As an expat who has lived in several different Australian cities I often get asked what is the best city in Australia to live in?
Moving to Australia can be a huge decision. Plus the country is so large it makes it hard to decide where you should move to! This guide should hopefully make it easier for you to narrow down your decisions about which city you would like to live in. In particular this guide is helpful for people looking to emigrate permanently to Australia but are unsure which city to move to, as well as people looking to live and work in Australia for a year on a Working Holiday Visa.
Of course what is considered the best city for one person may not be what another person considers to be the best. Different factors that can affect which city you choose to live in Australia can include:
- If you have children
- If you are young, single and want to party all the time
- If you want to live by the beach
- If you want to live near mountains
- If you want more seasonal weather or if you want hot weather year-round
- Your budget
- Where you can get a job
Moving around between the different cities in Australia meant I really got to discover what it is was like to live in each city as opposed to just visiting them. After all, living and visiting somewhere can be two very different things. I got to see the advantages and disadvantages to living in each city as well as getting to uncover what different residential areas were like.
Quick facts about living in Australia:
- Most cities in Australia are on the coast as inland the weather conditions are too extreme.
- many people choose to emigrate to Australia due to the warm weather, beautiful beaches and laid-back lifestyle.
Let’s start off in Sydney as this is the biggest and most populous city in Australia – 5 million people (20% of the whole population in Australia) live here. Sydney is located in the state of New South Wales (NSW).
Pros about living in Sydney:
- Sydney Harbour is one of the most beautiful harbours in the world.
- If you enjoy walking there are an infinite amount of coastal walks with spectacular views you can do around Sydney’s coastline.
- Sydney has many incredible beaches just a few kilometres from the CBD.
- Sydney is a very lively city with lots of bars, restaurants and nightlife and there is always something to do here for everyone young or old.
- Sydney is a very multicultural city.
- Sydney has great weather with a temperate climate – very hot summers and cool but (generally) pleasant winters.
- There are many stunning and unique places you can visit nearby for weekend trips away such as The Central Coast or Hunter Valley (wine region).
Cons about living in Sydney:
- Sydney is the most expensive city in Australia.
- Rent and house prices are a LOT higher in Sydney compared to other Australian cities. To give you an idea, rental and property prices are similar to and often higher than London prices.
- If you want to live by the beach in Sydney (for example the popular and iconic suburbs of Bondi and Manly) it is especially expensive. Think $600 minimum per week for a small apartment. The further you are away from the beach, the cheaper the prices. Prices drop dramatically in Sydney’s West, although bear in mind there are some rough areas in West Sydney.
- Sydney is a very large city so it can be very time-consuming to drive in the city. There isn’t a good ring road system in Sydney so you can often be stuck in traffic. Plus there are several of toll roads here in Sydney.
- Compared to the other Australian states, the state of NSW is particularly hot on giving speeding tickets and parking tickets. You can get fined for the smallest thing here so always obey all the road rules and parking rules.
- TOURISTY PLACES TO VISIT: Sydney Harbour Bridge, Sydney Opera House, Mrs Macquarie’s Chair, Bondi Beach.
Click here for a 3 day Sydney Itinerary.
- DAY TRIP IDEAS: Blue Mountains.
- LOCALS FAVOURITE PLACE: Palm Beach.
Whilst Sydney is an expensive place to live (often it is listed in the top 10 cities in the world), it is an incredible city. I spent the majority of my time in Australia living in Sydney, and it is definitely my favourite city in Australia to live in. If you have your heart set on living in Sydney then go for it! There are so many expats here which will mean you will find it easy to make friends in Sydney. You will also have the most job opportunities here.
Click here for a selection of the best Sydney itineraries!
Melbourne is the capital of the state Victoria and is almost as populated as Sydney. It is another popular city for expats to Australia to settle in.
- Melbourne is the most European feeling of the Australian cities and this is why many people like it.
- If you are into sports Melbourne is a great place to live as it is a big city for sports such as The Melbourne Cup and The Grand Prix.
- Melbourne is a big foodie and entertainment city.
- The city is very multicultural.
- There are several nice beaches nearby.
- Lots of people like living in Melbourne as it has proper seasons compared to other Australian cities. The summers are very warm but winter average temperatures are quite cool around 14 degrees. Nevertheless the weather in Melbourne can be very unpredictable and you’ll often hear the saying that Melbourne has four seasons in a day.
- TOURISTY PLACES TO VISIT: Hosier Lane, Brighton Beach Huts, St Kilda. Click here for a 1 day Melbourne sightseeing itinerary.
- DAY TRIP IDEAS: Great Ocean Road.
You will find most people have a preference for either Sydney or Melbourne. Personally I much prefer Sydney as there are a lot more things to do, plus the weather is warmer. I found Melbourne’s weather to be too temperamental and far too cold in the winter. That being said, it is a lot cheaper to live in Melbourne as opposed to Sydney.
After Sydney, Brisbane was my second favourite city to live in Australia. Brisbane – the capital of Queensland is the perfect place to live if you want to experience warm weather year-round, or if you prefer a smaller city with a more laidback lifestyle than Sydney or Melbourne.
- Located in the ‘Sunshine State’ as Queensland is often known, Brisbane has year-round sun and warm temperatures. In winter and spring the temperatures are perfect (great for those who can’t bear the cooler winter temperatures in Sydney or Melbourne), however the city does have a subtropical climate, meaning that in summer the weather can get unbearably hot and cyclones and thunderstorms can even happen sometimes.
- Brisbane is still big enough to feel like a city, but compact enough that you can get around very quickly even during peak hours.
- Despite Brisbane being a lot smaller than Sydney and Melbourne it is very multicultural and the people are very friendly.
- Unlike the other State capital cities in Australia there is no beach within the immediate vicinity of Brisbane. However there are many beaches that are within a 1 hour drive (located on the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast) so they can be easily accessed. Not only this but there are many charming towns, mountains and waterfalls within the hinterland nearby that you can discover. You’ll certainly never be short of beautiful places to visit.
- There is not such a backpacker and touristy feel in Brisbane as there is in parts of Sydney and Melbourne as a lot of tourists skip Brisbane and just head to the Gold Coast or Sunshine Coast. I quite like that as it means places are never really crowded.
- There is a young vibe in the city as there are several Universities here in Brisbane. There are plenty bars in Fortitude Valley and along the river underneath The Story Bridge.
- Brisbane is a much more affordable city to live in than Sydney and Melbourne.
- TOURISTY PLACES TO VISIT: South Bank, Story Bridge, Kangaroo Cliffs. Click here for a 24 hour sightseeing itinerary for Brisbane.
- DAY TRIP IDEAS: Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast. Both have beautiful beaches as well as lots of stunning places within the hinterland to discover.
- LOCALS FAVOURITE PLACE: North Stradbroke Island
Perth is the capital of Western Australia and it is actually the most isolated city in the world to live in! The nearest city to Perth is Adelaide and that is over 2,500km away by road so the journey would take several days! If you want to go to any other city in Australia from Perth you’ll most likely fly, but unfortunately airfares to and from Perth from other Australian cities can often be quite expensive. Therefore this can make getaways from Perth expensive.
Also due to the large distance Perth is from any other Australian city (a flight from Perth to Sydney is 4 hours), this often discourages a lot of people from visiting or moving here as they fear they will feel disconnected. However Perth is an incredible city, has a lot to offer and is a popular place especially for those raising families or retiring.
- Out of all the Australian cities Perth has the best and most predictable weather. In Perth it is always sunny and the climate is very pleasant. Even in summer when the temperatures rise, the cool ocean breeze makes it extremely bearable.
- Perth has some beautiful beaches on it’s doorstep, and in fact many of Australia’s and the world’s best beaches are located in Western Australia (WA). And the best part? They are never crowded!
- Like Brisbane, Perth and neighbouring Fremantle are very easy to get around and there is never much traffic here. The people are also very friendly too. Be sure to check out the Fremantle Market at the weekends.
- If you come from a big city you may find Perth quite small, however there really is something to appeal to everyone here.
- Despite being far from other cities there are lots of places to visit nearby such as wineries and National Parks.
