Two countries, both alike in accent,
In the fair Southern Hemisphere, where we lay our scene,
Shared colonial pasts with biodiversity ancient,
But does Aussie rule or the All Blacks team?
And forth to the shores of these two foes
Travellers venture in their thousands.
So, to which destination shall they go –
The vast Australia or petite New Zealand?
Sydney and Melbourne are probably two of the best cities in the world to visit. Sydney’s world-famous draws include the iconic Opera House and Harbour Bridge. Melbourne currently boasts one of the best bar and restaurant scenes on the planet with its alternative laneway watering holes and new eateries opening on a seemingly daily basis. New Zealand rivals Sydney with Auckland, a city in an equally scenic coastal location whose top sights include the slightly less world-famous Sky Tower. The Kiwi capital of Wellington is often cited as a smaller, windier version of Melbourne but it’s all the cuter and more lovable for its pocket-sized charm. Yet Melbourne’s jam-packed sports calendar (including the AFL, Aussie Open, MCG fixtures and Formula 1) rather overshadows the occasional big rugby or cricket match that graces Welly’s Westpac Stadium.
Winner: For their never-ending bustle and always having something exciting going on, it’s the Australian metropolises.
New Zealand is regularly voted amongst the friendliest countries in the world thanks to the laid back locals who will go out of their way to help a stranger. I witnessed this first-hand when living there in 2015 and I often wished I could bring some of that generous Kiwi spirit back to my compatriots in the UK. Not to mention the sexiest accent on earth. Aussies aren’t shy of reaching out to visitors, either – although their welcome often comes in the form of a gentle ribbing. If you’re a Brit in Australia prepare to be called a ‘pom’ by the locals and take it as good-heartedly as they intended. Talking of slang, expect to be referred to as ‘bro’ in New Zealand or, if you’ve really made it into the inner circle, a c***. Yes, that’s actually a good thing. Australians will also call you ‘mate’ but don’t assume that means you’re BFFs – they’re all mates Down Under.
Winner: You can’t beat that chilled Kiwi charm – New Zealanders win.
Kangaroos, koalas, wombats, emus, echidnas – Australia has no end of unique indigenous wildlife that exists nowhere else in the world. But – here’s the rub – quite a number of the animals down under can, er, kill you. There’s no shortage of venomous snakes and spiders, crocodiles hiding in creeks and if you’re heading for a swim in the ocean don’t forget about the sharks and deadly jellyfish, by all means. New Zealand has its own share of native species – and they are nearly all birds. As New Zealand has never been colonised by mammals (aside from seals and bats) the bird population on the islands is one of the most interesting and distinctive in the world. Not to mention weird (just Google some photos of kiwis and you’ll see what I mean). New Zealand is also visited by penguins, whales and dolphins… as is Australia.
Winner: Australia has something that New Zealand simply can’t equal: the Great Barrier Reef. Plus, Australian wildlife has the added thrill of potential death… and who doesn’t love danger?
Now as anybody who’s remotely culturally aware will know, Peter Jackson put New Zealand on the map in a big way by filming his Lord of the Rings trilogy of movies there (and later the Hobbit franchise). The world suddenly realised New Zealand was an incredibly beautiful country and not, in fact, an inferior offshoot of Australia. If you are worried New Zealand can’t possibly live up to your fantasies of its natural beauty, forget it – it’ll get there and then some. Australia has its fair share of vibrant national parks and unspoilt vistas. Unfortunately, some areas are periodically hit by bush fires which leave their mark upon picturesque landscapes. Australia’s red centre is definitely bucket-list worthy; I’d put Uluru amongst my favourite places in the world.
Winner: The prize goes to the only country in the world worthy of posing as Middle Earth – New Zealand.
