22 Free and Cheap Things to Do in Auckland, New Zealand
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Auckland is a great place to visit. Being New Zealand’s largest city with a quarter of New Zealanders living here, you won’t be surprised to hear there are plenty of things to do.
From adventure activities, beautiful nature walks, hip bars and restaurants – you name it Auckland has something for everyone.
In this guide to the best cheap and free things to do in Auckland, you’ll find the locations of all the best activities, pricing and some of our insider tips and recommendations to make sure you get the most out of your holiday.
Follow our locals guide on our favorite things to do in Auckland, from born and bred Aucklanders!
This article is a guest post contributed by an Auckland local – Delilah from Our Travel Mix!
1. Visit the Sky Tower
|Location:||Victoria Street West|
|Cost:||$32 NZD for 15+ years, $13 for 6-14 years, kids under 6’s free |
or FREE with a minimum spend of $30 to $40.
|Rating:||5/5 – Auckland’s most iconic building and one fo the best |
viewpoints in the city.
The Sky Tower makes up an iconic silhouette of Auckland’s skyline. Standing at over 300m tall, this is the best place in Auckland to get a great view of the city. If you’re daring enough, walk across the glass panels at the observation deck.
You can book your tickets to the Sky Tower in advance and skip the line.
If that sounds a little too crazy for you then shop at the gift shop and grab a bite to eat at the cafe or restaurant inside. Orbit is the famous revolving restaurant or check out the Sugar Club, one of Auckland’s most renowned restaurants.
2. Have a Picnic at the Top of Mt Eden
|Location:||Suburb of Mt Eden in Auckalnd City|
|Rating:||5/5 – The best free viewpoint of the city and an interesting |
Mt Eden, also known as Maungawhau is a dormant volcano located in the central Auckland suburbs. The 200m climb will take you around 30 minutes. It’s an easy walk but it is up a hill.
When you’re up there, enjoy the views of Auckland including the Sky Tower and surrounding harbors. A great idea (and what we love to do) is to pack a picnic to enjoy at the summit.
Swing by the nearby supermarket and grab rolls, fillings, a bottle of chilled wine and some cheese.
If you don’t have your own transport, then consider booking this Auckland City day tour.
3. Feast on Fish and Chips at Mission Bay
|Location:||Mission Bay Beach, Tamaki Drive|
|Cost:||Around $7 per person for fish and chips|
|Rating:||4/5 – A kiwi tradition at a beautiful beach|
There isn’t anything more ‘Kiwi’ than grabbing yourself some fish and chips and eating them on the beach on a nice summer’s day. Even better, go in the evening and watch the sunset.
Mission Bay is the most central beach in Auckland at only a 10-minute drive from the city center. Hook Line & Sinker is a great option for takeaways, as well as Oceanz Seafood. Due to its location, it can get quite busy in summer.
If crowds aren’t your thing, drive further along the coastline to either St Helier’s or Kohimarama beaches.
When eating, watch out for those pesky seagulls. They might try and swipe a chip if you ever leave your food unattended!
4. Have a Look Inside Auckland Art Gallery
|Location:||Wellesley Street, Auckland|
|Cost:||$20 NZD for adults, children under 12 are FREE|
|Rating:||3/5 – Perfect thing to do in Auckland for those who appreciate art|
The Auckland Art Gallery holds a large collection of both New Zealand and international works of art.
Join a free English language tour at 11:30 am and 1:30 pm daily. This is a great way to learn about the art, interpretation and the artists behind the works. The tours are one hour long. Meet in the foyer on the ground floor if you’re interested.
Mandarin language tours also operate from Thursday to Sundays at 12:30 pm.
Bear in mind the price listed above is for international entry only. NZ residents, you’ll be able to get in free with proof of residency.
5. Visit Auckland Museum and the Domain Wintergardens
|Location:||Auckland Domain, Parnell|
|Cost:|| $25 NZD for adults, $10 NZD for children 6-14 years, under |
5s free. New Zealand residents are free but not to all exhibits
|Rating:||4/5 – A really good museum but certainly isn’t cheap!|
The Auckland Museum is a very impressive museum that features state of the art exhibits that are constantly changing and evolving.
