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Why you should choose New Zealand over Australia for your next vacation

If you’re headed down under, you might find yourself trying to make an impossible choice… New Zealand or Australia?

Let me, a proud Kiwi, guide you through the wonders of Aotearoa, New Zealand, explaining why it should be your top pick.

Though we love Australia (and travel there often), we think it’s hard to beat our rich Māori culture, diverse landscapes and amazing adventure activities.

But don’t take my word for it.

Read on to find out how New Zealand and Australia stack up before booking your next Australasian adventure…

New Zealand and Australian flags.

Why you should pick New Zealand over Australia for your next vacation

Compact beauty, unmatched diversity

From Cape Reinga in the north, to Stewart Island in the south, New Zealand’s compact size is a traveller’s dream.

You can travel from pristine beaches to incredible alpine scenery with just a hour or two in the car.

It’s one of the few places in the world where you can surf in the morning and ski in the afternoon!

And not only are the activities varied, but the landscapes are too.

Expect the South Island’s dramatic scenery to blow your socks off.

With Milford Sound (which is often referred to as the eighth wonder of the world), to Queenstown (the adrenaline capital of the world) and the tropical waters of Abel Tasman, the diversity of the South Island is amazing.

In contrast, the North Island is home to stunning beaches and farmland, along with authentic cultural experiences, the geothermal wonders of Rotorua and the cosmopolitan charm of Auckland and Wellington.

Australia, by comparison, is widespread and difficult to explore well in a short amount of time.

To see such diverse scenery, you’ll generally need to spend significant time driving (sometimes days) or you’ll need to pack up and fly to your next destination before renting another car.

Hooker Valley with the first swing bridge, lake and beautiful mountains.
The Hooker Valley Track, just one example of New Zealand’s scenic beauty. Photo: Lynh Phan, NZTT member.

A hiker’s paradise

For those who love to lace up their boots and hit the trails, New Zealand’s Great Walks offer some of the best hiking experiences on the planet.

These meticulously maintained tracks, such as the Milford Track, Routeburn Track, and Tongariro Alpine Crossing (which is the most famous part of the Tongariro Northern Circuit), attract locals and visitors alike to discover some of the most impressive scenery in New Zealand.

Unlike Australia’s vast Outback, which can be less accessible, requiring more preparation and safety precautions, New Zealand’s trails offer easy accessibility, safe walks, and stunning, lush scenery.

There’s a reason people travel from all around the world to experience the amazing hiking and tramping found in New Zealand.

Backpackers crossing a narrow footbridge while looking at the rocky grounds below them.
Milford Track is one of many Great Walks in New Zealand.

Unique wildlife encounters

While Australia is known for its unique wildlife, New Zealand offers encounters that are just as magical… but with an added layer of rarity.

Our motu (islands) are home to the elusive native kiwi bird, which you might be lucky enough to spot in its natural habitat.

You’ll also want to keep your eyes peeled for kea (the most intelligent – and cheekiest – bird in the world), kererū (our huge native wood pigeon) and tūī (with its beautiful melodic call).

Plus, like Australia, the waters surrounding New Zealand are also home to whales, playful dolphins, and seals, providing great opportunities for wildlife watching.

Our commitment to conservation also means you’ll witness efforts to preserve the natural beauty and fauna of our country firsthand.

A large olive-green Kea bird with a curved beak and light reddish feathers in the underbelly standing on a wooden handrail.
The kea is the more intelligent bird in the world – and they’re real characters!

… and our animals won’t bite, sting or try to eat you!

Not only is New Zealand home to some incredibly unique wildlife (which, to be fair, Australia can claim too), ours is considerably less threatening than our Aussie counterparts.

Australia is known for its array of potentially dangerous animals – ranging from venomous snakes and spiders to large predators like crocodiles and bullsharks – while New Zealand is a safe-haven by comparison.

Here in New Zealand, the most you’ll encounter in terms of wildlife are the cheeky native birds and the occasional seal lounging on coastal shores.

New Zealand lacks the venomous creatures that often headline Australian wilderness encounters, making it an exceptionally safe environment for outdoor activities and exploration.

You don’t need to be worried about wandering through long grass in New Zealand. The same cannot be said for visits across the ditch!

A couple in a yellow kayak paddling with a NZ fur seal in Kaikoura.
Our animals won’t try to kill you – the same can’t be said for Austalia!

The warmth of Kiwi hospitality and beauty of Māori culture

Though New Zealanders don’t tend to blow our own horns, we are renowned for our warm hospitality and friendliness – it’s something we’re often complimented on in our Facebook group.

We love sharing our beautiful country, laid back way of life and treasured local culture with travellers.

While visiting New Zealand you’ll see and hear the Māori language (te reo Māori) everywhere, and if you’re lucky, you’ll experience authentic tikanga (Māori customary practices or behaviours).

