If you’ve ever dreamed of living in New Zealand, you’re not alone! This gorgeous country looks like it’s been plucked straight from a postcard, with amazing views and fun adventures to be had wherever you go. Whether you are a digital nomad thinking about going to New Zealand or you’ve already arrived in the country looking for a place to stay, here are the 9 best places to live in New Zealand for digital nomads.
The first entry on our list of the best places to live in New Zealand is Wellington. Digital nomads, travelers, and expats will all fall in love with this small and feisty capital city. Wellington is the second largest city in the country and is home to tons of breweries, eateries, and museums. The city is smashed in between large mountains, the Cook Strait, and the Wellington Harbor, making the city compact and feel much bigger than it actually is. In Wellington, you can enjoy a relatively laid-back pace of life while still having all the big-city amenities at your disposal.
The best neighborhoods in Wellington are Newtown, Island Bay, Hataitai, and Mount Victoria.
Wellington also has the third busiest airport in the country and is an excellent jumping-off point to the South Island, as it is where both the Bluebridge and Interislander ferries leave from.
Pros and Cons of Living in Wellington
|Excellent nightlife. Wellington has lots of great bars and clubs, making it one of the best cities for nightlife in New Zealand.
|Bad weather. The weather in Wellington is so bad that the city has been nicknamed “Windy Welly”. Wind speeds commonly surpass 50km per hour!
|Public transportation. As one of the best-connected cities in the country, Wellington has a good train and bus system. Additionally, the city is compact and pretty walkable.
|High cost of living. One of the main things that drives people away from Wellington is the cost of living. It is definitely not an affordable digital nomad destination.
|Amazing nature. The city is surrounded by mountains and ocean, with countless hiking, mountain biking, scuba diving, and other outdoor activities right within the city limits.
|Natural disaster-prone. Wellington is located right on the fault line, so the city experiences earthquakes frequently. Additionally, tropical storms and tsunamis threaten the city.
A dream destination for outdoorsy travelers, Queenstown is inarguably one of the most beautiful places in the world. This town, located in the South Island, is only home to around 30,000 people, but it gets over 1,000,000 visitors per year! Queenstown is, without a doubt, one of the best places to live in New Zealand, especially for digital nomads, as you’ll be able to network and meet tons of expats. For a town of this size, the nightlife scene is thriving. You’ll find a plethora of lively bars, restaurants, and even clubs. Queenstown can get pretty packed with tourists, especially in the summer (December to February) and the winter (June to September).
Queenstown is also a great jumping-off point to other beautiful locations in the South Island, such as Wanaka, Milford Sound, Glenorchy, and the Central Otago wine region.
Pros and Cons of Living in Queenstown
|Tourist and expat hotspot. Queenstown is the most popular destination in New Zealand for tourists. So, living here, you’ll be able to network and make new friends.
|Extremely expensive. As a popular tourist destination, housing is VERY expensive, and the cost of living in Queenstown is much higher than the national average.
|Adventure sports capital. Queenstown is stocked full of adventure opportunities. You’ll find skydiving, bungee jumping, paragliding, skiing, hiking, luge riding, and much more in this small town.
|Gets cold. Queenstown is one of the most southern places in New Zealand, so you should certainly expect temperatures to drop in the winter. The plus side is you can find some amazing skiing just outside of the city!
|Relaxed lifestyle. As the city has a population of just 30,000, digital nomads will enjoy a laidback lifestyle in Queenstown. Much slower-paced and chilled out than in larger cities.
|Isolated from major cities. If you need to get to a larger city in New Zealand, you’ll need to commute quite a ways from Queenstown. For example, it will take you 6 hours to drive to Christchurch and 4 hours to Dunedin.
As the largest city in the country (by far), Auckland seems like the obvious choice for one of the best places to live in New Zealand. While the city isn’t nearly as stunning or naturally beautiful as some of the other entries on this list, it is the only “big” city in the county. So, if you crave a cosmopolitan lifestyle and want to be close to all the action, Auckland is the place for you.
Auckland also has its own charm. In fact, the beaches on the city’s west coast (Piha, Muriwai, and Bethels) are some of our favorites! And while having a car is still the most convenient way to get around, you can certainly survive here without one, thanks to the train and bus system.
Our favorite digital nomad-friendly neighborhoods in Auckland are Mount Eden, Ponsonby, Devonport, Kingsland, and Mission Bay.
Pros and Cons of Living in Auckland
|Cosmopolitan. Auckland is by far the biggest city in New Zealand, so it has the best shopping and the most big city amenities in the country.
|Traffic. The other side of the coin is that Auckland has the worst traffic in the country, and while it does have public transport, certain neighborhoods don’t have access to trains or buses.
|Best flight connections. Auckland Airport is the country’s main international airport. So, this is the best place to be for those coveted last-minute flight deals!
|Housing is expensive. Auckland has the highest housing and rent prices in New Zealand.
|Warm weather. Located in the northern part of the country, Auckland is much warmer and has milder winters than Wellington and the South Island.
|Lots of rain. As a subtropical city, Auckland experiences a lot of rain, tropical storms, and flooding. In fact, the city experiences 135 days of rain on average per year!
4. Mount Maunganui
Mount Maunganui is a seaside suburb on the east side of Tauranga. This is the perfect place for surfers and beach bums who want to spend their days strolling through town, exploring boutique shops, and living a slower pace of life.
Mount Maunganui’s namesake, a 232-meter (760-foot) extinct volcano, towers over the city and is just waiting to be climbed. While you’ll definitely break a sweat on the trek, the views are worth the effort!
This town is a great place for digital nomads who don’t mind sacrificing the hustle and bustle of big city life in exchange for a relaxed destination that is closer to nature. If being within walking distance of the beach is an important factor for you, the Mount is your place!
Pros and Cons of Living in Mount Maunganui
|Beautiful beach. Most expats and locals head to “the Mount” for the beaches. In fact, Mount Maunganui has been rated several times as the best beach in New Zealand!
|Lack of public transport. Mount Maunganui is a pretty small place, but not quite small enough to walk around. So, you’ll need some form of transportation, as there is not any public transportation.
|Low(ish) cost of living. Costs are quickly rising in Mount Maunganui, but it is still a more affordable destination than cities like Auckland, Wellington, and Queenstown.
|Not a lot going on. Mount Maunganui is more of a chill-out-on-the-beach kind of place and less of a party destination. You won’t find many events or nightlife here, which can be a pro or a con, depending on who you ask.
|Proximity to other destinations. This is a pretty central location in New Zealand, so you’ll be spoiled with day trip opportunities. Coromandel, Rotorua, Whakatane, Tauranga, and Taupo are all well within reach for a day trip!
|Older demographic. While the younger population is quickly growing in Tauranga/Mount Maunganui, it is still a relatively old city. The median age here is 41, which is 5 years older than the national average.
If Mount Maunganui is too busy of a beach city for you, then head to Raglan for a true “sleepy beach town”. Raglan is a small town on the west coast of the North Island and has gone from being a hidden gem to a popular travel destination in the past decade. Raglan is a cute village with just over 3,000 residents with a unique town center. Here, you’ll find local eateries, boutique shops, and second-hand clothing stores. Surfers flock to the town in hordes due to the top-notch waves on the beach just outside of town.
If you get sick of the beach, you can head to Mount Karioi or Bridal Veil Falls to enjoy some of New Zealand’s beautiful forest landscapes.
Pros and Cons of Living in Raglan
|Great surfing and beaches. Raglan hosts some of the best surfing in the country, and the coast here has amazing and wide black sand beaches.
|Small town. If you are looking for anything resembling a city to set up as your digital nomad destination in New Zealand, Raglan is not the place for you. This is definitely a small town, with a population of just over 3,000.
|Lots of expats and tourists. If you are looking for a destination with tons of expats and tourists, Raglan is a great choice. There is a thriving international community here.
|Limited restaurants and grocery shopping. A symptom of being a small town, Raglan doesn’t have a ton of restaurant options and only has smaller (more expensive grocery stores). You’ll need to make the 40-minute drive into Hamilton for more restaurant and grocery options.
|Boutique shopping. While it is definitely a small town, Raglan has several cute boutique clothing and second-hand stores.
|Expensive. Raglan has become a pretty popular vacation spot in the past few years, so prices for accommodation, food, groceries, and activities are all high.
The largest city in the South Island of New Zealand is Christchurch. If you want the proximity to those picture-perfect postcard moments that are typical of New Zealand but still want to be in a city, this is where you want to be. Christchurch has always been a popular spot for expats, as the city offers a relatively low cost of living – especially compared to other large cities in New Zealand, such as Wellington and Auckland.
Since the severe earthquakes in 2011, Christchurch has been rebuilt, so you know the houses are better built here and more modern than in houses around the rest of the country. Christchurch is a super cycle-friendly destination as well, with its 60km of cycleways.
Besides the infrastructure, the city boasts exciting restaurants and bars, a temperate and less rainy climate, and easy access to the rest of the South Island. There’s skiing, hiking, vineyards, and more – just a stone’s throw away!
Pros and Cons of Living in Christchurch
|Cheapest major city in New Zealand. One of the biggest benefits of living in Christchurch is the cost of living. It is much more affordable than other big cities in the country.
|Earthquakes. It is no secret that Christchurch suffers from major earthquakes. In 2011, 80% of the city center was destroyed by a massive earthquake. In fact, the 2011 quake was the 4th deadliest natural disaster in New Zealand history.
|Weekend getaway opportunities. Christchurch is located right in the middle of the South Island, so there are tons of day and weekend trips at your fingertips. Kaikoura, Oamaru, Akaroa, Hanmer Springs, Blenheim, and Lake Tekapo are all within a 4-hour drive!
|Long, cold winters. While Christchurch does have warm summers, it gets pretty chilly in the winter. So, if you are a digital nomad who enjoys mild weather, this may not be the place for you.
|Lots of dining options. Christchurch has a lot of excellent restaurants and bars. There’s plenty to explore in and around the city center, and there are more bars and restaurants popping up all the time!
|Quiet city center. It shouldn’t be a surprise that the Christchurch city center is so quiet since most of it was reduced to rubble just 13 years ago, but the surrounding suburbs have a great vibe, and the city center has been rapidly rebuilding.
Another affordable city in the South Island of New Zealand is Dunedin. A student city, Dunedin, has a super vibrant and friendly community with a very temperate climate. The houses may be cold and damp here, but the city more than makes up for it thanks to its proximity to all the main attractions of the South Island. Just a few hour’s drive away, you can access the ski fields and wineries of Central Otago, the amazing hiking opportunities of Aoraki Mt Cook, and the rugged coast.
You can find a huge range of wildlife here, including albatross, yellow-eyed penguins, little blue penguins, seals, sea lions, and a host of other native and endemic birds. In Dunedin, you can find plenty of bars, restaurants, and coffee shops. The Scottish-inspired town center is a sight to see as well!
Pros and Cons of Living in Dunedin
|Beautiful architecture. In the mid-1800s, Dunedin was the largest and wealthiest city in New Zealand. So today, the city sports some amazing Victorian architecture. It is definitely the most architecturally stunning place in the country.
|Bad weather. The most striking downside of living in Dunedin is the weather. Winters are very cold, and the wind can make it feel much colder than it actually is. If you are expecting beach days, think again, as it rarely goes above 20 degrees C (68 degrees F).
|Tons of wildlife and nature. Want to see penguins, seals, albatross, dolphins, whales, and other wildlife? All of these animals can be seen in and near Dunedin.
|Steep hills. Dunedin is an extremely hilly city. Depending on where you are located, you may have to walk up some monstrous hills. In fact, the city is home to the steepest residential road in the world!
|Easy to walk and commute. In Dunedin, you can enjoy a big-city environment with small-town perks. The city is very compact, so you can easily walk or take a short bus ride to get around.
|Not a great nightlife scene. Dunedin has more bars and clubs than some of the smaller towns on this list, but we wouldn’t consider it a great place to party. If you want to live in a digital nomad destination with great nightlife, we recommend Wellington, Auckland, or Queenstown.
