Buying guide

The 15 best places to live in New Zealand

From cities, to ski towns and rural villages - there are plenty of great places to live in Aotearoa New Zealand

Last updated: 2 April 2024

Thanks to breathtaking natural beauty, a temperate climate and friendly people, New Zealand is one of the best places to live in the world. But where is the best place to live in New Zealand? 

If you’re planning a move there are several areas to consider, from bustling international cities, to booming ski towns and sleepy wine regions. To help you choose we’ve rounded up our picks for the best towns and cities to live in New Zealand. 

The best cities (and towns) to live in New Zealand

1. Auckland

Auckland is New Zealand’s biggest and most diverse city by a large margin, with a population of over 1.7 million people. For many professions (especially white collar ones) this city is also home to the most job opportunities, with an average salary of just under $80,000. Auckland is famous for its countless beaches, exciting cultural events and thriving restaurant and cafe scene - but also its sky high property prices and chronic traffic. It’s got a temperate climate, with warm humid summers and mild, wet winters. 

Despite its challenges, if you’re looking for a big city, Auckland is one of the best places to live in New Zealand. 

  • Trade Me’s average property asking price in Auckland: $1.068 million

  • Trade Me’s average weekly rent in Auckland: $660

2. Christchurch

The South Island’s largest city (and New Zealand’s second largest) was hit hard by earthquakes in 2010 and 2011 but has since been rebuilt into a thriving, modern city with a population of just under 400,000 people. There are plenty of good jobs here, plus a great lifestyle on offer with nearby surf spots, mountains for skiing, world-class hikes and stunning nature (including Mt Hutt and the Banks Peninsula). 

While Christchurch is colder in winter and quieter than Auckland, the cost of living here is much lower, making it one of the best cities to live in New Zealand. 

  • Trade Me average property asking price in Christchurch/Canterbury: $707,200

  • Trade Me average weekly rent in Christchurch/Canterbury: $550

View of Christchurch and the Canterbury plains.

3. Tauranga

While much, much smaller than Auckland and Christchurch, with a population of just over 160,000, Tauranga has a lot to offer. This city has a warm climate, with mild winters and is home to some of New Zealand’s best beaches.There’s a laidback lifestyle here but the employment market is fairly diverse, with thriving agriculture and tourism industries and one of New Zealand’s largest ports. 

Property prices in the area have recently increased so it’s not cheap and the city does experience traffic problems, but if you’re looking for a laid back lifestyle with plenty of beach time, Tauranga is one of the best places to live in New Zealand. 

  • Trade Me average property asking price in Tauranga/Bay of Plenty: $901,200

  • Trade Me average weekly rent in Tauranga/Bay of Plenty: $660

4. Wanaka

Wānaka is a small but booming ski town in the far south of New Zealand with a population under 20,000. It’s famous for its stunning lake and mountains, with easy access to world-class wineries, hiking trails, skiing and adventure sports. It’s increasingly become home to remote workers and migrants from larger New Zealand cities seeking a more relaxed, outdoorsy lifestyle.

This little town may offer the ultimate lifestyle, but it doesn’t come cheap. Wānaka is one of New Zealand’s most expensive areas to live and employment opportunities outside of tourism, hospitality and agriculture are limited compared with larger cities. 

  • estimated median house value in Wanaka: $1.66m

5. Dunedin

Dunedin is another Otago city with a population of around 134,600 and it’s home to New Zealand’s second largest university. It’s named after Edinburgh (which is known as Dùn Èideann in Gaelic) because it has a rich Scottish history and plenty of Victorian and Edwardian architecture. The city boasts an up-and-coming food and restaurant scene, thriving student culture and plenty of natural beauty - including surf beaches, nearby mountains and national parks. 

The weather here is notoriously cold and wet, but the cost of living is much lower than most other major cities. 

  • Trade Me average property asking price in Otago/Dunedin: $839,530

  • Trade Me average weekly rent in Otago/Dunedin: $560

Dunedin is home to the world's steepest street.

6. Wellington

Wellington is the capital city of Aotearoa New Zealand located at the bottom tip of the North Island, with a population of around 216,000. As well as the political capital, Wellington is the cultural capital of New Zealand, with a thriving arts scene, plenty of craft beer breweries as well as frequent concerts and museum exhibitions. 

