Australia or New Zealand: Which country should you travel to next?

It's a question I've been asked on several occasions, and rightfully so. Both countries rank high on many people's must-visit lists yet many people can't visit both. In a perfect world, where finances and holiday time are unlimited, I wouldn't dare recommend skipping one country for the other. I've been fortunate enough to play tourist and local in both and even then the decision isn't an easy one. By breaking things down into several categories, and skipping some more easily researched ones (google can help with weather), I hope to shed some fresh light on two of my favourite countries in the world. But which one comes out on top?

Does size matter?

Even if you haven’t dusted off your atlas to play “where should I travel to next” in some time, I’m pretty certain you can tell me which country takes up more space in the world. According to Google, Australia is almost 29 times the size of New Zealand. So, yes, you’ll be able to see a greater percentage of New Zealand in 3 or 4 weeks but this doesn’t translate into being able to see ALL of New Zealand in that time frame. Windy, narrow roads make getting around New Zealand slower than you would expect. Flying between cities is definitely a time-saving option but I personally recommend on settling on seeing less and spending chunks of your time road-tripping. Self-driving in either country is very safe and gives you a much better perspective on size and landscape, not to mention a closer look at scenery and some of the best memories.


Snakes, spiders, crocodiles, jelly-fish, sharks… Even ants and bees make the cut for Australia’s deadliest creatures. The chances of a grim encounter are slim but it’s worthwhile to be aware of who and what calls the red island home. Whatever you do, don’t let this be your deal-breaker. For every killer creature, there's two or three odd but incredibly cute animals to make up for it. Plus, what’s an adventure without some risk, right?

Rescued Roo

Welcome to Australia, mate

Spotted! In the wild. 
Not a care in the world 
Keeping a safe distance from this guy

Unless you've managed to steer clear of all social media relating to travel, you're aware that NZ is one of the most photogenic countries in the world. If you're into landscape photography, a visit here is a no-brainer. The alpine scenery alone could keep your finger glued to the shutter button for a lifetime. If you get tired of photographing mountain peaks and glacial lakes (could you ever?), you can also head to the coast to capture the dramatic shoreline, or inland for the greenest rolling hills you've ever seen, or to one of many geothermic areas for something delightfully different. The variety is unbelievable and the scenic value unmatchable. Make wall space for framed photographs before you even book your flight.  

White frame, you think? 

Rewards for lugging my camera gear up a mountain for 2 hours

The unbelievably stunning Cape Brett
Hike your little heart away

Both countries offer a range of hiking opportunities, from short day walks to multi-day trips. NZ with its multiple mountain ranges and varied landscape, is a hiker's dream. There are trails to explore for everyone, from beginners to advanced hikers, and from an outsider’s perspective, the country has done a marvellous job in setting this up. The highest peak, at 3724 m, is relatively low when compared with the likes of Everest Base Camp, Mt. Kilimanjaro, or even many popular hiking areas in Europe. Although this doesn't mean you're likely to be trekking to the top of Mt Cook, it does mean that there are heaps of hikes that offer challenge and spectacular scenery yet don't require years of experience. NZ has an excellent system of huts that allow you to experience the true wilderness of the country and are easily bookable online or in person. Be aware, if you're hoping to grab a spot on one of NZ's Great Walks, book months ahead of time (the Milford Track is often booked out 6 months in advance) to avoid disappointment. But don't stress, if all spots are taken, there are plenty of other overnight hikes with scenery to match.

Like walking through a movie set

All in a day's work 

Arthur's Pass, South Island

Australia is the mecca of all things surfing. Surf life is a way of life here. (Read more about it here.) If you've ever even for a second thought about learning how to surf, please don't come to Australia without acting on that desire. You won't become the next Mark Richards (famous Aussie surfer, don't you know?) but you'll challenge yourself mentally and physically, you'll gain priceless knowledge about the ocean and you won't ever regret it. Spend a few days in a quintessential Aussie surf town such as Seal Rocks (NSW) or Margaret River (WA) and witness the special relationship surfers have with their craft, literally planning their day around it. You might even catch yourself googling where the closest surf spot is to your hometown. (Lake Ontario, here I come!)

Early morning father and son surf
Taking advantage of clean conditions
Adventure scale

If you can’t wait to check bungee jumping off your bucket-list, then the land of the long white cloud is for you. On a comparable level of adventure, sky-diving experiences will be similar in both countries but NZ is the indisputable home of bungee with varying options to suit your adrenaline-seeking needs.

If you’re on a slightly lower adventure level (there’s no shame), either country will satisfy your heart-pounding cravings with a plethora of different activities on offer. Think white-water rafting, jet-boating, rock-climbing, abseiling, kite-surfing, scuba-diving, to name just a few.    

The only other area in this category that NZ has an edge on is helicopter-related adventures. From heli-skiing to glacier walking to scenic tours, the NZ sky is full of adventurers on their way to less accessible locations for an extended taste of NZ’s raw beauty. If I’ve just described your lifetime dream and you can fork over the cash required for a cozy seat in a chopper, choose New Zealand over Australia and get ready to be blown away.

