The Top 5 Cities in Australia, New Zealand, and the South Pacific in 2020

This year’s World’s Best Awards survey closed on March 2, just before widespread stay-at-home orders were implemented as a result of COVID-19. The results reflect our readers’ experiences before the pandemic, but we hope that this year’s honorees will inspire your trips to come — whenever they may be.

In the 25 years of the World’s Best Awards, the winning locale in our readers' survey of the top cities in Australia, New Zealand, and the South Pacific has almost always hailed from Australia — T+L’s 2020 Destination of the Year. But 2019 brought a surprise: Queenstown, New Zealand, emerged as the winner. This time around, the adventure hub came in fourth, but still impressed T+L readers with its seemingly endless list of adrenaline-pumping activities. “Ziplining down the side of the mountain, bungee-jumping off the bridge or flying over the river in a speedboat — this is the place to be if you are an adrenaline junkie,” one fan touted. The Kiwi capital of Wellington earned the No. 5 spot. One reader remarked, “Wellington is a beautiful, clean city. The food was good, and people could not have been nicer!”

Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, Travel + Leisure 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.

Related: The World's Best Awards 2020

The Land Down Under’s eastern half is home to the majority of the country’s population centers, including the ever-beloved Melbourne (No. 2). Famous for its culinary prowess, proximity to world-class wine regions, and thriving cultural scene, the capital of the state of Victoria wowed T+L readers with its vibrancy. “Melbourne is a hip city, full of theater culture, café culture, hidden little laneways, relaxed sophistication,” wrote one T+L reader. Another fan could easily picture calling the city home: “I love it and the amazing shops and restaurants you can find in alleys.” Still, Australia’s western coast is emerging as a captivating destination in its own right, thanks to several years of development and a recent hotel boomlet in Perth, which came in at No. 3. And, of course, there’s plenty to do in the surrounding areas. As one reader noted, “The beach communities like Cottesloe are lovely, and we enjoyed a visit to Fremantle. Rottnest Island is a must, with its clear, turquoise waters and pristine bays and those little marsupials — the quokkas!”

But after coming in second last year, Sydney reclaims the No. 1 position. It continues to enthrall travelers with its own blend of the arts and the outdoors. Scope out the full list of the best cities in Australia, New Zealand, and the South Pacific below.

1. Sydney, Australia

Sydney, Australia harbor and skyline
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WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 85.75

The Harbour City has topped the list once again. “Stunning Sydney is one of the world's most beautiful cities with so much to see and do,” wrote one visitor. Home to the Opera House, Harbour Bridge, and dozens of pristine beaches, travelers could easily spend a few weeks in town and just scratch the surface of everything there is to see and do, both in the urban center and within day-trip distance. “Sydney is amazing,” enthused one reader. “I would recommend visiting Bondi Beach and the Blue Mountains for beautiful landscapes and other sights,” said another.

2. Melbourne, Australia

People walking in Melbourne's Federation Square, with the Arts Centre spire shown in the background
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WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 85.37

3. Perth, Australia

Golden Hour in Perth, Australia
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Score: 82.78

4. Queenstown, New Zealand

Overview of scenic Queenstown, New Zealand
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Score: 82.04

5. Wellington, New Zealand

Young men walking in downtown Wellington, New Zealand
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Score: 81.87

See all of our readers' favorite hotels, cities, airlines, cruise lines, and more in the World's Best Awards for 2020.

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