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Five Largest Cities in New Zealand

Five Largest Cities in New Zealand

New Zealand's five largest cities are Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington, Hamilton, and Tauranga. However, the word "city" has become somewhat problematic when it comes to ranking these five by size.

That is because these figures are based on the government's official Statistics New Zealand. The Statistical Standard for Geographic Areas Act 2018 changed the way the populations of cities in New Zealand are calculated by the NZ government. So, the Wellington urban area was split into four. Because of this, the capital city, Wellington, dropped from being New Zealand's second-largest to its third-largest city. It is now behind Auckland in number one and Christchurch in number two.

After the above top five, the next five largest cities in New Zealand are Napier-Hastings, Dunedin, Palmerston North, Nelson and Rotorua - together making up New Zealand's top ten biggest cities.

Five Largest Cities in New Zealand
Auckland is New Zealand's largest city by some margin


With a population of 1,717,500, Auckland, in the North Island, is the country's largest city by far. In fact, around 35% of the entire New Zealand population lives there. Hence the crude acronym, JAFA, or Just Another Fecking Aucklander. The city also has the country's highest population density at 2,422 people per square kilometre. (Compare that with London in the UK with a population density of 5,700 people per square kilometre.)

Auckland being the nation's biggest city, things to see there include the iconic Sky Tower (pictured above), and Auckland Museum with the best collection of Maori artefacts in the country. Other museums and galleries in the city include the Auckland Art Gallery and Wallace Arts Centre.

Two of the eight universities in New Zealand are in Auckland.

Mt Eden, or Maungawhau, is a dormant volcano in Auckland that lends its name to the suburb surrounding it. At 196 metres, Mt. Eden / Maungawhau is the highest natural point in Auckland, so offers great views over the city. It takes about 15 minutes to climb.

Auckland Airport is also the largest airport in New Zealand, so the chances are that your stay in the country will begin and conclude in Auckland.

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Christchurch in the South Island has a population of 369,000 and is New Zealand's second-largest city, according to Statistics New Zealand. It overtook Wellington in 2018 after the government changed how populations in urban areas were calculated.

Heavily damaged by the 6.3 magnitude 2011 earthquake, Christchurch is well on the way to recovery a decade later. It is estimated that another ten years are still needed for the planned rebuild of the city centre to be completed. The Quake City visitors' center tells the story of the disaster through photographs, videos, and artifacts.

Christchurch is nicknamed "The Garden City" for its extensive greenery. And a highlight of any visit to Christchurch is the Botanic Gardens. You can also take in their beauty on a punt along the River Avon.

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Kelburn Cable Car, Wellington
Kelburn Cable Car, Wellington


The capital of New Zealand, "Windy Wellington," is the hilly home to around 215,000 people. After the rule changes in 2018, it is now "officially" smaller than the Australian capital of Canberra.

Wellington prides itself on having the nation's most forward-looking arts and cultural scene. And for a small city, Wellington has a lot to offer the visitor who is into art, music, dance, drama, and photography.

Sights include Te Papa Museum, the beautiful Botanic Gardens and the country's most distinctive building, the Beehive, which houses the executive wing of the government. Alongside the Beehive are the old Parliament Buildings constructed back in 1918.

No visit to Wellington is complete without a ride on the Kelburn Cable Car. It takes you from the city centre up to Victoria University of Wellington, via a small, beautiful park with a panoramic view over the city.

Close to the Botanic Gardens, the Zealandia eco-sanctuary is an attempt to restore the original ecosystem in a square mile area as it was before the introduction of land mammals. Here you can get up close to rare New Zealand wildlife, including kiwi birds. There are day, twilight, and night tours for visitors.

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Char Bagh Indian-style garden at Hamilton Gardens


Hamilton has 176,500 inhabitants. Located on the Waikato River, New Zealand's fourth-largest city is home to the lovely, 54-hectare Hamilton Gardens (pictured above). It features 21 different gardens from different garden traditions from around the world including an Indian garden, Japanese garden, and Chinese garden.

Hamilton Zoo is another highlight. Spread out over 25 hectares are natural-style enclosures for 600 animals and a walk-through aviary.

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Tauranga Bay
Tauranga Bay seen from Mt Maunganui


Tauranga with 151,000 people is the fifth largest city in New Zealand. This city on the north coast of the North Island is one of the fastest-growing in the country. It overtook Napier-Hastings and Dunedin to claim the fifth spot. With the largest port in New Zealand, the city also has a reputation as one of the best places to live in the country. Tauranga's population saw a growth spurt just after the turn of the 21st century.

Out on a peninsula in front of Tauranga is Mt. Mauganui, a 232-metre-high lava dome that lends its name to the town around it that is now part of Tauranga. The town of Mt. Mauganui was incorporated into Tauranga in 1988 when the Tauranga Harbour Bridge was built, connecting Mt. Maunganui to central Tauranga.

Mt Maunganui Beach is one of the most popular in New Zealand.

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