Wondering where the best place in New Zealand to live is? Although New Zealand is a relatively small country, there are still some great options for places to live depending on the experience you are looking for. Where you consider the best place to live in New Zealand will depend greatly on your own preferences, so we will give as many details as possible!
Living in Auckland
Where is Auckland?
Auckland is located on the North Island of New Zealand
Pros and Cons of Living in Auckland
Auckland is the place to go if you are more interested in a big city vibe with all of the amenities a large city tends to offer. With a great job market and plenty of people from all walks of life, you will probably find it quite easy to land a job and to forge new friendships. As with most larger cities, there is a vast selection of incredible eateries and bars for all tastes and price ranges.
Weather wise, Auckland is generally warmer and more consistent than Wellington and Christchurch year round. For the beach lovers, there are plenty of incredible beaches a short drive away, and the wild west coast beaches are accessible in under an hour. The Coromandel Peninsula, Rotorua, Raglan and the Bay of Islands, are all incredible spots and are entirely accessible from Auckland for a weekend adventure.
The major downside to Auckland is the cost of living. As rent prices are sky-high, you may have to be okay with a room in a large shared house unless you are lucky enough to land a well-paid job. Property does get cheaper the further out you go, but unless you want to deal with Auckland’s notoriously terrible traffic on a daily basis, you may prefer to stick close to the centre.
Arguably, Auckland doesn’t have as much character as other places in New Zealand, and feels much like any other large, international city. A common complaint, much like most large cities, is that the locals aren’t as friendly as elsewhere and can be quite boorish. If you are looking to fully immerse yourself in Kiwi culture, you may prefer anywhere but Auckland.
If you are a keen hiker or mountain biker, you are more limited with options compared to the South Island or Wellington.
Is Auckland the best place to live in New Zealand?
If you are a party lover, beach bum, sun seeker or a city slicker, than you will be at home in Auckland.
Living in Wellington
Where is Wellington?
Wellington is at the very bottom of the North Island of New Zealand.
Pros and Cons of Living in Wellington
Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, has a really unique big-city vibe considering the reasonably small population. With the CBD that hugs the seafront, quirky cafes and bars, and beautiful coastline, there really is nowhere else like Wellington. For the adventurous types, there are plenty of really accessible mountain bike trails and hikes, plus paddleboarding or kitesurfing in the bay. For the foodies, Welly boasts some of New Zealand’s best bars and cafes and has a great craft beer scene with many breweries to peruse. We found Wellington the easiest city to make friends quickly as there is a great culture and loads of things going on.
Public transport is good, so it’s totally feasible to live in a proper Kiwi house with incredible sea views and commute into the city.
In terms of finding work, the job market is thriving and there is a broad range of roles needing to be filled at any time.
Wellington is an amazing city and popular for a reason. This means there are lots of people descending on the city, so finding a room can be pretty competitive. As a result of this, rent prices have soared and are almost matching Auckland’s. Be prepared to live in a larger share house if your budget isn’t huge.
You may have heard of “Windy Wellington” and the title doesn’t come undeserved. In fact, Wellington is the windiest city in the world! You do become accustomed to being blown around as you walk down the street, and the noise of the wind buffeting your house and making the windows rattle regularly though. Honestly, if windy weather is a big problem for you, don’t move to Wellington.
Is Wellington the best place to live in New Zealand?
If you are a culture vulture, beer lover, mountain biker, coffee connoisseur or a people person, then Wellington is probably a good option for you.
Living in Christchurch
Where is Christchurch?
Christchurch is on the north-east coast of the South Island.
Pros and Cons of Living in Christchurch
Christchurch has a bad rap due to many buildings being destroyed in an earthquake in 2011. However, this small city has undergone some impressive rebuilding works and we think it’s a wonderful place. The city feels very European and the centre is really pretty with the willow tree-lined Avon River winding through and the Botanical Gardens providing a huge green space right in the centre.
For a small city, there are enough quality bars, cafes and restaurants, to keep most people happy. We’ve found a few solid eateries that are as good as anywhere else!
The cost of living in Christchurch is pretty good, and you could potentially get a one bed flat for the same price as a room in Auckland or Wellington. Eating and drinking out is probably on par though.
