So, you’re thinking about heading down south to Oceania for a getaway in the southern hemisphere? There’s no shame if you’re having trouble deciding between Australia and New Zealand. After all, the countries are siblings in many regards: both are located close to one another and both have similar stunning landscapes and funky cultures. In order to help you distinguish between the two and make the best decision, we’ve compiled a comparison on everything from climate to city life, food scenes, indigenous cultures, travel expenses, and outdoor activities. Scroll down for the most comprehensive Australia vs New Zealand debate and conclusion.
Landscape and Climate
Australia and New Zealand are both beautiful south Pacific destinations with tons of scenic landscapes and year-round warm weather. Despite their proximity to one another, the two countries actually boast quite different climates and ecosystems.
Generally speaking, Australia is a massive red desert with a dry climate. The only greenery exists on the coastal regions, specifically the south and east coasts. Australia does have some tropical areas but these are limited to the top end of the Northern Territory and northern Queensland. The beaches around Sydney, Byron Bay, Brisbane, and the Gold Coast are easily some of the best in the world.
New Zealand, on the other hand, is known for having a wetter, more tropical climate while being much greener and more mountainous. It’s a bit more of a dramatic landscape with fjords crisscrossing the island and thousand-year-old glaciers looming in high altitude. New Zealand has a maritime climate, which means its weather is largely affected by the ocean patterns, while Australia has a continental climate that’s more self-regulating. Australia is warmer with a summer average of 86 degrees and a winter average of 59 degrees, while New Zealand usually settles around 77 in the summer, and 53 in the winter.
Point: New Zealand
When it comes to urban metropolises, Australia is blessed with a good handful of destinations for city-lovers. As hotbeds of culture, history, and nightlife, cities like Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide, and Brisbane beckon culture junkies. Each of these boasts great clubs and bars, shopping, museums, theme parks, and important historical landmarks.
In New Zealand, perhaps only the Auckland harborfront could be considered a big city. The sprawling economic hub is where most tourists stay when they first arrive, but outside of Auckland, the country is mostly dotted with smaller towns.
If you’re the type of traveler that likes to eat their way around a vacation, you have to consider cuisine before deciding which country to visit. The food scene in these two countries goes hand-in-hand with their city scene — so it’s no surprise Australia has the advantage here. Both have largely seafood-based menus with delicious classics like lobster and crayfish. However, the sheer size, infrastructure, and tourism in Australia attracts far more foreign tastes and interpretive fusions. Add in the outback barbecue and the new hipster cafe culture in Australia, and it becomes clear that foodies should opt for Oz.
Oceana lays claim to some of the most intriguing and well-preserved indigenous cultures in the entire world. Immersing yourself in traditional ceremonies and getting to know locals is one of the most rewarding ways to experience both Australia and New Zealand.
Australia’s thriving cultures include the Arrernte people in Alice Springs and the Pitjantjatjara natives in Uluru (and their didgeridoo playing). Take a boat cruise across the Sydney Harbor, including old traditional dances, or ride a camel in Uluru and learn all about local culture.
New Zealand is most famous for the Maori and their blood-curdling battle cries. Visit a marae where you can appreciate the songs, dance, and feasts of this lively indigenous culture. The most popular spots are the Bay of Plenty, Waitangi, and Rotorua. Because a larger percentage of the population is indigenous and it seems more ingrained in everyday life, we’d say the point goes to New Zealand.
Point: New Zealand
Expenses and Travel Infrastructure
When it comes to budget-friendly international getaways, these two countries don’t usually top the list. Both are pretty on-par with North American and Western European countries in terms of accommodation and transportation, but New Zealand gets the edge. A standard 3-star hotel in Sydney will cost you about $145 USD, whereas one in Auckland will cost about $120. In terms of flights, Australia again tends to be more expensive — usually being about $500 more expensive to fly roundtrip from Los Angeles to Sydney rather than Auckland. Lastly, given the size of Australia, it’s much less realistic that you would be able to see the entire country in one vacation. The time to drive the length of the north island of New Zealand is around 9 hours compared to 42 hours from Perth to Sydney.
Point: New Zealand
We’ve saved the best for last. Let’s be frank — these two countries are second-to-none when it comes to opportunities for outdoor adventure. With a warmer climate and excellent beaches, Australia is your best bet for lounging on the beaches or scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef near Queensland or Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia. Water sports like surfing, windsurfing, and kite surfing are ideal around Perth, the Gold Coast, or the Sunshine Coast.
While New Zealand does have the Bay of Plenty, it’s more famous for hiking (through stunning Lord of the Rings-esque landscapes) and other land-based adventure sports. Queenstown is known as the “adrenaline capital of the world” with tons of options for skydiving, bungee jumping, and zip lining. New Zealand also has options for winter sports like snowboarding, skiing, ice climbing, and mountaineering, which aren’t really doable in the deserts of Australia.
Point: New Zealand
A lot of this depends on your specific tastes. While Australia has the edge in terms of food and cities, New Zealand simply has too much going for it. NZ takes the cake!