Often you create your own adventures
A different view of Queenstown

Blue Mountains, Sydney

Alright, Australia deserves some credit here too. Though it's widely known for the (mostly flat) Outback, Australia isn't completely flat and unexciting. Yes, it lacks the extensive alpine scenery that NZ has but there are still mountains to be climbed. Did you know that in the states of Victoria and NSW there are mountains that allow for skiing and boarding in the winter months? Consider also Tasmania. An island located approximately 250 kilometres off the coast of Victoria, Tassie has been compared to its green neighbour on more than one occasion.   

Aside from mountains, there are of course all those stunning beaches that this island is so famous for. But isn't a beach just a beach after the 5th or 6th one, I hear you say? In my opinion, if you truly appreciate nature, you'll see and appreciate the differences between them. Don't forget about the rainforests, waterfalls, reefs, canyons and, yes, that Red Centre. All pretty spectacular in themselves.

Shell Beach in Western Australia
Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia
Northern Territory, Australia


Beaches, surfing, and kangaroos. Check, check, and check. What about a visit to that little area that occupies 70% of the country? The area that holds so much significance to the Aboriginal peoples? You'll return home without experiencing the true Australia if you miss out on visiting the Outback. Believe me, there is so much to see here. Its most famous landmark and the country’s most recognizable natural icon, of course, is Uluru, or Ayers Rock. Walking the perimeter (climbing goes against the wishes of the local Aboriginal people) of this immense rock is an unforgettable experience. The nearby rock formations of Kata-Tjuta (aka The Olgas) and the further Karlu Karlu (aka Devil’s Marbles) are also worth visiting. If time allows, I highly recommend a tour company that takes you into the Outback by vehicle (the best way to take in the sheer size of this area) and finishes with a visit to Uluru. Admittedly, I had doubts before I went but I now recommend this part of the country to everyone. Don’t miss out!

Nothing says Australia like...

...and like...
A different perspective 
Explore, explore, explore! 

City life

Although there are definitely things to see and do in each of NZ's main cities, it's not the main reason that 3 million people visit the country each year. Consider a city stop in NZ as your “city break”, a short distraction from all that nature you’ll be surrounding yourself with; an opportunity to eat out in a better restaurant, visit a museum, buy some reasonably priced groceries. Then quickly head back out into "the bush" to be once again wowed by all that natural beauty.  

When travelling in Australia, on the other hand, try to properly allocate time to visiting its cities. Explore the vibrant shopping and dining neighbourhoods, check out world famous attractions like the Sydney Opera House and the Melbourne Cricket Ground, or get a taste of coastal life in the city or...all of the above. Each major city has a different vibe so do some research to see which ones interest you most. Keep in mind that they’re far apart so it’s not likely you’ll be able to do each major city justice.

Melbourne's after-work rush

Sydney morning commuters

A great way to get immersed into the culture of a country you’re visiting is to watch (preferably live) its popular sports, especially if you’ve never witnessed them in person before. If you weren’t planning to budget a sports event into your travel expenses, a decent back-up option is to seek out a local game. Local rugby contests and cricket matches are not difficult to stumble upon when out on a weekend stroll in NZ or Australia. Not to miss in Australia (especially when in Melbourne) is the often difficult to understand yet immensely entertaining game of Australian Rules Football. Let’s be honest, you won’t know what the heck is going on, but it’s still worthwhile to check out this unique spectacle of athleticism and precision. If you’re considering on checking out a match, choose seats in a higher bowl as an elevated viewpoint will give you a much better perspective on the game.

AFL action in Melbourne
Cultural experiences

For the purpose of this post, let’s call cultural experiences opportunities to experience the culture of the first inhabitants, as well as opportunities to indulge in theatre, music and art. New Zealand’s music and art scene is slowly expanding but Australia comes out on top with a thriving music and arts scene. Melbourne is the unofficial culture capital of Down Under so be sure to head there to get your art fix. Other major and not so major Australian cities are moving up the so called cultural ranks so you should be able to take in some art wherever you go.

Don’t miss out on learning about Maori and Aboriginal culture in NZ and Australia, respectively. There are multiple locations in both countries where these experiences are offered - check reviews for the most authentic experience.

Traditional Maori dress, dance and expression

Getting a small taste of Aboriginal life in the Northern Territory

Cost of living

This will be dependent on where you’re coming from but the reality is, Australia and NZ are not only expensive to get to but they will both put a strain on your wallet once you're there. Have strategies in place to cut costs - a little bit of effort can go a long way. Even seemingly insignificant things, such as carrying a refillable water bottle, staying in hostels or using airbnb, purchasing a city transit pass if you'll be using the transport system often, checking city guides for discounts to popular tourist attractions, can make a positive difference to your budget.
To give you a bit of an idea, here’s a summary of some typical costs.

1 AUD = 0.75 USD // 1.02 CAD // 0.59 GBP // 0.69 EUR
1 AUD = 1.08 NZD

Cost in Australia (AUD)
New Zealand (NZD)

2L (full cream) milk
$3- $4
1 loaf whole wheat toast bread
Carton of eggs (dozen, free range)
1 flat white (coffee)
Muffin at cafe

Movie ticket
21.5 hoyts 22 event
18.5 event cinemas $19 hoyts
$1.15 - $1.50 / L
$1.75 - 2.10 / L
Public transport (Adult fare) from airport to city centre
Sydney $18
Melbourne $18
Auckland $17
Wellington $9

And there you have it. A very good question that is impossible to answer and I've only touched on a few things. Whichever country you choose to visit, just know that an adventure is waiting for you.


No comments:

Post a Comment