Explore the best cities to live in New Zealand for UK expats, considering job opportunities, lifestyle and affordability. Auckland and Wellington are popular destinations, but which place is best for you?
Deciding to relocate to New Zealand is a straightforward choice. However, after making this initial decision, determining your specific living destination within the country is imperative.
The largest cities in New Zealand are Wellington and Auckland, both of which offer all the modern conveniences of city living with various cultural attractions, restaurants, and nightlife.
Wellington, the capital city, has a reputation for being artsy and cool, attracting a wide variety of creative people to live and work there. It’s also known for its temperate climate, milder than Auckland’s, so it is a great place to settle for expats looking for comfortable temperatures all year round.
Auckland, the larger of the two main cities, is a melting pot of cultures with a lively and vibrant atmosphere. It’s also one of the sunniest cities in New Zealand, clocking an average of 2,000 hours of sunshine annually.
Beyond these two cities, other attractive relocation options include Christchurch, Hamilton, and Tauranga. Our guide meticulously explores the top cities in New Zealand, aiming to assist you in pinpointing the location that aligns perfectly with your financial plan and lifestyle preferences.
This list is compiled by the most popular places in New Zealand that our customers have relocated to. PSS International Removals has over 40 years of experience in the removals industry and can assist you if you want to move from the UK.
- 1. Auckland – The ‘city of sails’
- 2. Wellington – New Zealand’s culinary capital
- 3. Christchurch – The city of exploration
- 4. Hamilton – Affordable living and great shopping
- 5. Tauranga – Easygoing lifestyle and warm climate
- 6. Dunedin – Stunning scenery and biodiversity
- 7. Whangarei – Stunning beauty and culture
- 8. Nelson – Year-round sunshine and thriving local arts
- 9. Queenstown – Known for adventure and fun activities
- 10. Invercargill – City of water and light
- 11. Gisborne – Amazing food and surf beaches
- 12 New Plymouth – Family-friendly fun and art galleries
- 13. Palmerston North – Often called ‘Rose City’
- 14. Napier – Excellent wineries and fabulous restaurants
- 15. Ngaruawahia – Sweet serenity of a small town
- 16. Greymouth – Beautiful natural surroundings
- 17. Taupo – Skydiving capital of the world
- 18. Rotorua – Fascinating Maori culture
- 19. Blenheim – Affordable properties
- 20. Ashburton – Great for walking and fishing
- Looking to make the move to New Zealand?
Auckland, renowned as Aotearoa’s largest city, is a crucial economic centre and a vibrant hotspot for career opportunities. Housing the nation’s most famous corporations, the city can present immense possibilities for career advancement while offering a high quality of life in New Zealand.
Not only does the city boast a robust economic landscape, but it also flourishes as a melting pot of diversity and cosmopolitan vibrancy. With offerings that appeal to families, Auckland is a treasure trove of cultural experiences encompassing museums, historic sites, exhilarating festivals, and captivating sporting events. Educational institutions in Auckland are among the cream of the crop, with top-tier schools and prestigious universities providing excellent learning environments and opportunities.
Auckland is a city of contrasts, weaving the bustling downtown core with the serene allure of North Shore’s pristine beaches. The city’s suburbs, each with unique charm and character, collectively offer lifestyle options catering to a diverse population. However, it is crucial to note that this abundance of amenities and lifestyle options comes with a heftier price tag, as Auckland housing tends to be more expensive.
Climate-wise, Auckland is the warmest of New Zealand’s large cities. Residents and visitors alike can enjoy a mild, appealing climate year-round. Summers in Auckland are characterised by their pleasant warmth, while winters are notably mild, making it an ideal location for those who prefer moderate temperatures.
2. Wellington – New Zealand’s culinary capital
Wellington, the capital city of New Zealand, offers a wealth of family-friendly attractions, including museums, art galleries, enchanting gardens, and parks. The city is also renowned for hosting prestigious educational institutions consistently ranking among the nation’s top.
Wellington is an ideal destination for those searching for the comprehensive amenities typically associated with a capital city but in a more relaxed and intimate atmosphere. Despite its smaller size than Auckland, Wellington boasts a well-designed and seemingly curated urban structure, providing a delightful blend of urban sophistication and small-town charm.
