Last updated on July 7, 2023 by Wandering our World
Australia and New Zealand are two of the world’s most amazing places to visit. Boasting beautiful landscapes, exotic wildlife, and friendly, laid-back locals, these two countries share more than a few cultural elements and even have a friendly rivalry with one another.
But, despite some similarities, they’re very different places. They differ enormously in terms of size and geography, and each of these two nations has its own unique attractions, landmarks, history, and culture.
So, which one should you visit? Well, that all depends on what you want out of your vacation. If you love beautiful beaches and vibrant cities, for example, Australia might have more appeal to you, while outdoor adventurers and adrenaline lovers are sure to fall in love with New Zealand.
There’s such a lot to say about each of these countries, and many different ways to compare them. So, let’s dive right ahead! In this guide, we’ll put Australia and New Zealand side-by-side, looking at their beaches, wildlife, activities, nightlife, food, and much more. All so you can make the right choice!
- A Quick Overview
- Which Is Easier To Get To?
- Which Is Easier To Get Around?
- Which Has The Best Weather?
- Which Has The Best Beaches & Coastline?
- Which Is Best For Activities?
- Which Is Better For Nightlife?
- Which Is Better For A Family Vacation?
- Which Is Best For Backpackers?
- Which Has The Best Food?
- Which Is Cheaper?
- Which Is The Better Choice?
A Quick Overview
Australia: A Quick Overview
Let’s start off with a look at Australia. Officially known as the Commonwealth of Australia and nicknamed ‘The Land Down Under’, Australia is the sixth-largest country in the world.
It consists of the Australian mainland, along with the island state of Tasmania and some other small islands dotted around the surrounding waters.
Together, these land masses cover more than 2.9 million square miles (over 7.6 million square kilometers), and Australia’s total population is around 26 million people, with a large percentage of those people living in the cities along the country’s east and southeast coastlines.
Australia has a diverse range of landscapes, from tropical forests to mountains, and a very large part of the land is taken up by a huge expanse of arid desert known as the outback, which covers most of central Australia and is very sparsely populated.
This country is particularly famous for its wildlife, being the home of kangaroos, koala bears, wombats, and emus.
It’s also home to some of the world’s most dangerous creatures, like venomous snakes and spiders. But don’t worry – the vast majority of travelers leave Australia without experiencing any unfortunate animal encounters!
Australia is also where you can find the world-famous Great Barrier Reef – the world’s biggest coral reef – and other awe-inspiring natural landmarks, like Uluru.
There’s also many large, well-developed cities, such as Sydney, with its iconic opera house and beautiful beaches, and Melbourne, home of an eclectic arts scene and excellent nightlife.
New Zealand: A Quick Overview
New Zealand is an island nation that consists of two main islands – known as the North Island and the South Island – along with hundreds of other small islands.
It’s located to the southeast of Australia, around 1,200 miles away from Australia’s eastern coast, and the two countries are separated by the Tasman Sea.
In total, New Zealand’s islands cover around 103,500 square miles of land (268,000 square km). NZ is therefore significantly smaller than Australia and has a smaller population of around 5 million people. Like Australia, New Zealand’s population is diverse, made up of a mixture of indigenous Maori people and descendants of European settlers.
A lot of those European settlers originally came from Britain, which is also true for Australia. This is why English is the most-spoken language in both of these countries and British influence can be felt in certain parts of their cultures.
However, New Zealand’s culture is also strongly influenced by its Maori roots, with a range of South Pacific customs and traditions.
In terms of geography, New Zealand is famed for its extraordinary mountains – especially the Southern Alps of the South Island – as well as its forests and lakes.
The country’s scenic beauty became widely-known after it was used as a filming location for The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, along with other popular blockbusters.
As well as being a backpacker’s paradise, with so many scenic landscapes to explore, New Zealand is also popular with adventurers and thrill-seekers. Activities like skydiving, swimming with dolphins, kayaking, and mountain climbing are easily accessible and incredibly fun.
Which Is Easier To Get To?
When you’re planning a trip, one of the first things to think about is how you’re going to get to your destination (and how much it will cost to get there).
Australia and New Zealand may be neighbors, but there are still many miles separating them, so it might be easier and cheaper for you to get to one over the other.
Australia has multiple international airports that visitors can fly into. Sydney is the largest airport and has direct connections with many parts of the world, including the US and Canada, South Africa, South America, and Asia. Melbourne and Brisbane airports also have plenty of links with places like the US.
