Top Picks: Best Places to Live in New Zealand for Expats in 2024

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Are you pondering where to live in New Zealand as an expat from the UK? This guide aims to help you navigate through the top living destinations in this beautiful country. New Zealand, with its breath-taking landscapes and vibrant culture, offers a diverse range of living experiences, each uniquely appealing to the expat community.

From the bustling urban centres on the North Island to the relaxing and scenic locales on the South Island, this article breaks down the key factors that make each area stand out. We delve into critical aspects such as job availability, cost of living, educational facilities, and lifestyle to assist you in making an informed decision.

We aim to streamline your decision-making process by providing a clear and concise overview of what each city has to offer. Whether you’re seeking the dynamic, cosmopolitan vibe of Auckland or the more laid-back charm of cities like Wellington and Christchurch, this guide is your gateway to understanding the nuances of each potential home.

We explore the unique characteristics that draw expats to these locations, ensuring you have all the necessary insights to find the perfect fit for your new life in New Zealand.

Auckland: The Vibrant Metropolis


We start in Auckland, New Zealand’s biggest city. Nestled between two harbours, Auckland is a bustling metropolis with a unique blend of urban and natural attractions. With its cultural diversity, top-notch schools, and beautiful beaches, it’s a busy city that caters to everyone.

But what if you’re looking for a career change or just starting? No worries! Auckland is a hive of job opportunities, including just big city jobs, especially in the Central Business District. However, keep in mind that the city’s charm comes with a relatively steep cost of living.

Housing and traffic might be challenging, but Auckland’s cultural and social scene surely makes up for it. Some highlights include:

  • Cultural festivals
  • Live music gigs
  • Stunning beaches
  • The iconic Skytower

These ensure a vibrant city life. Despite the hustling city life, relaxation is always within reach. Just a short trip away, you can find the beautiful Waiheke Island and the Coromandel Peninsula, perfect spots to unwind and enjoy the warm climate.

Wellington: The Cultural Capital

Moving south from Auckland, we reach Wellington, New Zealand’s capital city. Known for its vibrant arts scene, Wellington has the perfect blend of urban sophistication and small-town charm. Despite being the capital, Wellington is much more affordable than Auckland and other major cities. It’s a fantastic city for young adults and students, with a variety of job opportunities and prestigious educational institutions.

The wonderful city boasts many cultural events, cafes, restaurants, theatres, galleries, and regular events. This, along with the city’s unique blend of city vibes and small-town charm, makes Wellington a beloved spot among expats. In addition to its cultural attractions, Wellington is renowned for its stunning waterfront and beautiful beaches, making it one of New Zealand’s favourite beaches.

Christchurch: The Resilient City

Christchurch NZ

Christchurch is South Island’s largest city. Known for its resilience and ongoing redevelopment after the 2011 earthquake, Christchurch is a family-friendly environment, with a strong economy, and a variety of outdoor activities. Located on the East Coast, the city’s economy is particularly strong in construction, manufacturing, and engineering, but also many other job opportunities.

Tauranga: Coastal Living at its Finest

Christchurch’s temperate climate and beautiful English-style gardens make it an ideal spot for outdoor enthusiasts. With easy access to the Southern Alps, Canterbury coast, and Banks Peninsula, you’re never far from an adventure. The city’s mild climate and stunning beaches like Sumner make it a perfect spot to chill out during the summer months.

Returning to the North Island, we visit the coastal city of Tauranga. Known for its stunning beaches and relaxed lifestyle, Tauranga is an attractive option for expats seeking a balance between work and leisure. Surrounded by water, the city boasts many water activities for the whole family to enjoy. The city also offers a robust job market, with opportunities in a variety of sectors.

In terms of affordability, Tauranga stands as a good alternative to Auckland and Wellington. The cost of living is significantly lower, making it a more manageable option for families and retirees. Plus, with its great sense of community and plethora of amenities, it’s no wonder Tauranga is one of the top places to live in New Zealand for families and retirees.

Dunedin: The Student-Friendly City

Back on the South Island, Dunedin, known for its lively student culture and affordability, awaits exploration. With its vibrant campus life and welcoming vibe, Dunedin is a haven for students and young professionals. The city has a wide range of job opportunities in various sectors including healthcare, education, and tourism, making it a perfect spot for both students and recent graduates.