The city’s layout facilitates quick transitions from bustling urban centres to tranquil nature reserves in minutes. After concluding your day in the city centre at 5 p.m., you can immerse yourself in pristine nature reserves by 5:30 p.m. Wellington takes pride in its vibrant coffee culture, lively music scene, and many family-friendly attractions. Notable highlights include Te Papa Tongarewa (the Museum of New Zealand), the Wellington Botanic Gardens, and the Wellington Cable Car, offering breathtaking views from Kelburn Hill.
Expatriates who have made Wellington their home have overwhelmingly found the experience gratifying. For instance, Yulia, a resident expat, characterises Wellington as “safe and beautiful, despite occasional weather challenges.”
Serving as the governmental epicentre of New Zealand, Wellington offers an optimal residence for individuals involved in the public sector. For those interested in politics and governance, the city serves as a living classroom and a hub for intellectual exchange, hosting various think tanks, advocacy groups, and universities specialising in public policy programs.
3. Christchurch – The city of exploration
With its mild climate and stunning natural landscapes, Christchurch is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, providing both skiing and surfing opportunities within a two-hour drive from the city. This affordable and charming city offers many activities, including punting along the Avon River in its historic centre.
Home to the enchanting Christchurch Botanic Gardens and the prestigious Isaac Theatre Royal, the city is brimming with attractions. You can enjoy leisurely days at nearby beaches like Sumner or Waimairi, immersing yourself in their tranquil and captivating surroundings. Whether you’re planning to live, work, or raise a family, Christchurch offers a wealth of opportunities and a high quality of life, catering to the diverse needs of its residents.
As one of New Zealand’s leading cities for employment, education, outdoor activities, and family life, Christchurch boasts a strong economy, various educational institutions, and a vibrant outdoor lifestyle. The city is renowned for its family-friendly atmosphere and provides affordable housing options.
Being New Zealand’s oldest city, Christchurch radiates with vibrant energy, creating an engaging and exciting family environment. Theodore, an expatriate living in Christchurch, shares this sentiment, emphasising that “Christchurch is an excellent place to raise a family, with easy accessibility, made even more convenient with a car.”
4. Hamilton – Affordable living and great shopping
Hamilton is emerging as a favoured destination for UK expats relocating. Situated an hour’s drive south of Auckland, this city presents a more economical and family-centric living option compared to the bustle and expense of New Zealand’s largest metropolis. A notable feature of Hamilton is the renowned Hamilton Gardens, a sprawling park providing over 58 hectares of diverse gardens for exploration and enjoyment.
The city has witnessed a surge in UK expats making it their home in recent years, with several driving factors behind this trend. Hamilton offers relatively affordable living, with housing and rental prices 20% to 25% less than those in Auckland, making it financially appealing. Additionally, the decision of various businesses to establish their operations in Hamilton and the surrounding Waikato region can be attributed to the preference of their workforce, which finds the city an attractive place to reside due to its robust economy and broad employment opportunities.
For international students considering pursuing their studies in New Zealand, Hamilton is a compelling choice due to the presence of the University of Waikato. The university is a preferred institution among international students, providing an array of support services designed to assist them seamlessly transitioning and succeeding in their academic endeavours. These services include arranging homestays with local families and a buddy system that pairs international students with local mentors for guidance and support.
5. Tauranga – Easygoing lifestyle and warm climate
In New Zealand’s North Island, Tauranga serves as a concealed treasure for expats, retirees, beach enthusiasts, and working professionals. With its splendid coastline, easy-going lifestyle, and perennial warm climate, this welcoming coastal city is an ideal residence for young adults aspiring to immerse in a beach-oriented lifestyle.
The city is an attractive choice for those seeking a rural setting with all the necessary amenities. Charlene, an expat hailing from Tauranga, passionately expressed, “Tauranga is amazing, and I wholeheartedly recommend it if you favour a smaller or more rural lifestyle like ours.” Nevertheless, its absence of a university may not be ideal for students who desire proximity to their educational institution, aiming to minimise extensive commutes.
The city’s exquisite beaches are a magnet for expats, with its expansive 11 km coastline providing ample beach space for all to enjoy. Tauranga offers something for everyone, whether swimming, surfing, sunbathing, or simply taking a relaxing walk along the beach.