If you can get past the frequent strong winds and expensive property, there’s plenty to like about life in New Zealand’s coolest little capital. 

  • Trade Me average property asking price in Wellington: $825,050

  • Trade Me average weekly rent in Wellington: $650

7. Hamilton

Hamilton is a landlocked city about an hour and a half’s drive south of Auckland, known for its beautiful Waikato River. It’s one of New Zealand’s fastest growing urban centers thanks to its proximity to Auckland, lower property prices and popularity amongst young families. While it’s much quieter than Auckland, it has a vibrant restaurant and nightlife scene, and is surrounded by beautiful countryside. 

Hamilton’s job market is another bright spot - the city's economy is growing and there are plenty of jobs in diverse industries here. 

8. Nelson

Nelson is a town in the north of the South Island with a population of around 50,000 people. It’s surrounded by hundreds of miles of New Zealand’s most beautiful coastline, including the stunning Abel Tasman National Park, as well as great vineyards. 

If you fancy a slower pace, lots of sunshine and beautiful beaches, Nelson is hard to beat. 

9. Queenstown

An hour's drive from Wānaka', in the South Island you’ll find Queenstown, New Zealand’s adventure capital and one of its most visited locations. The picture-perfect town is built around a stunning lake and mountain ranges, and nearby there’s phenomenal mountain biking, skiing, bungee jumping and luxury dining. 

While there’s no doubting Queenstown’s appeal, it’s one of the country’s most expensive property markets and employment opportunities outside of tourism and hospitality are limited if you can’t work remotely. 

Queenstown is one of NZ's most beautiful towns.

10. Napier

Napier is a coastal city on the east coast of New Zealand in the beautiful Hawke's Bay region. It’s famous for its beautifully preserved art deco architecture and its location near several of New Zealand’s best wineries and its frequently sunny weather. 

11. New Plymouth

New Plymouth is a small city on the central west coast of New Zealand’s north island, that’s surrounded by natural beauty, including great surf beaches and the beautiful Mt Taranaki. It’s got plenty of parks and greenspace, great bars and restaurants and a fairly slow pace lifestyle - perfect for young, outdoorsy families. 

12. Rotorua

Rotorua is a small city about three hours south of Auckland, famous for its geothermal activity, Māori culture. While it can be a little stinky (thanks to that geothermal activity), the town features affordable property, beautiful lakes nearby and a booming tourism industry - plus great mountain biking.

13. Blenheim

Blenheim is the largest town in New Zealand’s world-famous Marlborough wine region. it's frequently sunny and surrounded by amazing restaurants and wineries. It has most of the conveniences of larger cities, with small town friendliness and charm - plus it’s surrounded by natural beauty, from rolling vineyards to snow-capped mountains. 

Blenheim is one of New Zealand's biggest wine producing regions.

14. Havelock North

Just down the road from Napier you’ll find Havelock North, its slightly quieter, slightly more affordable neighbor. Life in Havelock North is a little more suburban than its busier neighbor, but you get the benefit of being just 25 minutes drive from Napier. 

15. Whangarei

Whangāre is New Zealand’s second most northern city after Kaitaia, which means it is frequently the warmest. Apart from great weather the area is also surrounded by stunning beaches, and it’s just a short two hour drive from Auckland.

It’s a small town so employment is limited, but housing is relatively cheap - especially compared with Auckland. 

Ready to find a home in your chosen region?

Once you’ve chosen the best place to live in New Zealand , it’s time to start searching for a home. To get started simply:

  • Visit Trade Me Property, New Zealand’s home of properties for sale and for rent. 

  • Choose your city and suburb.

  • Filter by price, property type and number of bedrooms or bathrooms. 

Once you’re ready to go hit search and start browsing to find your dream home in New Zealand. 

Disclaimer: This article contains is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Trade Me. 


Ben Tutty
Ben Tutty

Ben Tutty is a regular contributor for Trade Me and he's also contributed to Stuff and the Informed Investor. He's got 10+ years experience as both a journalist and website copywriter, specialising in real estate, finance and tourism. Ben lives in Wānaka with his partner and his best mate (Finnegan the whippet).