Auckland

Cities in New Zealand | The Best Places to Study, Work, and Live

charlotte

From volcanoes to beaches to glaciers, New Zealand has a uniquely diverse geography and a wide range of outdoor adventures. After reading about everything New Zealand has to offer, you may decide to live there! The largest cities in New Zealand each have many attractions that fascinate students and travelers from all over the world. The question is: which city should you live in?

Planning to live in New Zealand can take a lot of time and research. The good news is, we’ve already done the work for you! Many members of our GrowPro team have lived in New Zealand, possessing a lot of experience and knowledge about this amazing country.  

In this guide, you’ll learn about the main cities of New Zealand. Well discuss living, studying, and working in each city, including advantages and disadvantages. Afterward, you’ll be able to decide on the city that best suits your interests and needs. Are you ready? Let’s dive in!

Cities in New Zealand 

sunset over a city in new zealand

New Zealand has a population of about 4.9 million people, where over 75% of the citizens live in the northern island. With the country being an island, many cities in New Zealand have breathtaking coastlines. Other cities sit within the country’s remarkable landscapes: mountains, volcanoes, and geysers.

You’ll find dozens of trails to national parks and other hidden gems. Speaking of hidden gems, you may recognize many of them from the Lord of the Rings movie franchise, which was filmed here! Several cities in New Zealand offer tours through various filming locations. 

With numerous attractions and travel destinations, there are plenty of job opportunities available. See for yourself why people from all over the world choose to study and work in New Zealand. Below, we’ll look at four of New Zealand’s main cities: Auckland, Wellington, Queenstown, and Christchurch. Each has its characteristics and charm, which we’ll help you review and compare.

Auckland

harbour view of auckland city

Population: 1,570,000 

Geographical location:North Island

Fun Fact: Has a higher population than the entire South Island.

Auckland, also called Tamaki Makaurau, is the biggest city in New Zealand, both in square area and number of citizens. This large urban hub, known for its diversity and multiculturalism, is a shopping haven for tourists and travelers. If you’re looking for a busy city with a vibrant nightlife, Auckland is a destination to consider. 

With temperatures averaging 25℃ in the summer and 11℃ in the winter, Auckland has great weather for outdoor activities. The city sits right on the harbor, where many locals enjoy kayaking, surfing, and dolphin spotting. You can even take a ferry ride from downtown to Auckland’s largest volcano, Rangitoto Island. If you’re interested in more sightseeing ideas, check out our article on 11 essential places to enjoy in Auckland.

Working and Studying in Auckland

Auckland has three universities, all of which rank in the QS list of Top Universities in the World. The city also has several vocational training institutions and English language schools. Most universities and schools in Auckland offer students accommodation assistance, including off-campus options. 

As for working in Auckland, there is rapid growth in the construction and technology/IT industries, as well as recruiting agencies. The city has a large public transport network, including trains, buses, and ferries, to help with getting around. Routes run through major work areas and schools, and public transport offers discounted fare for enrolled students.

Advantages of Living in Auckland

  • Great job opportunities
  • A lively and multicultural area
  • Warm weather, ideal for outdoor activities

Disadvantages of Living in Auckland

  • More job competition than other cities
  • A high cost of living 
  • The most volcanic area of the island

Wellington

view of oriental bay in Wellington NZ

Population: 506,800

Geographical location: North Island

Fun Fact: Known as the “coolest” city regarding its arts and creative events. 

Despite its compact size, Wellington lives up to being the capital of New Zealand. Here, dozens of music, cultural, and art festivals take place each year, with the infamous World of Wearable Art Show as one of them. With many attractions close to one another, it’s easy for people to explore the city on foot. Wellington is also recognized as the culinary center of New Zealand, where visitors can enjoy fine dining, specialty supermarkets, and food festivals. 

Working and Studying in Wellington

Whether you’re admiring the gallery art exhibitions or hiking through waterfront trails, Wellington has plenty of activities to do while studying here. There are many international student clubs and student-assistant programs from universities within the city to help you get settled and connected. Wellington also has a wide range of travel options, including the bus, train, ride-share, and hundreds of e-bikes and e-scooters to rent. 

More notably, Wellington is ranked as the 18th safest city in the world, and it’s three universities are ranked in the top 3% in the world. Schools here have strong relationships with local businesses, making way for internships and job opportunities for recent graduates. The lifestyle in Wellington is of social work culture, where flexible hours and work/life balance are highly encouraged. 

