If its a relaxed city surrounding on the North Island you're looking for, then look no further than Palmerston North. This is a big student city - with Massey University student population of over 40,000, and a huge range of private education institutions including International Pacific College, Universal College of Learning and Te Wananga o Aotearoa.
With such a large student population comes affordable bars and cafes and some unique shopping experiences around 'The Square'. Students at the major universities also receive free public transport around the city.
For tourists, Palmerston North offers great connections into Wellington, being under 2 hours drive along State Highway 1.
Every visitor should check out the beautiful Victoria Esplanade Gardens.
Hotels and apartments in Palmerston North are typically amongst the cheapest city hotels in New Zealand, and offer excellent value for money. Here a 4 star hotel can cost as little as NZ$90/night.