For Europeans, the options are more limited, but there are some direct routes that go from London and Rome straight to Perth airport on Australia’s west coast.
Otherwise, you’ll have to make at least one connection, and journey times can exceed 22 hours from the UK, while US travelers can arrive much faster – a direct flight from LA to Sydney lasts 15 hours.
If you’re planning a trip to New Zealand, you can also choose from multiple airports, although most international passengers arrive at Auckland. This airport has direct links to several cities around North America, as well as Australia, Asia, and South America. For the sake of comparison, a flight from LA to Auckland takes 13 hours.
So, if you’re flying from the US, it can be slightly faster and easier to get to New Zealand than Australia. However, for those traveling from Europe, it’s not so simple. There aren’t currently any direct flights from the European continent to NZ, and a connecting flight from London can take over 30 hours in total.
Which Is Easier To Get Around?
As well as getting to your chosen destination, you’ll also need to find ways to get around once you’re there. And, since New Zealand and Australia have such vastly different sizes, the former is generally a lot simpler to navigate than the latter.
The smaller size of New Zealand makes it easier for travelers to get around and see the main sights without spending hours in the car. Most visitors rent their own vehicle or RV to drive around in, and there’s a great road network here that connects the various towns and cities.
If you prefer to depend on public transport, New Zealand also has a decent bus system, with public buses connecting the various towns and guided coach tours that can take you to out to the various national parks and wildlife areas.
Domestic flights are also an option for those who want to hop between the islands, or you can take a ferry from the North Island to the South Island, and vice versa – a typical journey lasts around 3.5 hours, and you’ll have a good chance of spotting some whales, dolphins, and seals along the way, so it’s definitely worth a ride.
Australia is a much larger country, and a rental car is a necessity for most travelers, providing the freedom you need to travel between cities and into the wilder areas of the Land Down Under.
There are buses here, too, but certain areas can be tricky to get to by bus and the journey times can be very long.
If you plan to travel large distances in Australia, the best option is to fly. Luckily, the country has a good network of domestic airports and flight routes connecting places like Perth, Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane, but the costs of even these short flights can add up, so it’s recommended to plan out your trip with care and book in advance.
Which Has The Best Weather?
The weather is one of the key factors that many people keep in mind when planning a vacation. After all, we all dream of sunshine and warmth, and nobody wants their dream getaway to be washed out with rain and wind. So, how does the weather compare in these two locations?
Well, Australia is statistically one of the driest countries in the world. There’s not a lot of rainfall there, and most of Australia enjoys very warm summers and mild winters. In general, the weather conditions are perfect for sunbathing, surfing, and similar activities.
Over in New Zealand, the climate is influenced quite heavily by the surrounding waters, which leads to more variable weather conditions throughout the year.
Average temperatures are lower in New Zealand than in Australia, even on the warmer North Island, and some areas can be quite rainy and windy at certain times of year.
Which Is Better For Beaches & Coastline?
One of the most popular things to do on vacation is to visit local beaches and spend time sunbathing, strolling on the sand, watching the sun go down, and splashing around in the water. You can do all of this and more at the beaches of both Australia and New Zealand.
With over 16,000 miles of coastline (the sixth longest of any country in the world), Australia has an enormous amount of beaches, and some of them rank among the most beautiful on the planet, with the likes of Bondi Beach and Cable Beach being known far and wide for their distinctive appearances and soft sands.
Despite being much smaller than Australia, New Zealand also has a very long coastline, running for around 9,300 miles in total. The best beaches there are primarily found on the North Island, with places like the Coromandel Peninsula offering super swimming and snorkeling conditions, right alongside scenic coves and dramatic cliffs.
But which country is best for beaches? Well, thanks to its sheer range of beaches, and the fact that it’s home to some of the world’s best-rated beaches, Australia probably wins in this category. However, New Zealand is still a fine place to visit for seaside fun.
That said, below we show you a few of the top coastal destinations in each country so you can make up your own mind:
Australia: The Beaches
When many people think of Australia, they think of beaches. The Land Down Under has a big beach culture, with locals and visitors from around the world spending large parts of their time on the sand, soaking up the sun or hitting the waves with surfboards and snorkeling gear.