Meaningful Māori cultural experiences can be had right around the country, but they are most easily experienced by travellers in Rotorua and Waitangi – both in the North Island.

Though a visit to Australia also offers the opportunity to engage in local traditions and customs, it’s often easier as a traveller to participate in these in New Zealand.

So, whether you enjoy eating a hāngī (food cooked in the earth) or marvel at waiata (singing) or haka (a war dance) or just sidle up next to a friendly local, you’ll find the culture and hospitality here just as beautiful as the landscapes.

A shirtless and tattooed native man going nose to nose with a woman tourist.
Māori culture is a beautiful taonga (treasure). Te Puia in Rotorua. Photo: Fraser Clements.

Pleasant weather year-round

New Zealand’s weather can offer a distinct advantage, compared with the harsher conditions often found in Australia.

The temperate climate of New Zealand, characterised by mild temperatures and moderate rainfall, provides an environment that is generally pleasant, allowing for outdoor activities year-round.

In contrast, Australia’s huge landmass can subject it to extreme weather conditions, ranging from the scorching heat of the Outback to tropical humidity in the north.

And the weather in Australia is sometimes so hot that it’s uncomfortable to go outside for months at a time!

Our climate in New Zealand, on the other hand, allows visitors to enjoy everything from sunny beach days to crisp mountain tramps (hikes) without the extremes of temperature.

This makes New Zealand an ideal destination for those looking to experience the great outdoors in comfort.

Pro tip: With that said, New Zealand’s weather can be changable and difficult to predict with certainty, so be sure to pack for a range of weather conditions when visiting.

A huge rock structure on a beach facing the wide blue ocean with a river delta behind it and a glimpse of the houses further closer to the woods.
The weather in New Zealand is milder than in Australia. Piha Beach in Auckland. Photo: Scott Venning, NZTT member.

A safe travel destination

Safety is a top priority for many when choosing a vacation destination.

And, lucky for you, New Zealand consistently ranks as one of the safest countries in the world.

Though Australia is super-safe by global standards (coming in 22nd place), it doesn’t match Aotearoa New Zealand which was the 4th safest country in the world in 2023!

Safety doesn’t just related to crime though – you’ll also want to ensure your physical wellness is taken care of while overseas, and once again, New Zealand comes out on top here.

If you have an accident in New Zealand, ACC will take care of you and it will generally be free of charge.

Australia is a different (and less appealing) kettle of fish. Though some countries have a reciprocal health care agreement, most do not. And if you’re not covered by this agreement, you’ll need to ensure you have purchased a comprehensive travel insurance policy and/or Australian Overseas Visitors Health Cover.

New Zealand’s low crime rates and comprehensive healthcare system mean you can explore our stunning landscapes with peace of mind.

⚠️ Pro tip: Even with the protection of ACC, we recommend all visitors to New Zealand purchase a travel insurance policy when they first start to make bookings. This will ensure you’re covered for a wide range of disruptions and challenges.

Driving along the road from New Plymouth to Te Kūiti in New Zealand. Grass on one side and forest on the other.
Even driving in New Zealand can be safer, as we don’t have large mammals that can cause accidents on the road.

While in New Zealand, why not visit the South Pacific?

One of the geographical advantages of New Zealand is its proximity to the idyllic Pacific Islands.

We are closer to most of the South Pacific and also have more direct flight routes, generally making it quicker and easier to get there than for our Australian neighbours.

New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland, serves as gateways to a variety of Pacific destinations, including Fiji, Samoa and the Cook Islands, with shorter flights and frequent services.

This accessibility makes island-hopping a breeze and also allows for more spontaneous tips and shorter getaways – perfect for those wanting to maximise their vacation time, while minimising transit time.

That’s right, that means more time for piña coladas and snorkelling.

Because the only thing better than a trip to New Zealand, is one that combines a South Pacific stopover!

A beautiful island in the South Pacific, with palm trees, white sand and beautiful clear water.
The South Pacific is easily accessible from New Zealand.

I feel that, had we done our trip the other way round, we might have appreciated Australia more. Don’t get me wrong, there was plenty we loved about Australia as we drove the coastal route from Sydney to Adelaide, but New Zealand absolutely stole my heart ❤️ If it was possible, I’d come to live there and I still feel really sad we had to leave. It’s hard to put my finger on exactly why as it mostly involves feelings but it was everything about it. Aside from its breathtaking geography, I just felt safe there. It was so clean. I felt like everyone just cared about their environment in a way that we seem to have lost here in the UK. Without fail, everyone we met was friendly and helpful. I’ve been lucky to have travelled a reasonable amount but New Zealand is the only place I’ve been where I really, really didn’t want to come home 😞

Sarah Boyce, NZTT member

Though it might feel like an impossible decision, we hope this comparison between New Zealand and Australia has helped you choose your next vacation destination.

And if not, join our respective Australian and New Zealand Facebook groups and browse our Aussie and NZ blog content to decide for yourself.

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