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New Zealand Main Cities

New Zealand is a relatively small country, with a population of little more than 4 million people. Consequently, our cities and towns are mostly quite small. Both located in the North Island of New Zealand, Auckland is the largest city in New Zealand and Wellington is the Capital City of New Zealand.

North Island Cities

The main cities in the North Island of New Zealand are:

  1. Auckland

    Auckland City, Auckland Port and Auckland Harbour at dusk. Copyright: Chris McLennan

    Population: 1,415,550

    Auckland is the largest city in New Zealand. Auckland City is built around 2 huge harbours and is known as the "City of Sails". Boasting many world famous attractions including the Sky Tower, the Auckland Harbour Bridge and Rainbows End, the Auckland Region has a population of about 1.3 million people, and enjoys a warm, temperate climate.

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  2. Wellington

    View of Wellington City and the Wellington Harbour. Copyright: Rob Suisted

    Population: 190,959

    Wellington is the Capital City of New Zealand and is home to Parliament, the head offices of all Government Ministries and Departments, and the bulk of the foreign diplomatic missions in New Zealand. Wellington is also home to Te Papa Tongarewa Museum (the ground-breaking interactive Museum of New Zealand), the original Treaty of Waitangi, Kapiti Island Nature Reserve and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. For over a hundred years the Wellington Cable Car has been a main attraction here, showing passengers dramatic views of the growing cityscape and the surrounding hills of Wellington's harbour.

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  3. Hamilton

    Population: 141,6120

    Hamilton rests on the banks of the Waikato River, south of Auckland City. The vast underground network of caves and caverns at Waitomo are near to Hamilton City.

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  4. Tauranga

    Looking through the greenery to the sea beyond in Tauranga New Zealand. Copyright: Scott Venning

    Population: 114,789

    Tauranga City rests on the south-eastern edge of the Tauranga Harbour and enjoys a sunny, "subtropical" climate. One of New Zealand's fastest growing cities, the Port of Tauranga is a main New Zealand export port. The sunny, beachy lifestyle attracts holiday makers from around the world - many come to swim, surf, kayak and kitesurf the local beaches.

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  5. Palmerston North

    Population: 80,079

    Palmerston North is a vibrant city with a large youth population. The city enjoys a rich arts and theatre scene with many restored heritage buildings. Here you will find Massey University and several other institutes of importance.

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  6. Rotorua

    Stunning swing bridge amongst the towering Redwoods in Rotorua New Zealand

    Population: 65,280

    Rotorua is a multi-cultural city, built in the heart of a geothermal wonderland, with bubbly mud pools, spouting geysers and hissing vents. There are 17 lakes in the Rotorua district that offer great freshwater fishing, waterskiing, swimming and other water activities.

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  7. Hastings

    Population: 73,245

    Located less than 20 kilometres from Napier, Hastings has many heritage buildings. Other local attractions include Splash Planet - a large amusement park, Cape Kidnappers - home to the world's largest mainland gannet colony and Te Mata Peak.

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  8. Napier

    Population: 57,240

    A seaport, Napier was leveled in 1931 by a devastating earthquake, and rebuilt in the Art Deco style of the day. Today Napier prides itself as the "Art Deco Capital". Wine tours, heritage tours, sailing, fishing and other activities are popular here.

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  9. New Plymouth

    Aerial view of New Plymouth, New Zealand. Copyright: Rob Tucker.

    Population: 74,184

    New Plymouth is a port city, known for its beautiful gardens. A popular attraction is the Coastal Walkway - an 11 kilometre path that forms an expansive sea-edge promenade stretching almost the entire length of the city.

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  10. Whangarei

    Population: 76,995

    Whangarei is the northernmost city in New Zealand and enjoys a sunny, oceanic climate. Whangarei is a popular holiday detsination, with spectacular beaches and beautiful scenery.

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North Island Towns

Some of the larger towns in the North Island include:

  1. Wanganui

    Population: 42,153

    Wanganui is a large town built on the shores of the Whanganui River. Wanganui located about 75 kilometres northwest of Palmerston North. The surrounding region is a part of New Zealand's Nature Coast, featuring rivers, beaches, lakes, mountains, parks and golf courses. The Whanganui River is the longest navigable river in the country, with 239 rapids and stunning bush scenery.

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  2. Gisborne

    Population: 43,653

    Gisborne enjoys a sunny climate and is one of the first places in the world to see each new day. Gisborne is also the first part of New Zealand to be sighted by the crew of Captain James Cook's ship the Endeavour.