- TOURISTY PLACES TO VISIT: King’s Park, Fremantle Market. Click here for a 24 hour guide to Perth and Fremantle.
- DAY TRIP IDEAS: Pinnacles Desert, Lancelin Sand Dunes, Busselton, Rottnest Island.
When deciding on which Australian city to move to, Adelaide often gets overlooked by many people in favour of the bigger Australian cities. However South Australia is a beautiful and really varied part of the country and Adelaide is definitely worth considering when planning which city in Australia is the best for you to live.
- Adelaide always has really nice sunny weather. It has a climate very similar to the Mediterranean with mild winters and hot but dry summers. Adelaide is generally not as humid as other Australian cities in the summer.
- There are lots of lovely beaches just a few kilometres from the CBD. Compared to the East Coast, the beaches in and around Adelaide are never crowded.
- Less than an hour’s drive from Adelaide CBD are many world-renowned wine regions such as Adelaide Hills and the Barossa Valley where you can go wine tasting. And within 6 hours driving you can be in the Outback, meaning there are endless road trips and weekend breaks you can take from Adelaide.
- The cost of living in Adelaide is a lot more affordable than other Australian cities. In fact Adelaide is Australia’s most affordable big city.
- Adelaide has a lively cultural and arts scene and hosts many museums and festivals including the Adelaide Fringe each year.
- Like Perth, Adelaide is a small compact city, meaning less traffic.
- TOURISTY PLACES TO VISIT: Adelaide Central Market, Adelaide Botanic Gardens, Glenelg Beach.
- DAY TRIP IDEAS: Kangaroo Island, Adelaide Hills/Barossa Valley wine regions.
Hobart is the capital of Tasmania – Australia’s only island state. Tasmania is known for it’s breathtakingly beautiful natural landscapes and scenery and the people here live a very outdoors lifestyle. Moving to Hobart is perfect for those who enjoy hiking.
- The weather is a lot cooler in Tasmania than it is on mainland Australia. Summers are great as they are warm but not unbearably hot like it can get in other parts of Australia. Winters are cold. If you enjoy year round sun and warmth then perhaps Hobart is not the place for you.
- Not many expats live in Hobart but the locals are very friendly, laid-back and welcoming.
- Hobart feels more like an old country town as opposed to a city and life is a lot slower here. If you’re looking for a slower pace of life and to unwind Hobart could be the perfect place for you.
- For a small city there are always lots of festivals and things happening in Hobart to keep you occupied. It is a very artsy city with lots of Farmers Markers and independent boutique stores. Nightlife is a little limited though.
- Hobart is a compact city so it is easy to get around.
- Both the mountains and the beach are within half an hour drive of Hobart CBD.
- Accomodation in Hobart is significantly cheaper than in Sydney and Melbourne.
- As Tasmania is an island you can perhaps feel a little detached from mainland Australia. Taking trips to the mainland will require advance planning as you will need to take a plane.
- Job opportunities are harder to come across in Hobart so try to secure a job before you get here.
- TOURISTY PLACES TO VISIT: Mount Wellington
- DAY TRIP IDEAS: Wineglass Bay, Port Arthur.
Canberra is the official capital of Australia, located in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) and is the largest inland city in the country. Most people however will only move to Canberra if they have to with work as it is far from the beaches and so being inland doesn’t appeal to to as many people.
- The nearest beach is 2 hours away.
- Many people feel there is not much going on in Canberra: it has more of a small town feel than a capital city.
- Rent is quite expensive (the third most expensive in the country behind Sydney and Darwin).
- As Canberra isn’t very big it means the traffic isn’t bad.
- It is fairly easy to get a job in Canberra.
- The weather in Canberra is generally cooler than in other Australian cities as it is above sea level. In winter night temperatures go below zero degrees Celsius.
- TOURISTIC PLACES TO VISIT: Parliament House, Australian War Memorial.
- DAY TRIP IDEAS: Snowy Mountains,
Darwin is the capital of the Northern Territory (NT) in Australia and also often gets overlooked by expats as a city to live in for several reasons. It is however a great place to live with so many beautiful natural places nearby!
