Many travelers’ first motivation for the long journey to Australia, New Zealand, and the South Pacific is to see the breathtaking natural landscapes. But it’s the region’s cities — many of them situated within these breathtaking landscapes — that make visitors consider canceling their return ticket. They’re warm, clean, culturally rich, full of friendly people, and home to increasingly intriguing dining scenes, thanks to the culinary renaissance that has swept this part of the world in recent years.
Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, T+L asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. Readers rated cities on their sights and landmarks, culture, cuisine, friendliness, shopping, and overall value.
Since the World’s Best Awards were created, 22 years ago, Sydney has been the top city in Australia, New Zealand, and the South Pacific 22 times in a row. It isn’t hard to understand why. “You cannot go wrong with a city that is surrounded by water on all sides,” one reader wrote. “The beaches are amazing, the people are so beautiful, the food is good, and public transit is spot-on.”
In the spring of 2016, the influential Danish restaurant Noma set up a 10-week popup in Sydney, casting new light on the indigenous ingredients and food culture of New South Wales. A number of other new restaurants — including Automata, Bar Brosé, the Dolphin, and, in the space previously occupied by Noma, Cirrus — have further established Sydney as a global dining destination.
Readers also acknowledged Melbourne, Sydney’s sibling city on Australia’s southeastern coast. As the host city of the 2017 World’s Best Restaurant Awards and home to World’s Best Restaurant perennial Attica, it’s got plenty of culinary cred of its own. But the remainder of the list went to cities in New Zealand — the intimate metropolises of Auckland and Wellington and the fun-loving adventure capital of Queenstown — a reflection of the little country’s continued allure for active travelers, lovers of unspoiled nature, and Middle-earth enthusiasts.