Australia is mostly about the coast. Swimming, surfing (watch out for sharks), scuba diving, sailing, sunbathing (watch out for skin cancer) – I never said the country didn’t have its risks. If you head inland the most popular pastime seems to be getting drunk and shouting obnoxious things in an increasingly bogan Australian accent. Or maybe that’s just the pubs I tend to end up in. New Zealand has its famous adrenaline sports obsession; in other words, New Zealanders don’t give a shit and will invite death in any number of bizarre ways (they should cut out the middle man and just move to Australia).
Winner: A visit to New Zealand means you can boast about surviving that bungy jump/sky dive/black water rafting for the rest of your life. If it’s a crazy party you want, though, Australia will always provide. Tied.
It’s hard to summarise the climate of Australia as it’s so bloody big. The tropical northern regions are home to humid rainforests, warm stingray-filled seas and scorching crocodile-laden beaches. Down south, Melbourne is famous for its ‘four seasons in one day’ weather and average temperatures regularly fluctuate by 20 degrees Celcius from one day to the next, while Tasmania gets snow most winters. Generally speaking, though, you can always rely on a long, warm Aussie summer and a mostly temperate winter. New Zealand is more southern in latitude and therefore colder. Due to its mountainous nature snow is widespread during winter months, but the good news is: skiing! New Zealand, always the weirdo of the bunch, has the windiest city in the world (its capital, Wellington). It’s like these two countries are competing for the most extreme climate…
Winner: Australia’s balmy summers are simply unbeatable.
When was the last time you thought to yourself: ‘I’m going to explore the equivalent of the entire area of Europe on my next holiday!’? That’s what you would be attempting if you tried to see most of Australia in one trip. It’s simply impossible – not to mention crushingly expensive. New Zealand knows what an appropriate size for a country is; it’s about the same land mass as the UK. It also helpfully splits into two major islands, giving visitors much to debate and argue over which island is better/deserves to be visited more. Spoiler alert: it’s the South Island.
Winner: For being the perfect size for a road trip, it’s New Zealand.
This is a tough one as both countries claim to be both cheaper and more expensive than their Oceanic neighbour. In my experience New Zealand is cheaper than Aussie for eating out and drinking, yet somehow more expensive when buying food in the shops. I worked more hours but struggled to save in New Zealand when living there. Conversely, in Australia I socialised profusely yet was richer despite my hedonistic lifestyle. I can only conclude that Australian men are more likely to buy a girl a drink than Kiwi boys…
Winner: They both suck for being expensive, particularly when it comes to partying. I declare a tie.
Food and Drink
I’d say Australia and New Zealand are pretty evenly matched when it comes to offering amazing food and drink. They both produce excellent wine, have a growing craft beer scene (although New Zealand’s is more accessible) and put an emphasis on local, healthy produce. New Zealand is a seafood-lovers dream due to the proximity of the coastline to every town. I didn’t realise I loved oysters until I lived there – or that beer could have so many flavours, or that there were foods such as purple kumaras and feijoas. Australia has a wonderful array of Asian food available thanks to its multicultural population, which is definitely a culinary plus.
Winner: It’s close but because it introduced me to taste sensations such as paua and pinot noir, I have to say New Zealand.
Australia and New Zealand have a rivalry which goes back a long time. In fact, any Aussies or Kiwis reading this post will have been getting competitive and vying for their nation to come out on top.
Although I’ve named New Zealand as a winner in one more category than Australia, this wasn’t really the point of the article. Hopefully if you are planning to visit either country this tongue-in-cheek guide will help you choose the right destination for you. I love both countries deeply; I’ve lived in Australia and New Zealand, travelling widely across each one. I’d always recommend New Zealand as a must-see destination to any traveller as it’s so easy to visit. That being said, a rather large chunk of my heart lives in Australia, somewhere close to my friends in Melbourne.
Whether you choose to spend your time in New Zealand or Australia, you’re going to have the time of your life. It’s up to you what kind of experiences you want to have when you travel abroad. Just be prepared to never want to come home – I know I didn’t.