You can learn about New Zealand’s history, including early Maori life. There’s also some fun and interactive areas for the kids.
Don’t miss out on the Maori cultural performances daily at 11 am, 12 pm and 1:30 pm daily. This also includes the infamous haka you’ll see being performed prior to our rugby games. During the warmer months, they’ve got an additional performance at 2:30 pm.
Stop by at the Domain Wintergardens filled with beautiful tropical flowers and plants.
You can buy tickets for entrance to the museum here!
6. Sip a Cocktail at Hi-So, Auckland’s Best Rooftop Bar
|Location:||67 Customs Street East, Auckland Central|
|Cost:||$18 NZD for a cocktail|
|Rating:||3/5 – Great views of the city and a nice relaxing activity|
Hi-So is Auckland’s newest and hippest rooftop bar. Their extensive cocktail list will have something to suit you perfectly while the tasteful design of the bar creates a great ambiance.
Look over the Waitemata Harbour and Rangitoto Island (which is also on our list of places to visit). This is a spectacular choice of place to watch the sun go down.
So what are you waiting for? Grab a cocktail and relax.
7. Explore Tawharanui Regional Park
|Location:||1181 Takatu Road, Tawharanui Peninsula|
|Rating:||5/5 – Best free activity in Auckland!|
This is one of our favorite free things to do in Auckland for a half-day trip away. Combine this with number 14 on our list “shop and snack at the Matakana markets” and you’ve got yourself a great day planned.
We actually love visiting Tawharanui during winter. Not only is it almost empty (contrary to summer), the moody skies really add to the atmosphere.
This is the perfect time for photographers as you don’t have to worry about crowds making it into your photos and you’ll get unique, moody photos that you just can’t capture during the warmer months.
Wear some comfortable walking shoes with a good grip so you can climb across the large rock formations near the sea.
8. Tour Waiheke Island’s Wineries
|Cost:|| $40 NZD for adults, $20 NZD for children 5-15 years, under |
5 is free
|Rating:||5/5 – An island of beaches and wine is perfection!|
Waiheke Island is well-known for its beaches and vineyards, making it a great day trip out of Auckland city. Most people just go to Waiheke for the day, but there are tonnes of accommodation options for those wanting to stay.
The best way to get to Waiheke Island is by Fullers ferry from the Downtown Auckland Terminal on the waterfront. Check out their website for the timetable. Generally, ferries leave every hour and take 40 minutes.
Sealink is another company operating, but we’d only recommend this if you’re taking your car over. This is because at the Fullers port you will be dropped off at on Waiheke is directly connected to multiple bus links, making it so much easier to get around the island as opposed to Sealinks port.
The all-day bus pass is $12 NZD and are definitely a must if you’re not bringing a car. Family passes are available for both the ferry and bus.
Wineries: Cable Bay and Mudbrick. They are both about 1 km from each other so you may as well visit both! Finish at Mudbrick and watch the sunset from there. Wine tastings around the island are $10-15 for three to six tastings.
Onetangi beach: This beach is a little further away from the ferry terminal compared to the popular Oneroa beach, but still on the bus route. It’s always less busy here but equally as beautiful.
If you’re short on time then consider booking this day tour from Auckland to Waiheke for a food and wine tasting.
9. Swim at the Beaches out West
|Location:||Piha, Karekare and Bethells Beaches, Waitakere|
|Rating:||5/5 – Some of the most beautiful and unique beaches in|
Having a dip at the beach is one of the most popular things to do in Auckland on a summer’s day. The beaches out west are known for their unique black sand and amazing surf.
New Zealand’s UV rays are harsh, especially in summer. Please make sure you have SPF 50+ sunscreen on you (that’s water-resistant if you’re planning on swimming). Wear a sunhat and sunnies to protect your face and eyes.
Avoid being in direct contact with the sun during the hotter parts of the day for extended periods. Beachgoers often bring beach umbrellas and pop up tents to shade themselves on the beach, or alternatively pop into a cafe for a bite as you get out of the sun for a bit or go on a shaded bushwalk in the area.
Our top picks:
- Piha Beach for swimming and soaking up the sun
- Karekare Beach for a more peaceful getaway and beautiful walks
- Bethells Beach for walks and sliding down the sand dunes (bring a boogie board)
Read our complete guide to visiting Bethells Beach!
10. Take a Ferry to Rangitoto Island
|Cost:|| $36 NZD for adults, $18 NZD for children 5-15 years, under |
|Rating:||4/5 – An ideal half-day trip from Auckland!|
Just like Waiheke, Fullers Ferries will also take you to Rangitoto Island. You’ll see Rangitoto’s silhouette from many viewpoints in Auckland.
Being a smaller island, this is a great option for a half-day trip. The walk to the top of the dormant volcano is a gradual climb and will take you approximately one hour. This is an easy walk for kids and isn’t too steep, making it suitable for older walkers too.
Bring a packed lunch to feast on and reward yourself for your hard work.
In the summertime, you may want to take a dip on the sea once you’ve finished your walk. There are also day tours to the island that include a 4wd tour of the island. These tours cost around $70 NZD per person.
11. See the many Waterfalls at Waitakere Regional Park
|Location:||Waitakere Regional Park, Waitakere|
|Rating:||5/5 – Perfect way to connect with nature and escape the city|
New Zealand has such a clean, green image that we’re proud to call our home. Going out for walks in the bush (especially to waterfalls) are our favorite free things to do in Auckland.
There are plenty of walks to choose from and the best ones are definitely out west in the Waitakere Ranges.
Be sure to check whether or not if a walking track is open before visiting. Recently, many of the trails have been closed to preserve our native Kauri trees.
- Kitekite falls track (30-45 mins): One of the most popular walks. It’s a flat, easy walk that ends at a beautiful waterfall. You’ll find many people swimming in summer and it can get quite busy.
- Fairy falls track (2-2.5 hours): A more advanced and less busy alternative to Kitekite falls. Enjoy the waterfall views for many different angles as you climb through the Waitakeres.
- Whatipu caves track (30-45 mins): Connected to Karekare Beach, this easy walk is very unique with caves to explore along the way.
- Mercer bay loop walk (45-60 mins): This walk showcases the views of the shoreline off high cliffs. It can get quite slippery after rain, so wear proper walking shoes.
12. Visit Auckland Zoo
|Location:||Motions Road, Western Springs|
|cost:|| $24 NZD for adults, $13 NZD for children 4-14 years and|
under 4s free
|Rating:||3/5 – Opportunity to see Kiwi birds!|
Auckland Zoo is home to over 100 different species. This is a great activity for all ages. There are plenty of things to see and do including grassy areas to relax on, cafes and playgrounds.
Our favorite enclosure is of course home to our native kiwi bird. These animals are nocturnal so the enclosure is very dark. It’s a bit difficult to spot them, but that’s all in the fun of it! It feels a bit like you’re playing “Where’s Wally”.
My favorite animal is the elephant so we also enjoy visiting them when we’re at the zoo. Keep an eye on their website or brochures for feeding sessions.
The Auckland Zoo is a huge supporter of wildlife conservation and their programs are trying to provide a brighter future for animals everywhere. It’s a great program to support while on holiday!
You can pre-book tickets to the Auckland Zoo here.
13. Take a Day Trip to Tiritiri Matangi
|Cost:||$78 NZD for adults, $47 NZD for children 5-15 years and |
under 5s free
|Rating:||5/5 – Top pick for a day trip from Auckland!|
There are plenty of day trips to take around Auckland, but this one to Tiritiri Matangi is our favorite. We were both born and raised in Auckland but we had only recently visited the island for the first time.
This wildlife sanctuary is absolutely filled to the brim with native birds and wonderful birdsong. Look out for the beautiful Fantail and cute Dotterel family by the beach.