Benefiting from a temperate climate year-round, with its warm summers and brisk winters, Tauranga is not only more economically accessible than other cities in New Zealand but also boasts a variety of attractions. It’s home to the soothing Mount Maunganui Hot Pools and is near many alluring destinations, including Rotorua, Taupo, and the mesmerising Coromandel Peninsula.
6. Dunedin – Stunning scenery and biodiversity
Nestled in New Zealand’s South Island, Dunedin summons expatriates searching for a delightful and inviting home. Its allure stems from a tapestry of Scottish heritage and Victorian architectural splendour, energised by a dynamic student community and framed by breathtaking landscapes. This city exudes an irresistible charm that captivates its residents.
Many expats find themselves drawn to Dunedin’s genial climate. With its temperate maritime weather, summers are pleasantly mild, while winters remain agreeably cool, facilitating an engaging outdoor lifestyle throughout the year. Moreover, with a considerable Maori community residing in the area, acquiring a few basic Maori phrases can prove helpful and add fun to your social interactions!
As for housing, Dunedin boasts a variety of options to suit diverse preferences. Whether you fancy living in a central city apartment or prefer the quiet allure of suburban houses, there’s something here for you. The city is ensconced amidst natural wonders, offering easy access to pristine beaches, abundant wildlife, and mesmerising hiking trails, making it a picture-perfect abode for expats.
7. Whangarei – Stunning beauty and culture
Situated in Northland, Whangarei is a charming city that dazzles with its magnificent landscapes, embodying a tranquil, easy-going way of life and offering a host of outdoor adventures. For expatriates seeking an affordable yet gratifying living experience, Whangarei stands out as an ideal choice, thanks to its cost of living, which is notably lower than that of the larger cities, and its amiable, inclusive community. Here, life unfolds leisurely, characterised by a serene and untroubled ambience.
Expats longing for warmth will find solace in Whangarei, one of the cosiest locations in New Zealand. Positioned as the northernmost significant city in New Zealand, Whangarei boasts a mild oceanic climate, maintaining high humidity levels throughout the year. It is recognised as one of New Zealand’s sunniest urban areas. While its summer temperatures are comparatively subdued, the city’s winter temperatures are among the highest, ensuring a comfortable living environment year-round.
The palpable influence of the Maori language and culture enhances the city’s unique charm, making it an intriguing place to reside. Furthermore, the Northland Polytechnic campus in the city provides access to an array of tertiary education programs catering to different academic needs and aspirations.
8. Nelson – Year-round sunshine and thriving local arts
Nelson is located on the coast and boasts a warm, sunny climate, pristine beaches, and abundant outdoor recreational activities, nestled amid three significant national parks: Abel Tasman, Kahurangi, and Nelson Lakes. The city is vibrant with a dynamic arts and crafts community, being the venue for numerous celebrated festivals and events such as the Nelson Arts Festival and the globally-recognised World of WearableArt Awards Show.
Nelson is also the proud home to the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology (NMIT). This institution provides a spectrum of both academic and vocational programs in diverse areas, including but not limited to aviation, viticulture, and marine engineering. If you have a young family, residing in the city gives you access to esteemed primary and secondary education institutions.
With the reasonably priced housing and rental market, Nelson presents an appealing residential option for expats. The city’s economic stability, affordable living, and lively atmosphere contribute to its allure for those in pursuit of a life characterised by equilibrium and activity.
9. Queenstown – Known for adventure and fun activities
Queenstown was settled on the shores of Lake Wakatipu and is surrounded by the dramatic Southern Alps. It is a picturesque resort town known for its adventure tourism. With a population of around 16,000, it offers a small-town atmosphere for those who prefer to be away from the hustle and bustle of city life while providing world-class amenities and attractions.
Queenstown is surrounded by stunning natural beauty, with mountains, lakes, and forests within easy reach. It has an active and busy town centre with various restaurants, bars, and shops catering to residents and tourists, with craft beers from one of the many local breweries being popular.
This city is perfect for expats who are outdoor enthusiasts. It’s surrounded by stunning scenery and offers many activities, including white water rafting. The city is also a popular tourist destination, which means there are plenty of job opportunities in the tourism sector.
10. Invercargill – City of water and light
Known as the “City of Water and Light,” Invercargill has stunning natural scenery, a thriving arts and culture scene, and a friendly, laid-back atmosphere. It is not only New Zealand’s southernmost city but one of the southernmost cities in the world!
Invercargill is a charming and welcoming city for you to consider moving to. From its wide streets of Victorian, Edwardian, and Art Deco heritage buildings to its vibrant arts and culture scene, Invercargill is a great place to live and work.
The city is home to Queens Park, a sprawling 80-hectare park with gardens, wildlife habitats, playgrounds, and sports areas. You can explore the city’s rich history at the Southland Museum and Art Gallery or the Bill Richardson Transport World and visit the Southland Classic Motoring Events Centre to learn about the reasons behind the city’s deep love of classic cars and motorcycles.
11. Gisborne – Amazing food and surf beaches
If you have a strong interest in Māori culture, love food, wine, and surf beaches, and want to see the first sunrise in the world, then Gisborne is a city you should consider moving to. The city is home to Te Poho-o-Rawiri, a traditional Māori meeting house, and Maunga Hikurangi, a sacred mountain that is the first place in the world to greet the sunrise each morning.
Gisborne is known for its fantastic food, wine, and beer because it is home to many boutique wineries, breweries, and restaurants serving fresh, local produce. An ideal place for food and drink-loving expats to settle down! If you love the idea of living by the sea, Gisborne has some great surf beaches, including Makorori Beach and Wainui Beach.
12 New Plymouth – Family-friendly fun and art galleries
In New Plymouth, breathtaking vistas greet you at every turn, parks boast impeccable design, beaches flaunt their unique black sands, dogs enjoy exclusive areas, and the waves seem to beckon you to ride them. While it might not rival the size of metropolises like Auckland or Wellington, New Plymouth bustles with activity, boasting top-notch restaurants just a stone’s throw from vibrant nightlife. Many expatriates who’ve settled here love the ease of getting around and the simplicity of finding parking. It’s also highly recommended for those looking to start a family.
Rent here may be more affordable than in the bigger cities, but prices vary based on the location. While lighter than in urban hubs, the traffic is easy to navigate. With its splendid weather, there’s a wealth of exploration opportunities within and in the city. Not to be overlooked, the local bakeries have won many hearts, and the presence of numerous supermarkets, paired with the proximity to the beaches, makes it an ideal location.
13. Palmerston North – Often called ‘Rose City’
In “Palmy”, the cycling is a dream. The residents? A vibrant mix with characters of all kinds. Every suburb brings flair, accompanied by a tasty food scene and inviting walkways. Families thrive here, thanks to a treasure trove of affordable kid-approved activities and a cost of living that won’t break the bank. Those seeking a laid-back town with a touch of sophistication will feel right at home. Foodies can indulge in gems like Lil Savanna and Aberdeen while Cafe Jacko pours a cuppa you won’t forget.
Outdoor enthusiasts take note: Palmy delivers from swimming to mountain biking and running. Plus, location is a big tick, with beaches just a short drive away and the capital within reach – especially with the new Manawatu Gorge on the horizon.
With a diverse crowd, including a youthful vibe from Massey University and families and seniors, it’s a town of contrasts. As for settling down, consider pocket-friendly neighbourhoods like Cloverlea and Milson or splurge in Kelvin Grove or Hokowhitu.
Don’t forget the green spots! The Esplanade is perfect for a leisurely day out, and for a refreshing splash, hit up Memorial Park’s free splash pad. Craving a hike? Trails like the sledge track or the old Manawatu Gorge walk await. In the end, like any place, Palmy is what you make of it.
14. Napier – Excellent wineries and fabulous restaurants
In the grand world of “Places You Should Totally Live,” Napier stands out. Fancy a bit of prestige? Napier Hill, Taradale, and Greenmeadows have got you covered. Most of Napier’s neighbourhoods give you that comfy feeling, making it difficult to criticise.
Now, let’s talk entertainment. Love the harmonious tunes of a concert? Mission Estate has you covered. Keen on a sporty day out? You’ll be breaking a sweat between rugby, cricket, basketball, and football just deciding what to watch. Not to mention, Napier is the hub for boat and home shows.
Need a night out? Napier’s city centre and Ahuriri have plenty of cafes, bars, and nightclubs. And for those who love the calm, neighbourhoods like Jervoistown, Sugar Loaf, and Poraiti are Napier’s serene sanctuaries.
15. Ngaruawahia – Sweet serenity of a small town
Living in Ngaruawahia, you’ll find the sweet serenity of a small town, blissfully free from the traffic and pressures of a bustling metropolis.
Strategically nestled between Auckland and Hamilton airports, it’s a breeze when the travel bug bites. With every essential shop at your fingertips – from food to services- you’ll never wander far, thanks to the conveniently laid-out main street. However, the flip side? While it has all the basics, don’t expect the extensive variety of a big city. It’s all about enjoying the simple pleasures here!
16. Greymouth – Beautiful natural surroundings
Greymouth offers a unique lifestyle. The image is a mere 10-minute stroll from the sea, with consistent rainfall maintaining the lush greenery of the bush landscape. Outdoor enthusiasts will be thrilled with fishing, hunting, and bush walks aplenty.
Many who reside in Greymouth notice the warm community, diverse sports groups, and hobbies to enjoy throughout the week. The proximity to enchanting spots like glaciers and the charming town of Hokitika adds to the allure.
Additionally, the town boasts affordable housing, amiable locals, and a chorus of beautiful birdlife, captivating forests, and delightful hikes to explore. Greymouth truly is a treasure trove for those who appreciate nature and community.
17. Taupo – Skydiving capital of the world
Taupo is a delightful haven for families, boasting a safe environment thanks to its low crime rate. The town brims with a vibrant local community with pride in every corner. There’s never a dull moment here, with events like the Ironman NZ and the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge, and for the music aficionados, there’s the Taupo Summer Concert.
Amongst New Zealand’s gems, Taupo is a personal favourite, offering tranquillity, scenic beauty, abundant hiking trails, rejuvenating hot springs, and the crown jewel – the majestic Great Lake. Truly, Taupo is an adventurer’s paradise and a serenity seeker’s dream!
18. Rotorua – Fascinating Maori culture
Rotorua Place strikes the perfect balance; it’s sizable enough to cater to most needs and desires yet retains that small-town charm where friendliness is the norm. On its serene footpaths, expect warm nods and hellos from passers-by. Bus drivers, primarily locals, offer a nod, although a few newcomers from bustling international cities might still be warming up to their cheerful duties.
This town is a magnet for tourists, and it’s easy to see why: exhilarating lake activities, breathtaking walks, guided tours of the thermal zones, a thrilling gondola and luge ride, and an awe-inspiring redwood forest complete with an “aerial walkway.” The lakefront is getting a facelift, and there’s no shortage of quality accommodation. For food lovers, “Eat Street” offers a sheltered arcade brimming with diverse dining options, and the city boasts even more culinary delights. Let’s not forget the picturesque gardens, inviting thermal pools, and the allure of thermally heated waters. A true haven for relaxation and recreation!
19. Blenheim – Affordable properties
Boasting a low crime rate and minimal traffic, this place offers an enviable climate and properties that give you a bang for your buck. With a comprehensive range of shops and services, it’s well-connected to major cities like Christchurch, Wellington, Auckland, and Nelson. Plus, it’s a stone’s throw from the enchanting Marlborough Sounds.
The city is one of the sunniest towns in New Zealand, with an estimated average of 2,438 hours of sunshine a year. Its winters are marked by mild frosts and abundant sunshine, ensuring your spirits remain high. This might be your haven if an outdoorsy, laid-back lifestyle amidst warm and casual folk appeals to you. Here, homes won’t burn a hole in your pocket, the wine is top-notch, and the community radiates friendliness
20. Ashburton – Great for walking and fishing
Ashburton, perched on the fringes of South Dartmoor, is fast becoming a hotspot for those keen on walking, fishing, and nature. But that’s not all; this town is a hub for community and sports enthusiasts. Here, you’ll find the state-of-the-art EA Networks Centre for indoor aquatic and sports activities and the Ashburton Tennis Centre for game-set-match fun!
And while Ashburton boasts many renowned New Zealand chain stores, it still manages to keep its quaint charm with boutique and speciality shops. As you stroll the streets, you’ll encounter unique local cafes, restaurants, and bars, ensuring every culinary craving is met. Truly, Ashburton offers the best of both worlds!
Looking to make the move to New Zealand?
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If you are ready to move to New Zealand, contact PSS Removals today for a free quote. We will work with you to create a custom moving plan that meets your needs and budget.