In addition to its academic culture, Dunedin is also known for:

  • Stunning landscapes
  • Thriving wildlife scene
  • Its location on the Otago Peninsula, with easy access to beautiful beaches and rare wildlife

This makes it a perfect spot for nature lovers. With its affordable cost of living, vibrant student culture, and stunning natural beauty, Dunedin surely stands out as one of the best places to live in New Zealand.

Hamilton: The Affordable Alternative


We then visit Hamilton, another city on New Zealand’s North Island. Known for its affordability, Hamilton is an excellent alternative to Auckland, with a lower cost of living and a strong economy. The city boasts a diverse range of industries, providing plenty of job opportunities for expats.

Hamilton’s central location allows easy access to popular tourist attractions like:

  • The Coromandel
  • Mount Maunganui
  • Rotorua
  • Taupo

Plus, it’s just a short 1-hour 30-minute drive from Auckland. In addition to its economic and geographical advantages, Hamilton has a variety of fun activities. From scenic walks along the Waikato River to exploring the stunning Hamilton Gardens, there’s always something to do in this city.

Napier: Wine Country and Art Deco Charm

We travel next to Napier, a city celebrated for its Art Deco architecture and thriving wine industry. Compared to bigger cities like Auckland and Wellington, Napier offers a much more affordable cost of living. The city boasts a vibrant nightlife scene, with concerts at Mission Estate, sports events, cool cafes, bars, and nightclubs in the city centre and Ahuriri.

In addition to its affordability and thriving social scene, Napier has numerous job options in areas such as healthcare and with the growth of its vineyards and beautiful coastline, tourism is also an option. With its sunny climate, stunning landscapes, and Art Deco charm, it’s no wonder expats are choosing to call Napier home.

Queenstown: Adventure Seekers’ Paradise


We venture next to Queenstown, New Zealand’s adventure capital. Known for its picturesque setting and numerous outdoor activities, Queenstown is a dream come true for adventure lovers. Despite its high living costs, the city offers a wide range of job opportunities, particularly in the tourism and hospitality fields.

While the cost of living in Queenstown is higher than in Auckland, the city offers an unparalleled adventure experience that’s well worth the price. From hiking and bungee jumping to skiing and white water rafting, there’s always something to do in this bustling city. So, if you’re an adventure junkie looking for a place to call home, Queenstown might just be the city for you.

But we can guarantee even if you don’t end up living here, you’re bound to visit on one of your holidays sooner rather than later!

Rotorua: Geothermal Wonders and Maori Culture

Finally, we arrive in Rotorua, a city renowned for:

  • Geothermal attractions
  • Maori culture
  • Geysers and hot springs
  • Great community

Rotorua offers a unique living experience for expats seeking a true Kiwi lifestyle. The city has a variety of job options, particularly in forestry and tourism, and the cost of living is quite reasonable.

In addition to its geothermal wonders, Rotorua has a range of outdoor activities for residents to enjoy. From scenic walks to lake activities, there’s always something to do in this city. The city also boasts a diverse culinary scene, catering to different tastes and preferences.

Tips for Settling into Expat Life in New Zealand

Having explored New Zealand’s diverse cities, let’s share some tips on acclimating to expat life in this remarkable country. First and foremost, research is key. Understanding the visa requirements is crucial before making the move. The cost of living in New Zealand varies from city to city, so understanding the average costs can help you budget accordingly.

Consider your specific needs in terms of location, budget, and amenities when seeking affordable housing. Job hunting may be a bit tough if you’re not a citizen or resident, so connecting with people in your industry and looking for job ads online can be helpful. Lastly, joining local clubs or groups can help in making friends and fitting into the community.

Wanting to move to New Zealand?

New Zealand is not just a destination but a diverse tapestry of cities, each with its unique charm and opportunities. Whether you find yourself captivated by the urban pulse of Auckland, the cultural richness of Wellington, the resilient spirit of Christchurch, or the coastal serenity of Tauranga, New Zealand has a place that feels like home for every expat.

Each city, with its distinct lifestyle and offerings, presents a unique blend of experiences, job opportunities, and community, making them ideal for expats from all walks of life.

Once you have decided where to live and have obtained your visa, remember that the key to a successful move to New Zealand lies in meticulous planning and partnering with the right removals company.

Simpsons International Removals ensures a smooth transition for people moving from the UK to New Zealand. We provide a comprehensive door-to-door service, handling everything from small moves to full household removals in a shipping container, including professional packing, customs clearance, and delivery to your new home in New Zealand.

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