Whether you’re looking for pristine, unspoiled stretches of sand or well-developed beaches with lots of amenities and easy access to shops and restaurants, Australia has it all.
Bondi Beach is one of the most famous spots. Handily located to the east of Sydney, this must-see beach is a haven for surfers, sunbathers, yoga fans, and photographers. You can do almost anything there, and then walk over to nearby shops and cafes whenever you feel like it.
For something different, head to Whitehaven Beach, a seven kilometer stretch of the softest, sugar-like sand and stunning turquoise waters. Backing onto a verdant national park, this is by far one of the country’s most striking beaches.
Turquoise Bay is another dreamy spot, ideal for snorkeling, while Wineglass Bay over on Tasmania is simply out of this world, with some super hiking trails and towering mountain peaks watching over the silky smooth sands and gentle waters.
New Zealand: The Beaches
New Zealand also has a dazzling array of beaches, many of which are relatively unspoiled and untouched by man. These are the kinds of beaches where you truly feel a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of big cities, free to stroll, sunbathe, or simply relax with a good book.
Rarawa Beach is one of the prettiest. Situated towards the northern tip of the North Island, this beach has some of the whitest sand in the whole country. Or, you can head to the black sands of Karekare Beach, nicely located less than an hour’s drive from Auckland.
For something truly special, travelers should visit Hot Water Beach at Coromandel. Here, it’s actually possible to dig yourself a hole and make your own mini hot tub, thanks to the natural hot springs that give the beach its name.
While in the Coromandel area, you can also stop off at Cathedral Cove, so-called for the cathedral-like rock arches that hanging over the beach’s golden sands.
There are also beaches that are super for wildlife spotting, like Gillespies Beach, where it’s common to see seals stretching out along the shore, as well as prime surfing spots like Koekohe Beach, which is also famous for its smooth, spherical boulders, believed to be some 60 million years old.
Overall, there’s some nice diversity in the beaches of New Zealand, and you can find all kinds of coastal experiences here. But, because of the pleasant amenities, warmer weather, and vast sizes of its beaches, Australia is probably the better destination for beach-based R & R.
Which Is Best For Activities?
Beaches are likely to take up some of your time in either Australia or New Zealand, but these countries both have many other interesting activities to offer, from big city shopping and attractions to natural landmarks and wilderness adventures.
Knowing what activities you can do in each can help you decide which country best suits your interests.
As you’ll see below, Australia stands out for its more dynamic and lively cities, as well as its unique wildlife and coastal activities, while New Zealand is the country of choice for awe-inspiring landscapes, hiking and all-season adventures.
Australia: The Activities
One of the best things to do in Australia is spending time in the country’s fabulous cities. A lot of travelers will head to Sydney first. There, you can visit one of Australia’s most famous landmarks, the Sydney Opera House, or take a boat ride around Sydney Harbour.
Melbourne is another terrific urban environment, famed for its galleries, markets, vibrant nightlife, and antique stores, while Brisbane – the capital of Queensland – is a great city to learn more about Australia’s culture at Queensland Museum or get up-close with the nation’s wildlife at the famous Australia Zoo.
To see an even wilder side of Australia, travelers can take a trip into the outback. Home to dusty mountains and jaw-dropping scenery, it’s the ultimate off-the-beaten-path experience.
You can enjoy all sorts of activities here, from luxury train rides through the desert to hikes, helicopter rides, or spending a night in a genuine underground hotel at Coober Pedy.
Or, to connect with the country’s indigenous roots, you might like to visit Aboriginal sacred sites, like Nourlangie Rock, Rainbow Valley, and the legendary Uluru – also known as Ayers Rock, this huge sandstone formation dates back over 550 million years.
Australia is also famed for its wildlife, so visitors might like to stop off at petting zoos, farms, and ranches to see the likes of kangaroos and wombats. Or, for an underwater experience you’ll never forget, take a scuba diving expedition to the Great Barrier Reef – the world’s most famous coral reef.
New Zealand: The Activities
New Zealand is a very rural country, with large parts of the land dominated by farms, mountains, and unspoiled natural landscapes.
The cities in NZ are smaller and less touristic than those of Australia, but there are still some fun things to do in places like Auckland and Christchurch.
Auckland is the country’s biggest city and the point of arrival for most travelers, thanks to its large international airport. Home to pretty harbors and nicknamed the City of Sails, Auckland is also a nice place to shop and eat, while also boasting fabulous views of surrounding mountains.