Christchurch’s biggest pro is the outdoor lifestyle. First of all, Christchurch is nestled next to the Port Hills, a rugged landscape that offers hours upon hours of hiking, mountain biking and rock-climbing with incredible views over the city and the Banks Peninsula. Secondly, you can drive to huge mountains within a couple of hours, again with endless hikes and skiing/snowboarding in winter. Before we moved to Christchurch, we had no idea how close it was to such beautiful beaches. Christchurch is one of the few places where you could feasibly go surfing in the morning, and drive into the mountains to ski in the afternoon!
There is less of a job market in Christchurch compared to Auckland and Wellington, but there is also less competition. We didn’t struggle to find jobs in Christchurch, but if you are looking for work in a niche industry, you might not find it so easily here.
We also found making friends more difficult than elsewhere. There are meetups happening fairly regularly, and these are a good way to meet people but it is definitely more of a challenge. In general, if you love to have plenty of cultural activities and a large group of friends around you, you may not enjoy Christchurch as much as Wellington or Auckland.
Is Christchurch the best place to live in New Zealand?
If you are an avid mountain biker, rock-climber or hiker and love mountains, you will really struggle to beat Christchurch.
Living in Queenstown
Where is Queenstown?
Queenstown is in the south-west of the South Island.
Pros and Cons of Living in Queenstown
Sat on the edge of a huge lake and surrounded by mountains, Queenstown is a lively party town that is in its element during winter. Known as the adventure capital of the world, there are plenty of activities to keep you entertained.
With the best of the South Island on your doorstep, unlimited hiking and mountain biking trails, living in Queenstown will feel uniquely epic and memorable. It’s reasonably easy to make friends in Queenstown, although a large portion of the people you encounter will be transient and may not stick around for long.
You will probably be able to find work reasonably easily if you’re in retail, hospitality or tourism.
Queenstown is extremely expensive, and rent may set you back even more than Auckland. Coupled with the small size and many houses opting to rent through AirBnBs than as long-term accommodation, you may struggle to find a decent place at a reasonable price.
if you’re aren’t in retail, hospitality or tourism then the likelihood of you finding work is pretty low (though not impossible).
Queenstown is a key stop-off point in New Zealand, so will be extremely busy in peak seasons. Be prepared for tourists everywhere doing typical tourist things.
Is Christchurch the best place to live in New Zealand?
If you are happy to work in tourism, hospitality or retail, and you are a skier, snowboarder, mountain biker who likes to let their hair down, you will probably love Queenstown!
Where else are good places to live in New Zealand?
There are plenty of other places that you can live during your working holiday and you can do your own research into some of the smaller towns. However, outside of the above cities, you may struggle to find work outside of hospitality and tourism so it may be wise to base yourself in Auckland, Wellington or Christchurch to start with if you are keen to work in a different industry.
Some of the other popular destinations for Working Holiday makers are:
Tauranga is a harbour-side town with trendy bars and good weather. With quick access to the white sand beaches and the Coromandel Peninsula, this is a good option for surfers and those looking for the beach lifestyle.
Nelson is one of the sunniest towns in New Zealand, and is famed for its arts and crafts scene. The area around Nelson boasts golden beaches, perfect kayaking spots, extensive caving and plenty of hiking. As it is largely a tourist town, if you live here you can expect it to be very quiet off-season over winter.
Tucked away in the corner of the South Island, Dunedin is a quirky town with plenty to offer. With a population of less than 130,000 with a comparably large university, you’ll find a great range of trendy bars and cafes and a decent job market. The surrounding coastline is wild and expansive, and there are plenty of opportunities to spot New Zealand’s native penguin.
Choosing the best place to live in New Zealand
We’ve covered the most popular destinations for working holiday makers in New Zealand, but if you are still struggling to make a decision, don’t worry too much. As the nature of the work you will most likely get in New Zealand isn’t permanent, it is entirely possible to live in a couple of places during your stay. Of course, you may choose to be entirely flexible and possibly hop around the country working on farms, which is also entirely do-able. Whatever you choose to do, we are sure you will find an area of New Zealand that you love!