Advantages of Living in Wellington

  • Reputable universities 
  • Work/life balance
  • >A safe and festive atmosphere

Disadvantages of Living in Wellington

  • Unpredictable weather, generally wet and windy
  • Expensive to rent compared to other cities 

Queenstown

residential neighborhood in Queenstown, NZ

Population: 45,000

Geographical location: South Island

Fun Fact: Named for its majestic scenery, “fit for Queen Victoria.”

Known as the adventure capital of New Zealand, Queenstown attracts over 1 million visitors each year. Travelers from all over the world come to Queenstown for extreme sports, including snowboarding, mountain climbing, bungy jumping, and whitewater rafting. Located on the shores of Lake Wakatipu and at the foot of the New Zealand Alps, Queenstown experiences both long warm summer days and frequent winter snowfall. It’s an ideal destination for explorers and adventurers. If you’re one of them, read about these 10 awesome places in Queenstown to see.

Working and Studying in Queenstown

If you’re interested in studying English during your stay, Queenstown has three English language schools. Also, the city has the top tourism and hospitality management college in its country. As a tourist and resort area, it’s easy for students to find work within the hospitality sector. Queenstown also has plenty of available accommodation options, including hostels, homestays, and rentals. 

Advantages of Living in Queenstown

  • Low unemployment rate
  • Easy to find accommodation
  • Plenty of outdoor activities

Disadvantages of Living in Queenstown

  • jobs are primarily in the tourism and hospitality industry
  • heavy traffic and expensive activities due to tourism 

Christchurch

Cathedral Square in Christchurch NZ

Population: 389,000

Geographical location: South Island 

Fun Fact: Known as the “garden city”

Christchurch is on the east coast of New Zealand’s South Island, specifically in the Canterbury region. The climate here is temperate throughout the year, where the temperature average is 17ºC in summer and 7ºC in winter. Being so close to the New Zealand Alps, Christchurch is an attractive destination for mountain hikers and snowboarders. Also, Christchurch is highly regarded for its botanical gardens, where visitors can find and enjoy dozens of them around the city.

Working and Studying in Christchurch

Christchurch has the largest polytechnic school in the South Island, as well as a host of vocational training institutions that welcome international students. If you’d like to work while studying here, there are many job opportunities in tourism. Christchurch receives thousands of visitors each year on vacation to the New Zealand Alps, where students can find work in airports, hotels, restaurants, and local shops. There are also plenty of construction-related jobs focused on rebuilding several areas after earthquakes.

Advantages of Living in Christchurch

  • Affordable rentals in comparison to other cities 
  • Easy to get around, everything is within proximity
  • Temperate climate year-round

Disadvantages of Living in Christchurch

  • Sits in a concentrated area of seismic activity 
  • Long, frosty winters

How to Choose the Best City to Live in New Zealand

hobbiton movie set in New Zealand

Now that you know about the main cities of New Zealand, it’s time to figure out which one is ideal for your needs and lifestyle. Below is a list of factors that will help you choose the city that offers you the best experience: 

  1. Job opportunities. Assess the work options available in each city and how they adjust to your abilities, interests, and goals. For example, if you are interested in working in hospitality, Queenstown might be your ideal city.
  2. Leisure. Finding activities to enjoy during your free time is important, especially since they correlate to your lifestyle outside of school and work. Do you love water activities? You can consider harbor cities, like Auckland. If you enjoy the extreme contrast of skiing and surfing the same day, Christchurch is your destination!
  3. Weather. This can be a make or break decision for many people. If you’re not a fan of cold and snow, it may be better to choose cities on flatter plains or seaside, as opposed to within the mountains.
  4. Educational rankings. Focus on a specific major or career field when comparing schools. Once you have an idea of which schools or institutions you’re interested in, you can shorten your list of cities.
  5. Cost of living. Last, but not least, compare the wages of jobs to lifestyle in the city. Some areas may have more expensive rentals but offer higher-paying jobs. To learn more about lifestyle and expenses in this country, read our article on the the cost of living in New Zealand.

After reading and learning about the most popular cities in New Zealand, which will be your next adventure? Find out now with GrowPro! Use our search engine to discover your ideal experience and create a personalized budget.

About the author

Charlotte Koks

Hey there! My name is Charlotte, and I'm working as an International Project Manager at GrowPro Experience. My goal is to help students all around the world to live the experiences of a lifetime 🙌🏽. I'm trying to inspire students by means of telling the story of former growers, showing what we are doing at each destination and writing about our cities and tips on our blogs. I got a big passion for adventures, doing sports in the park, learning new languages and seeing new places 🌏. That's one of the reasons why I studied European Studies and why I currently work for GrowPro, to expand my horizons. Hopefully, I can inspire you to do the same!