The Best Cities in Australia, New Zealand, and the South Pacific in 2017

New Zealand, Auckland
Photo: Gaby Wojciech/Getty Images/Westend61 RM

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.

01 of 05

5. Auckland, New Zealand

New Zealand, Auckland
Gaby Wojciech/Getty Images/Westend61 RM

Score: 81.87

02 of 05

4. Wellington, New Zealand

Wellington New Zealand
Geoff Lung

Score: 83.95

03 of 05

3. Melbourne, Australia

Melbourne, Australia
Asanka Brendon Ratnayake

Score: 85.47

04 of 05

2. Queenstown, New Zealand

Queenstown, New Zealand
Pravit Kimtong/Getty Images

Score: 86.45

05 of 05

1. Sydney

Australia, New South Wales, Sydney
M. Gottschalk/Getty Images/Lonely Planet Images

Score: 87.31

After concluding his Noma residency here in spring 2016, chef René Redzepi remarked on the joy of cooking for Aussies, because of their unparalleled warmth and enthusiasm. That’s central to the appeal of visiting Sydney. Not only are you in a spectacular city, with so much to do, from the Opera House to the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney to Bondi Beach — you’re also surrounded by some of the world’s friendliest people. Many of our readers also loved that the city is easily walkable and there’s much to do outdoors (harbor cruises, sunrise jogs). “Sydney never fails to impress,” said one fan.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles