World Facts

Largest Cities In Australia And Oceania

These are the most populous cities in Oceania, ranked in terms of their respective metro area populations. Note the Australian dominance of the list.


Oceania refers to an island group of countries, dependencies, and territories of foreign nations located in the South Pacific Ocean. Australia, Papua New Guinea, and New Zealand, the three largest countries in Oceania, with a areas of 7,741,220 square kilometers, 462,840 square kilometers, and 267,710 square kilometers, respectively, are also the most highly populated countries in the region. Many other islands in the region have extremely sparse populations, including the Pitcairn Islands, Tokelau, Niue, Norfolk Island, and others. The city populations there are in the range of a few hundred to a few thousand. As expected, Oceania’s most populous cities are also concentrated on its largest islands. Here, we attempt to analyze the reason why these cities are such major crowd pullers, and what factors are responsible for sustaining the large populations in these cities.

Big Cities Down Under

11 Australian cities feature in this list of the 18 most populous cities of Oceania. Four of these Australian cities also occupy the top four rankings in the list. In Australia, one of the most urbanized countries in the world, 89.01% of the population lives in urban areas. This fact reflects in the high population estimates of many of the country’s cities, even though the density of Australia’s human population as a whole is as low as 3 persons per square kilometer. When we look at Oceania’s four most populous cities, Sydney (4.84 million people), Melbourne (4.44 million people), Brisbane (2.27 million people) and Perth (2.02 million people), we find that all of these cities have one thing in common, and that is that they are all located near the coastline of Australia. The coastal locations encouraged the growth of the first European settlements in these regions, which rapidly progressed into today’s modern day, bustling metropolises. Sydney expanded rapidly after the development of the Sydney Harbor Bridge, while Melbourne’s importance peaked much earlier, during the Victorian Gold Rush in 1851. Besides these four cities, 6 other of the most 11 most populous cities of Oceania belonging to Australia are also all coastal cities. The nearness to the sea thus appears to be the major driving force leading to the progress of these cities into thriving economic centers with substantial populations. However, among these 6 cities, except for Adelaide (1.30 million people), the population of the other cities have not yet crossed the benchmark of one million. Only one inland city of Australia, Canberra, features in the list of Oceania’s most populous cities. The reason behind this is that Canberra is the Federal capital of Australia, and thus enjoys all of the privileges of a capital city attracting people to live here.

When looking at the cities in New Zealand, we find only one city, Auckland, in New Zealand that has a population crossing the one million people mark. Like Australia, most of New Zealand's population of 4.6 million lives in its urban centers. The population is thus highly unevenly distributed, and many of the smaller islands of the country are almost completely uninhabited. Auckland grew up as an important European settlement in the 19th Century as its coastal location was convenient for the Europeans arriving via the sea route to New Zealand. In 1841, the city was officially declared as the country’s capital and witnessed a rapid pace of development during that time. Even after the capital was shifted to Wellington in the later years, Auckland continued to prosper and flourish, leaving it as the most populated city in the country. The second most populated city of New Zealand includes Wellington, which is a crowd puller in the country itself due the privileges enjoyed by it as the national capital and political center of New Zealand. Christchurch and Hamilton, the other most populous cities of Oceania that are also part of New Zealand, are in the process of rapid expansion. Interestingly, even though Papua New Guinea in Oceania has a larger land area than New Zealand, only one city, the capital of the country in Port Moresby with a population of 364,125 people, features in the list of the most populous cities in Oceania. This is because the cities of the island nation are infamous for their lack of safety and security, and Port Moresby is one of the least livable cities in the world, and one where its citizens fear for their lives due to the presence of the raskol street gangs terrorizing the streets. Nouméa, the capital city of New Caledonia, and Dili, the capital and chief port city of East Timor, also feature in the list of Oceania’s most populous cities.

Future Trends

The countries in Oceania have immense potential for future development. With populations growing at a rapid pace across the world, high rates of immigration to Oceania’s largest countries like Australia, New Zealand, and Papua New Guinea are expected to increase rapidly through 2050, and then start declining gradually. While highly populated cities of these countries will face infrastructural pressures, new townships might crop up to accommodate the burgeoning populations. The density of population in Oceania is, however, predicted to be highly variable by 2100, ranging 504 persons per square kilometer in Micronesia to 3.6 persons per square kilometer in Australia and New Zealand.

Largest Cities In Australia And Oceania By Population

RankLargest Cities In OceaniaEstimated Metro Population
1Sydney, Australia4.84 million people
2Melbourne, Australia4.44 million people
3Brisbane, Australia2.27 million people
4Perth, Australia2.02 million people
5Auckland, New Zealand1.57 million people
6Adelaide, Australia1.30 million people
7Gold Coast, Australia507,642 people
8Wellington, New Zealand402,300 people
9Christchurch, New Zealand381,800 people
10Canberra, Australia381,488 people
11Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea364,125 people
12Central Coast, Australia323,079 people
13Newcastle, Australia308,308 people
14Sunshine Coast, Australia297,380 people
15Wollongong, Australia292,190 people
16Dili, East Timor234,000 people
17Hamilton, New Zealand224,000 people
18Noumea, New Caledonia179,509 people


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