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  3. Whakatane

    Population: 32,691

    Whakatane is a population holiday town, nestled along the beautiful eastern Bay of Plenty coastline. The warm waters here are famous for deep sea fishing, whale watching and swimming with dolphins, and a variety of marine sports. Offshore from Whakatane, White Island is an active volcano that visitors can take a live volcano tour to.

  4. Masterton

    Population: 23,352

    Masterton is the largest town in the Wellington region, and boasts great shopping and cafe culture. Explore the boutique shopping area in Kuripuni Village, the Queen Elizabeth Park or the huge Kidzone playground.

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  5. Taupo

    Population: 32,907

    Taupo is nestled on the shores of Lake Taupo. With a surface area of 616 square kilometres, Lake Taupo is the largest lake by surface area in New Zealand. Other popular attractions include the spectacular Huka Falls and the Craters of the Moon thermal area.

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  6. Ruapehu

    Population: 11,844

    The Ruapehu District is home to Mount Ruapehu, Tongariro National Park, and the Raurimu Spiral on the North Island Main Trunk railway line. The main towns of the Ruapehu region are Whakapapa, National Park and Ohakune.

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South Island Cities

The main cities in the South Island of New Zealand are:

  1. Christchurch

    View of Christchurch New Zealand from the top of the Port Hills

    Population: 341,469

    Christchurch City is the largest city in the South Island of New Zealand. Known as the "Garden City", Christchurch has many beautiful gardens, parks and treelined streets. Flat bottomed punts gliding along the Avon River are an iconic sight in Christchurch. In 2011 - 2012, Christchurch suffered from several large earthquakes, and thousands of aftershocks that went on for years. Much of the historic stone-built buildings in Christchurch Central were destroyed, and years later, Christchurch is still in the process of rebuilding.

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  2. Dunedin

    Dunedin City, New Zealand

    Population: 120,249

    Dunedin is the second largest city in the South Island of New Zealand. Nestled on the shores of the Otago Harbour, Dunedin is a large eco tourism attraction. Explore the penguin colonies and other natural attractions on the Otago Peninsula.

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  3. Nelson

    Cycling the Wine Trail in Nelson New Zealand. Copyright: Dean McKenzie

    Population: 46,437

    Nelson is a sunny city located at the top of the South Island of New Zealand. Nelson is home to the World of Wearable Art and Classic Cars Museum, and is near to three National Parks - the Abel Tasman National Park, the Kahurangi National Park and the Nelson Lakes National Park.

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  4. Invercargill

    Central Invercargill City, New Zealand. Copyright: Venture Southland

    Population: 51,696

    Invercargill is the most southern city of New Zealand, resting on the Southland Plains beside the Oreti River. Invercargill is home to the Southern Institute of Technology, a polytech that offers a zero-fees scheme to students.

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South Island Towns

Some of the larger towns in the South Island include:

  1. Timaru

    Population: 43,929

    Timaru is a major port town located in the Canterbury region, southwest of Christchurch. The port of Timaru is the most centrally located port in the South Island, and a base for many tourism activities. Caroline Bay is a popular local swimming beach.

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  2. Blenheim

    Population: 2,706

    Blenheim is well known for its many wineries. The town enjoys on of New Zealand's sunniest climates, with hot dry summers. Attractions include the Omaka Aerodrome - the setting for the biennial Classic Fighters Marlborough airshow, the annual "Blues, Brews and BBQ's" festival and the nearby town of Picton.

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  3. Ashburton

    Population: 31,041

    Ashburton is located along State Highway 1, south of Christchurch City. The town sits between the Rangitata River and the Rakaia River, so is ideally located for fishing enthusiasts.

  4. Oamaru

    Population: 13,900

    Oamaru is a small coastal town, located south of Timaru. The town is famous for its historical white stone architecture, and the colonies of yellow-eyed penguins and little blue penguins that live nearby. The Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony is now Oamaru's largest tourist attraction.

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  5. Queenstown

    Population: 15,300

    Queenstown is a four season lake and alpine resort town, and the "Adventure Capital" of New Zealand. The town plays host to a constant stream of tourists year round. Queenstown has world class skiing, bungy jumping, sky diving, luging, Gondolas and many other activities.

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  6. Greymouth

    Population: 9,690

    Greymouth is the largest town on the West Coast of New Zealand. Greymouth is located at the mouth of the Grey River. Local attractions include Lake Brunner and the nearby Pancake Rocks at Punakaiki. Local activities include fishing, hiking, boating and gold mining tours.