You’ll find intriguing museums and pleasant boutiques in Christchurch, along with a great art scene in Wellington. However, the urban activities are less impressive here than Australia, and most visitors to NZ will spend the majority of their time out in the more natural areas of the country.
But it’s once you leave the cities behind that the truly unique charm of New Zealand is revealed. This country has some of the most incredible scenery on Earth. From the thermal pools of Rotorua to the otherworldly beauty of Milford Sound, there’s no end to New Zealand’s natural magnificence.
Adventurous activities and extreme sports are all the rage here, and visitors can try everything from ziplining to skydiving and bungee jumping.
Winter sports like skiing and snowboarding are possible too, thanks to the snowy peaks – these activities aren’t really an option in Australia – and New Zealand reigns supreme when it comes to hiking.
Which Is Better For Nightlife?
Both New Zealand and Australia offer more than enough activities to fill every day of your vacation, but what about the nights? You might be wondering what these two great nations have to offer for people who enjoy bars and clubs in the evenings.
Well, when it comes to nightlife, Australia is the better option. It has larger, livelier and more populous cities, with a whole host of things to do once the sun goes down, from the jazz bars of Sydney to the comedy clubs of Melbourne.
These two cities are also home to an array of popular nightclubs and trendy rooftop lounges – many of Sydney’s best rooftop spots have amazing views of the harbor. Or, for something more quintessentially ‘Aussie’, you can visit one of hundreds of pubs dotted all over the country.
In New Zealand, the nightlife scene is a little more subdued. Auckland has got its fair share of clubs and bars, but the other cities tend to be quieter in the evenings.
Still, there are a lot of good pubs and craft breweries in NZ, so you can certainly find places in which to get a good drink or spend some time after sunset before heading back to your hotel.
Which Is Best For A Honeymoon?
Both New Zealand and Australia are incredible places to go on a honeymoon, and many couples around Europe and North America dream of jetting off to the other side of the world to celebrate their love. But which place is best?
Well, that all depends on what sort of vibe and activities appeal to you the most.
Many would argue that New Zealand is the more romantic destination. With its magical scenery and pristine beaches, it’s the kind of place where you and your partner can simply immerse yourselves in nature and leave the noise of the big city behind.
Plus, New Zealand’s vast array of activities make it a nice place to go for thrill-seeking couples, offering a great mixture of romantic settings and exciting adventures.
Australia, meanwhile, may not necessarily give off the same kind of mystical or romantic aura, but it’s still a fabulous place for couples of all ages. It’s especially appealing if you and your partner want to spend a lot of your time lounging on paradise beaches or swimming in the sea.
Not only that, but the more vibrant nightlife of Australia may appeal to younger couples, and with so much to see and do, you’ll have plenty of options to fill up your honeymoon itinerary.
Which Is Better For A Family Vacation?
If you’re traveling with kids, choosing between Australia and New Zealand isn’t easy. There are arguments to be made for both countries, and the right choice for you may ultimately depend on the ages of your children and the unique preferences of your family.
Australia arguably has more things for kids to see and do. From family-friendly theme parks like Warner Bros. Movie World on the Gold Coast to amazing zoos, water parks, and wildlife experiences, the list goes on and on.
Children of all ages should be blown away by the dazzling wildlife in Australia, while the beaches, shops, museums, and other cultural landmarks can appeal to older kids and teens, in particular. On the downside, since Australia is so big, a trip here can involve a lot of traveling.
In contrast, New Zealand has the benefit of being significantly smaller, meaning that you’ll spend less time traveling around if you want to get to a few of the well-known tourist sites.
Thanks to this, there’s less chance of your kids getting bored in the back seat or growing restless from having to spend so much time getting from place to place.
New Zealand also has some super family-friendly activities, like canopy tours and luging, while the Sky Tower of Auckland and Zealandia wildlife sanctuary in Wellington are great spots to check out with children.
Or, if your kids are Lord of the Rings or Hobbit fans, you can tour some of the spots in NZ where the famous movies were filmed.
Overall, Australia just about has the edge here, due to the quantity and variety of its family-friendly attractions, but NZ should still be considered a top destination for families, especially those with older kids.
Which Is Best For Backpackers?
Those planning a backpacking trip to either Australia or New Zealand can have a great time at either one of these destinations. The friendly locals and good public transport links make it fairly easy to get around both countries with everything you need on your back.
Australia is particularly welcoming to backpackers, and it’s not uncommon to see travelers here from around the world, hitchhiking or riding buses from place to place, spending nights in hostels and affordable guesthouses, and trying to see as much of the country as they can before they head home.
Like Australia, New Zealand is a primarily safe and suitable location for backpacking.
You can get around cheaply in NZ, and there are some cheap hostels and budget hotels in the big cities, like Auckland. But you might find it a little harder to find a low-cost place to stay in other parts of the country, unlike Australia which has cheap accommodations throughout.
Just like anywhere else in the world, backpackers in Australia or New Zealand will need to keep their wits about them and watch out for thieves and other criminals who might try to target tourists. But, in general, you can have a terrific time in either destination.
Which Has The Best Food?
Food is a big part of both Aussie and Kiwi (New Zealand) culture. These countries have their own unique specialties that visitors might like to sample, but which one is best? Well, that’ll all depend on your personal preferences, but here’s a quick breakdown of food and drink in Australia and New Zealand.
Visitors from places like the UK and the US should feel right at home with many of the most popular foods in Australia; the people here enjoy classic comfort foods like pizzas, steaks, and burgers, as well as their very own ‘meat pies’ – a small pie filled up with minced meat and usually served with a squirt of ketchup right on top.
You’ll also find plenty of Asian food around Australia, with many Chinese and Thai restaurants in the big cities, as well as a range of other eateries with European and American-style dining. Australia is also a leading winemaking nation, responsible for some of the world’s top-rated Shiraz and Merlot wines.
New Zealand arguably has more of its own culinary identity, with a distinctive blend of influences from Maori culture and the many European settlers who made their home here over the years.
There’s also a big focus on local ingredients, with the likes of New Zealand lamb and Pacific seafood featuring on many menus.
The island nation is a fantastic place to enjoy fresh fish, oysters, and mussels, straight from the ocean, and it’s definitely worth checking out some Maori recipes and cooking techniques while you’re in NZ, like sourdough-style rewena bread and hangi – a traditional feast of meat and vegetables that are cooked underground for several hours.
No matter what your tastes happen to be, you should find a lot to love in the foods of Australia and New Zealand. The former is a super choice for comfort food the whole family will love, while the latter is more oriented towards traditional dishes made of local ingredients.
Which Is Cheaper?
When it comes to vacations in New Zealand and Australia, it’s often the flights that take up the biggest part of people’s budgets. Since many travelers come from places like the US and UK, flights to either of these destinations can be expensive, but how do the costs compare once you’re on the ground?
Well, when it comes to accommodation, Australia is typically a little pricier than New Zealand. Hotels in high-demand areas like Sydney and Melbourne can cost quite a lot, although it’s perfectly possible to save money by staying in one of the less popular areas.
You also need to think about travel costs in Australia, as the price of a rented car and gas can quickly add up as the days go by. However, it is possible to find tours and activities here for fairly low prices, as there are lots of tour companies and plenty of competition to keep costs down.
Over in New Zealand, accommodation is more affordable, even in the big cities like Auckland and Wellington. Day-to-day costs are comparable to US standards, and you won’t have to spend as much on getting around as you would in Australia.
At the same time, it can be quite expensive to do all the things you might like to do in NZ; prices for guided tours, skydives, zip-lines, and so on will quickly accumulate, and even a single tour to a national park or landmark can be quite expensive, so you’ll need to plan out your itinerary with care and manage your budget accordingly.
Australia vs New Zealand: Which Is Better?
So, which of these two countries should you choose? Ultimately, that all depends on you. It’s impossible to say that one of these countries is the best for vacations, but one of them might be better for you, depending on the vibe and activities you like the most.
Those looking for a chilled-out vibe and planning to spend lots of time on the beach or exploring exciting cities will definitely enjoy Australia, while those who prefer nature and non-stop adventure will absolutely adore New Zealand.
For most travelers, Australia might just about be the better option. It has warmer weather, superior nightlife, more things for families, and a wide range of things to do throughout your vacation, from big city entertainment to unbeatable scuba diving.
With that said, New Zealand should not be overlooked or underestimated. Often described as one of the most amazing places on Earth, this is a picturesque land of unparalleled beauty, perfect for those who appreciate nature and love to live life to the fullest.