- Darwin is Australia’s hottest capital city. It is a tropical city and has a really pleasant climate, although it can get really hot and sticky here in the summer. The summer is also the wet season, which brings brings incredibly high humidity, storms and monsoon rain.
- The tropical climate in Darwin lends itself to lots of mosquitoes and sand-flies.
- Australia is full of dangerous animals, but in particular Darwin is full of crocodiles. In fact there are almost as many crocodiles as there are people in NT!
- Darwin is wild but it is also a modern city surrounded by beautiful beaches (there are shark and croc nets to protect you!).
- Darwin is a culturally rich city and is home to Aboriginal culture, so living here you will really get to see and learn about this unique culture. You can also take a weekend break away to the nearby Tiwi Islands to learn more about the indigenous culture.
- Although not quite as isolated as Perth, Darwin is pretty isolated and it can take 4 hours just to fly to Brisbane!
- Living in Darwin you are really close to some beautiful natural sights including towering monoliths, desert and natural swimming holes. Darwin also has incredible markets full of Indigenous arts and crafts, as well as performances and live music.
- TOURISTIC PLACES TO VISIT: Mindil Beach Markets, Darwin Botanic Gardens.
- DAY TRIP IDEAS: Kakadu National Park
Other regional cities and towns in Australia you may consider to move to:
Australia isn’t just about the capital cities of each state. There are many other towns and cities that are just as beautiful (and a lot cheaper!). Many of these regional towns and cities are located along the coastline but some are also located inland too and are great places to live. Here are my favourite regional cities in Australia:
Cairns is located in tropical Far North Queensland and is a city for the adventurous! The day trip possibilities from here are endless – you can visit The Great Barrier Reef, the Daintree Rainforest or go whitewater rafting for the day. Cairns is a beautiful city with great weather year-round, although like Darwin it gets very humid in the summer. It is also a very popular stop for backpackers and so you’ll find plenty restaurants and watering holes here. Cairns is perfect for outdoorsy people who want to live in a city but also want nature, beautiful beaches and the rainforest nearby.
Newcastle is a fantastic city located 2 hours north of Sydney (160km away). It is close enough to Sydney for when you need to get there, but it has a much more laid-back friendly vibe. There are many beautiful beaches surrounding Newcastle. To the north you’ll find Port Stephens and Worimi National Park, and to the south you’ll find The Central Coast, meaning you’re never short of ideas for day trips. Newcastle also has a secret swimming spot called The Bogey Hole – check it out here!
Byron Bay is located in north-east NSW and is one of the most famous beach towns in Australia, known for it’s relaxed but trendy vibe and great surf. Like Cairns, Byron Bay is a hotspot for tourists and backpackers, often attracting spiritual people. There are lots of great independent restaurants and shops and people really enjoy healthy eating here. Byron is a small town and so the locals all know each other and whilst many expats choose to live here for a while they soon move on and don’t end up settling here as they want to leave the ‘Byron bubble’.
Noosa is a sunny beach town located on The Sunshine Coast. It has an affluent and upmarket chic vibe as well as being a big surfer town. I guess it can be compared to Newquay, Cornwall or Torquay, Devon in the UK just much, much hotter. The summers here are very tropical and humid and can be unpleasantly hot at times but during the rest of the year the weather is perfect.
Noosa is a popular holiday destination for Australians and foreigners and therefore it is quite expensive. It does however have lots of beautiful hikes and coastal walks you can do, for example walking the coastal route along Noosa National Park will take you to the stunning Noosa Fairy Pools.
You may find it a bit more difficult making friends in Noosa as not too many expats live here. Most of the foreigners here are just passing through. The majority of the residents have lived here all their life so may be closed off to making new friends, and so therefore it may be hard for you to create a close network here.
As you can see, there are so many great places to base yourself in Australia. If there is a particular city or town you have your heart set on then just bite the bullet and move there. If you don’t like it you can always relocate to another Australian city (job permitting). In general the bigger cities are more popular for expats as there is more to do here. Some places are great to visit but not necessarily to live in as they may feel a little isolated. Write down your priorities, what factors are most important to you when deciding where to live, what you are willing to compromise and see which city best matches it. If you need any advice, just pop me a message below and I’ll be happy to help further in any way I can!