Before I went on a spontaneous whim to live in Melbourne for a few months I had never imagined myself living in Australia. Honestly, I don’t really know what I had against it now (just this country rivalry that’s inherently instilled in me as a kiwi I guess), but I am so glad I went and experienced life across the ditch. Naturally when living in a new place it takes some adjusting and we do tend to compare it to what we’re used to and decide which is better. There are so many factors that make a good city, so I’ve broken it down so we can figure out if Auckland or Melbourne is better overall.
Australia is well known for its stunning beaches and say what people might, Melbourne is certainly no exception to this.
Melbourne beaches are almost all brighter, whiter and clearer than those in Auckland. There are more of them, and there is more happening around them in terms of activities, restaurants and people. On a hot summer’s day, the energy at the city beaches in Melbourne is insane (not to mention all the parties and festivals that are organised there).
In its favour, Auckland beaches are much more varied. We have the quiet white sand beaches on the east coast, and the unique wild black sand beaches on the west coast. It does depend on the weather, but generally speaking Melbourne beaches are very tame. In Auckland you can go to a surf beach and get crazy waves whenever it tickles your fancy.
At the end of the day, Auckland beaches pale in comparison to Melbourne for their beauty and atmosphere.
One thing I’ve always said about New Zealand is that we are very lacking in historical buildings and beautiful architecture. While they exist, it’s not easy to find a gorgeous colonial building in Auckland, or a unique modern piece. In Melbourne, all you have to do is go to Flinders St Station in the centre of the city and look up. And it doesn’t stop there – there are plenty of beautiful buildings all over the city.
The modern buildings in Melbourne appear to have some thought about aesthetics put into them – I really can’t say that about Auckland unfortunately. The University of Auckland has some nice structures, and our iconic sky tower is a good landmark, but other than that there’s really nothing to say about architecture in Auckland. It’s neither unique nor historical.
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Taking a ferry in Auckland is a beautifully scenic and fun way to get around Auckland and see something different. Who can resist a good city scape 😉 EDIT: I've put together a list of all the best places around Auckland to see a good view! Make sure you check out the link in my bio. 📍Auckland, New Zealand 🇳🇿
I was amazed when I got to Melbourne and I realised there’s actually a train going to almost every suburb in the city – what a novelty! Auckland has one western line and one southern line, and that’s basically it for our trains. Not to mention they often just completely stop running in the weekends so you can’t really rely on them. Our city centre has a good bus link, but from the suburbs the services are often infrequent and unreliable. Most public transport is not running after 10pm on a weekday.
What really makes Melbourne transport great though, is the tram system. Built over 100 years ago, it feels like you’re stepping into a time machine every time you get on the tram. But aside from the historical element, they are also a good way to get around. Just avoid them during rush hours.
Complain as Melbournians might (and often do) about their transport system, they have fairly reliable and frequent transport which covers almost anywhere you’d want to go. Services run until late during weekdays, and almost all night on weekends, making it easier to depend on them.
I was excited to get to this point because I finally have something positive to say about Auckland! In my opinion, this is one thing that brings Auckland from being an average city to a decent place to live.
Firstly, the colour of the grass in Australia is very underwhelming. Their ‘green’ can be described as a washed out yellow. Grass is ugly and prickly, trees look lifeless.
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Two things amazing about Victoria state… 1. Totally flat landscapes and 2. Crazy random rock formations. This pic was taken at Hanging Rock, which is basically full of random rocks altogether in one place.. Such a fun place to climb around and explore! 📍Melbourne, Australia 🇦🇺 . . . . . #seeaustralia #australiagram #girlslovetravel #melbourneiloveyou #visitmelbourne
In comparison, New Zealand is very lush. Aside from that, Auckland is laden with green areas. You’ll never go very far without seeing a tree, for example. Wherever you are in the city, there’s bound to be a park not too far from you. Melbourne seems to have gone for a different approach, and plonk one or two humongous parks on opposite sides of the city.
Where Melbourne wins with beach vibes, Auckland is definitely smashing it with our parks. They are big, they have varied landscapes with hills and horticulture, and they have a unique atmosphere.
One big difference between Auckland and Melbourne is that Auckland is full of hills, mountains and volcanoes whereas Melbourne is relatively flat. This means two things – one, you need to be a lot more fit to walk around Auckland city than you do Melbounre; and two, Auckland has a lot more epic viewpoints.
Melbourne only has one place where you can really see a view of the whole city – the Eureka tower – but you have to pay to get up. Auckland, on the other hand has a whole bunch of free spots where you can see a view of the whole city. This article tells you all the best places to catch a view of Auckland.
Auckland and Melbourne are both known for their unpredictable weather patterns, or for harbouring ‘four seasons in one day’. I have to say, though, Melbourne certainly takes it to another level. It truly can be a perfect cloudless day one minute, and heavy rain and wind the next (that’s no exaggeration). Apart from that, it’s not rare to see a 12 degree high one day and a 40 degree high the following day. While the weather can vary a lot, this kind of extreme fluctuation simply doesn’t happen in Auckland (mostly because the temperature never goes that high).
As I explain in my article about why I never want to leave New Zealand, the weather here, especially in Auckland can safely be described as pleasantly mild. It’s never extremely hot or extremely cold. Melbourne gets a lot colder in Winter, and a lot warmer in Summer.
Verdict: Depends on you. Do you prefer a mild or more extreme climate?
Cost of living & earning potential
One thing that I noticed almost immediately in Melbourne was that the price of food was so much cheaper than Auckland, particularly for fruit and vegetables. The price of petrol is also a lot cheaper in Melbourne than it is in Auckland (though it costs a lot more to maintain vehicle registration in Australia than it does in New Zealand). For other things like eating out, rent prices, transportation and entertainment, the prices are roughly the same. Alcohol and medicine is cheaper in Auckland than it is in Melbourne.
The prices are more or less similar, but the thing that does make a huge difference is the earning potential between the two cities. For one thing, the minimum wage in Australia is much higher than it is in New Zealand. Apart from that, Australian service workers also have far more rights (for example, in Australia service workers get paid time and a half on Saturdays and double time on Sundays and public holidays; in New Zealand, workers only get paid time and a half on public holidays). The average salary for basically every industry imaginable is higher in Melbourne. If you’re working in Auckland, it’s very likely you could be paid more to do the same job in Melbourne.
If you work in Melbourne, at the end of the day you will be left with a lot more disposable income. So if you’re deciding between Auckland or Melbourne to work and save money, your best bet in Melbourne.
Final decision: Auckland or Melbourne?
Auckland: 2 | Melbourne: 4 | Draw: 1
The winner: Melbourne!
Most people who have been to both cities would agree. Melbourne has just that little bit more character, offers a better lifestyle, and is honestly just an all round easy place to live. It’s no secret that Melbourne was deemed the most liveable city in the world 7 years in a row. Even though this year it’s dropped off the top spot, it hasn’t stopped being a truly world class city.
Personally, I love both cities for very different reasons. They both have something unique to offer so if you have the chance to visit or experience the lifestyle in both, do it! If you are deciding between Auckland or Melbourne for a trip, decide what is most important to you in a city. If you are into nature and wild beaches, Auckland might be for you. If you just want to relax and/or save money, maybe Melbourne is your place to be.
Auckland has some catching up to do, but we definitely can’t complain about living here, either!
Further reading about Auckland and Melbourne:
If you want to know more about either city, check out my posts about places to hike in Melbourne and best beaches in Melbourne, or the best places to see a view of Auckland. If you’re going to be visiting in a particular season, my guides to Auckland in summer or Melbourne in winter might be of interest.
Have you been to Auckland or Melbourne? What did you think of them?
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