Do you want to live in the South Island but in a beach town with amazing weather? In that case, check out Nelson! Nelson is located on the northwest of the South Island and boasts pretty parks and beaches. While Nelson is a bit further from the rest of the attractions on the South Island, it does have very good access to the North Island, specifically Wellington, thanks to the ferries. With that said, it still will take you several hours to get across!
From Nelson, you can explore the northern parts of the South Island, including Golden Bay, Abel Tasman National Park, Pupu Springs, and more. But if you want to go further south, it’s definitely still possible during a long weekend trip!
Best of all, Nelson boasts endless rows of vineyards, mountain biking, plenty of water sports, and a lot of hiking.
Pros and Cons of Living in Nelson
|Amazing nature and scenery. Nelson is nestled in the Tasman region, with beautiful beaches, mountains, and hiking opportunities. If nature is an important factor to you, we definitely recommend Nelson.
|Isolated from other places. Nelson is fairly isolated from other major cities. It is 5 hours from Christchurch and 6 hours from Wellington (including a ferry ride across the Cook Strait).
|Affordable place to live in New Zealand. Nelson is more affordable than most of the places on this list. In fact, rent prices are nearly half of the price here as in Auckland.
|Limited public transportation. Nelson has pretty limited public transportation options. While you can take a public bus, the best way to get around is by car.
|Artsy city with surprising nightlife. Nelson has a thriving arts culture, with music festivals and arts markets constantly making stops in the city.
|Lack of diversity. While certainly not the least diverse city in the country, Nelson is less ethnically diverse than other cities and popular destinations.
If you can get past the rotten egg smell, Rotorua is a great place for digital nomads. We like to think of Rotorua as the “secret Queenstown” because it has lots of similar attractions but receives far fewer international tourists. Directly below Rotorua lies Taupo, one of the largest super volcanos in the world, which stretches across a massive chunk of the North Island.
This volcanic activity makes Rotorua an extremely interesting place with tons of naturally hot pools, steaming lakes, and volcanos. In fact, the city is situated next to Lake Rotorua, a volcanic caldera.
Rotura is a great place to live in New Zealand for expats and digital nomads due to the number of activities in the region and the cost of living. It is one of the most affordable cities in the country, and you’ll never run out of things to do!
Pros and Cons of Living in Rotorua
|Activities galore. If you are looking to live somewhere without a finite number of things to do, Rotorua is for you. Like Queenstown, Rotorua is an excellent place for adventure sports. There is also excellent water rafting and volcanic hot pools in the area.
|Sulfur smell. As soon as you arrive in Rotorua, you’ll notice a strong, pungent smell. Due to the volcanic activity in the area, the city has a sulfur smell, which takes a bit of time to get used to.
|Very affordable. Rotorua is similar to Queenstown but MUCH cheaper. In fact, housing prices in the city are among the cheapest in the country.
|Limited dining options. For such a small city (around 80,000), Rotorua has a pretty descent amount of restaurants. That said, if you are a foodie and enjoy eating at different restaurants, you may be disappointed with the options here.
|Close to everything. Rotorua is conveniently located within a 3-hour drive of Tauranga, Lake Taupo, Auckland, Coromandel, Raglan, Napier, Whakatane, and more! It has one of the most central locations on the North Island!
|Far from the beach. While Rotorua sports a prime location, it is one of the only cities on this list that is not on or near the beach. You’ll have to drive around an hour to get to the nearest coast. That said, there are 18 lakes and 3 major rivers in the Rotorua area.
Honorable Mentions: Other Best Places to Live in New Zealand
- Kapiti Coast
- New Plymouth
Get to Know Aotearoa!
New Zealand is one of the top destinations for travelers and nomads for a reason. There is plenty to explore in the country, and as a digital nomad, you can easily find an amazing place to live. Whether you are looking for a large city or a smaller town, Aotearoa offers it all! The 9 best places to live in New Zealand listed above are great home bases for you to explore the rest of the country as well.