The Best Places to Live in New Zealand

Auckland offers a variety of landscapes to enjoy at any given time, from mountains to sea to soaring skyscrapers
Auckland offers a variety of landscapes to enjoy at any given time, from mountains to sea to soaring skyscrapers | © Rudi1976 / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Joe Coates
18 May 2021

For a relatively small nation, New Zealand offers some serious variety when it comes to choosing a place to live. Whether you seek idyllic countryside or ultra-hip urban cityscapes, chances are you’ll find it in New Zealand. Here are 10 of our favourites spots from around the country.


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Queenstown, New Zealand
© Alexey Stiop / Alamy Stock Photo

Of all the places to live in New Zealand, there is perhaps nowhere that encapsulates the stark beauty, outdoors lifestyle and colourful Kiwi culture like Queenstown. It ticks all the boxes, whether you’re into filling your Instagram with photographs that defy belief, shredding the slopes on a snowboard, relaxing in top-class restaurants and spas, or hiking and biking around in the summer. It’s one of those rare places in the world that never ceases to take your breath away on a daily basis, no matter how long you live there.


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The nation’s capital is also one of New Zealand’s most popular places to live. Unsurprisingly, Wellington is an expensive place to live, but what’s great about this compact city is that it remains an easily navigable landscape ideal for traversing on foot. It has excellent public transport, some of the best cafes, bars and restaurants anywhere in the country, and an incredible nightlife and music culture. When all the fun gets too much, Wellington has some beautiful suburbs and great hidden nooks.

Hawke's Bay

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Winery, Mill Road, Haumoana, Hawkes Bay, North Island, New Zealand.
| © Theo Moye / Alamy Stock Photo

Hawke’s Bay is the perfect place to live if you’re into the finer things in life. That is to say, if you can see yourself inhabiting a piece of New Zealand that is famed for its sensational food, world-class wine and beautiful art-deco architecture, then look no further. Hawke’s Bay even has that beautiful east coast weather going for it. If you’re after a cracking place to kick back, eat good food, drink good wine and enjoy some relaxed beaches, head to the Bay.


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The lure of the ocean and mountains call many people to this west coast region. The fact that you can snowboard in the morning and surf in the afternoon during the winter months is one of the chief appeals for the locals. There’s also the fact that the Taranaki locals are notoriously lovely, and that there are heaps of things to do outdoors. The food out in this rolling green country is pretty epic too, whilst there is a growing boutique beer culture. Taranaki really earns its nickname of Taradise.


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Ninety Mile Beach Northland New Zealand aerial
© David Wall / Alamy Stock Photo

Northland is beaches, beaches and more beaches. The weather is also particularly clement up these ways, and makes for a great place to live. Think Ninety Mile Beach, Poor Knights Islands, Cape Reinga, the remnants of the ancient kauri forests and the Bay of Islands. Long stretches of white sand, excellent seafood and giant dunes characterise life here.

The West Coast

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The West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand was recently named the happiest place to live in the country. Though it might be slightly out of the way – and you’d be forgiven for having not heard too much about it – the calm, tranquil way of life means locals love it here. The area itself is stunning and there are a couple of tourist attractions that pull in the big crowds – the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers for instance – but for the most part, a dreamy and peaceful solitude lies over this part of the country. Having said that, there are still jet-boat tours and helicopter rides to be booked if you feel the need for a little shot of adrenaline.

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  • Waiheke Island

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    © rosie neville / Alamy Stock Photo
    Waiheke Island is particularly popular with tourists, but why wouldn’t you want to live on an island that is home to one of the most beautiful beaches to be found in the entire country? Due to the fact that it has such a pumping tourist industry, there are also heaps of jobs to be had on Waiheke. For the backpacker that intends to stay on this island off the coast of Auckland, it can also be a surprisingly good place to save money. If you’re happy to work a summer during the peak of the tourist season and stay in a tent, you can save a lot of cash on accommodation. Plus you’ll be waking up in what many people would consider a little slice of paradise.


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    © Ian Dagnall / Alamy Stock Photo

    The first thing you’ll notice about the Rotorua area is the smell. Yes, it’s a little whiffy, but you’ll soon get used to that. With the plethora of activities that are available in the area, the smell of sulphur will soon be the last thing on your mind. Not only is there a host of things to keep you busy, but Rotorua is also one of the cheaper cities to live in NZ. When you think that this great spot is only a three-hour drive from Auckland, just down the road from Taupo and a few hours from skiing at Mount Ruapehu, you won’t want for a thing.

    Mount Manganui

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    Mount Manganui – or The Mount, as it’s referred to by locals – is a bit of a hip-and-happening spot on the east coast of the North Island. Although it has been swallowed up by the expansion of Tauranga, it is still very much its own place and retains a separate identity to the bigger city. Positioned out on a peninsula, The Mount is surrounded by white sandy beaches and is home to some excellent, groovy independent bars and restaurants. It’s a haven for those who love their fitness, so if you’re into your paddle-boarding and early morning jogging then this could be the place for you to settle down.


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    Auckland. Cityscape image of Auckland skyline, New Zealand during sunset.
    M0DCH6 Auckland. Cityscape image of Auckland skyline, New Zealand during sunset. | © rudi1976 / Alamy Stock Photo

    Although this might stir up a bit of controversy among New Zealanders, Auckland simply had to be one of our favourite picks for places to live on this versatile island. Yes, it’s mind-bogglingly expensive, but Auckland’s charms are abundant. The fact that it is the biggest city in the country means that there is always something happening here. From the myriad shows, restaurants and shops to the endless stream of events and excellent parks, Auckland truly has a little bit of everything.

    These recommendations were updated on May 18, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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