scene and numerous opportunities to relax and play outside. Other places like Queenstown and Tauranga also attract young people for their outdoor activities, relaxed lifestyle and range of adventure sports.
Best Places To Live In New Zealand’s North Island
From vibrant, world-class cities to breathtakingly beautiful coastal towns, The North Island of New Zealand offers many great places to live.
Blessed with a strong economy, outstanding natural beauty and welcoming culture, there is something to suit everyone’s lifestyle and preferences in Te Ika-a-Maui.
Cities like Auckland and Wellington are natural choices for many people. On account of them being cosmopolitan metropolises with diverse populations, located in beautiful settings and having plenty of job opportunities and excellent social and recreational scenes.
Aside from them, Tauranga is a sunny coastal city with beautiful beaches, a laidback lifestyle and very friendly locals that make a great base in which to live. Similarly, Napier is another charming place that impresses with its Art Deco architecture, world-class wine industry, and rugged natural beauty.
While it is a popular tourist destination, Taupo in the central North Island should also be considered. Not only does it have a strong sense of community spirit, but it is also a fabulous destination for outdoor recreational pursuits like hiking, fishing and skiing.
Best Places To Live In New Zealand’s South Island
The South Island of New Zealand, or Te Waipounamu as it is affectionately known, is much loved for its breathtaking natural beauty, fabulous outdoor activities, and genuine small-town charm.
For those thinking of moving there to live, there are several excellent options for where you can go. Christchurch is one of the most popular, which is not surprising considering it is the largest city on the South Island. It also has plenty of job opportunities, some stunning parks and gardens and a buzzy restaurant and bar scene.
Over on the southeast of the island, Dunedin is a popular university town with a strong student culture and a range of job opportunities in healthcare, education, and tourism which attract people from around the world. It also offers beautiful natural scenery and a range of outdoor recreational activities too.
Additionally, Queenstown is the perfect spot for those who want to work in the tourism sector and live in the adventure capital of New Zealand. While Nelson and Blenheim will suit those looking for sunny weather, artistic culture and close proximity to top-notch wineries and outdoor activities including hiking, fishing, and skiing.
Best Small Towns To Live In New Zealand
If you would prefer to live away from the cities, New Zealand has several small towns that offer a low key lifestyle, pristine natural beauty, and a strong sense of community spirit.
One of the best of them is Arrowtown, which is a historic gold-mining town, near Queenstown in the South Island that features a charming main street lined with boutique shops and cafes. It also offers splendid scenic views and excellent opportunities for skiing, hiking, and cycling.
Also on the South Island, Akaroa is a comely spot that resides on the Banks Peninsula near Christchurch. The small town has a strong French influence, as well as a quaint harbour and marine reserve.
Over on the west coast of the North Island, Raglan is a small beach town known for its surfing, laid-back lifestyle, and bohemian arts and culture scene. It boasts a terrific range of cafes and restaurants, as well as wonderful boutique shops.
Russell, situated within the Bay of Islands, is another historic North Island town that has a rich European and Maori history. It also has a breathtaking beach, while Martinborough in the Wairarapa region, is known for its wine industry and beautiful countryside.
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
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 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. Here at GO Rentals, we have rental car locations in four of the cities featured in our list above so call in and see us and we’ll be happy to give you more information about living in any of our awesome towns and cities.
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!
What should I know about before moving to New Zealand?
Moving to a new country can be an exciting adventure, but it’s important to be prepared and informed. Prior to arriving in New Zealand, you should make sure you carefully and properly research, plan and prepare for the move.
One of the main things you will need to establish is what visa you will need. You should also work out what city or region you would want to move to and what the cost of living, job market and standard of healthcare are like there.
In addition, you will also need to organise housing or accommodation, as well as transport and you should be aware of the climate, culture and lifestyle of where you plan to relocate to.
What is the weather like in New Zealand?
New Zealand has a temperate climate with mild temperatures and moderate rainfall throughout the year. However, due to the country’s geographical location, the seasons are directly opposite to those which take place in the northern hemisphere.
This means that summer takes place between December to February when average temperatures range from 20-30°C (68-86°F). This is the most popular time for tourists to visit, and many outdoor activities and festivals take place during this season.
Autumn takes place between March and May when the changing leaves provide beautiful scenery. With temperatures hovering around 10-20°C (50-68°F) on average, it can be a good time for outdoor activities like hiking and cycling.
Between June and August, winter tends to set in. This tends to be a mild and wet season and temperatures stick between 5-15°C (41-59°F) on average. Snow falls in some parts of the country, particularly in the mountains, making it a popular time for winter sports.
The period between September and November represents spring in New Zealand is mild and often rainy. Temperatures remain around 10-20°C (50-68°F) on average, but it’s a great time to see the best of the country’s many wildflowers and most pristine scenery.
What is the cost of living like in New Zealand?
The cost of living in New Zealand can vary depending on the city or region, but overall it is considered to be relatively high compared to other countries. Some of the major expenses include housing, food, transportation, and healthcare.
Housing is typically the biggest expense, particularly in major cities like Auckland and Wellington, where prices have risen significantly in recent years. The average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Auckland is around NZD $2,000, while in Wellington it is around NZD $1,800.
Food costs can also be relatively high too, particularly for imported goods. However, there are many local options for outstanding fresh produce and other groceries that can be more affordable. Eating out at restaurants can also be expensive, particularly in major cities.
Transportation costs can vary depending on where you live and how often you need to travel. Similarly, owning a car can be expensive due to the high cost of fuel and insurance. However, public transportation is generally reliable and affordable in most cities.
When it comes to healthcare, in New Zealand it is funded through taxes and is generally accessible and affordable. There is also a good mix of public and private healthcare providers available too.
Overall, while the cost of living in New Zealand might seem high, it is important to recognise the quality of life is generally considered to be high as well.
Looking to visit New Zealand before you make the move?
If you’re travelling to our own humble land down south make sure to book a rental car in New Zealand to get around and see all the locations that we have suggested!