Bring a picnic lunch and plenty of water as there aren’t any places to eat on the island. During the warmer months, the beaches are a great spot to swim.
Sure, this is one of the more pricey things to do on our list but for a day trip to see native wildlife in their natural habitat is definitely worth it.
You can book your ferry tickets here.
14. Shop and Snack at the Matakana Markets
|Location:||2 Matakana Valley Road, Matakana|
|Cost:||FREE to visit|
|Rating:||4/5 – Markets full of amazing food|
Matakana is a cute, quaint town about one hour from Auckland city. Travelling here for the markets is one of the best things to do in Auckland on a Saturday morning.
The markets run from 8am – 1pm and have everything you’d expect at a farmer’s market and more. Buy your fresh produce for the week, a raw smoothie, coffee, dips, cheeses and a huge range of food.
Look out for the brownie stall which is every sweet tooth’s dream and the Puhoi Pantry stall. They sell great spice mixes for dips and rubs which we always stock up on when we’re there.
Grab a plate and enjoy the live music by the river.
15. Trek Hunua Falls
|Location:||Hunua Ranges Regional Park Falls Rd, Hunua|
|Rating:||3/5 -Bush walks showcasing a waterfall and a |
The Hunua Ranges is another spectacular mountain range complete with a waterfall. This is the largest area of native bush in Auckland. Hunua is located about 45 minutes south of central Auckland.
The walk to the falls only takes a couple of minutes. There are a few surrounding walking tracks ranging from 15 mins (Hunua Falls Lookout Walk) to three hours (Cossey Massey Loop).
Our top pick is the Suspension Bridge Track which takes 90 minutes return – this is probably not the best option for those afraid of heights!
16. Sail Through Auckland’s Harbour
|Location:||Corner of Quay Street and Hobson Street, Viaduct Harbour|
|Cost:|| Museum entry and heritage sailing are $50 NZD for adults, |
$25 for children 5-14 years, under 5 is free
|Rating:||3/5 – Nice views but a litle bit on the pricey side.|
What better way to see Auckland’s harbor than to sail down it? The Auckland Maritime Museum host sailings down the Viaduct Harbour on heritage vessels and steamboats.
The museum itself has free guided tours five days a week where you can learn about New Zealand’s maritime history.
17. Stroll through Silo Park
|Location:||Corner Beaumont Street and Jellicoe Street, Viaduct Harbour|
|Rating:||4/5 – Friday afternoons for the food truck market |
is the best time to visit
Who would’ve thought you’d find a park right in the middle of a city? Silo Park is a great place to hang out. They’ve got plenty of bars, cafes, and restaurants down the waterfront to choose from, playgrounds, large silos, and grassy areas.
Friday afternoons are the best time to visit. Silo Park holds a food truck market every Friday from 5 pm during the summer months. Peaches Fried Chicken is a fan fave and makes the best-fried chicken burgers we’ve ever had.
Even better, enjoy an open-air cinema from 9 pm on Fridays. Once again, this is held during summer. Bring a picnic blanket and some cushions and enjoy a film projected on a silo.
18. Visit Kelly Tarltons
|Location:||23 Tamaki Dr, Orakei, Auckland|
|Cost:||$39 for adults and $27 for children|
|Rating:||4/5 – NZ’s most popular aquarium|
Visit the country’s most popular aquarium. See sub-Antarctic penguins, visit the turtle rescue center and be mesmerized by the many species of sharks, fish, and other marine life.
This is the perfect activity to take the kids, especially on a rainy day. Be sure to keep an eye on their website for feeding times and book online here!
19. Have Dessert at Milse
|Location:||1 Tyler St, Auckland CBD|
|Cost:||$16 for a dessert plate, $8 for patisserie items|
|Rating:||5/5 – A must-do for those with a sweet tooth|
We love heading to Milse for a treat or two. It’s a boutique dessert bar down a hidden alleyway in the middle of the city. The exclusive dessert bar can only sit around 10 guests, so you may have to be put on a wait-list. Believe me, the wait is well worth it!
During the day, there is a huge array of pastries, terrines and gelato sticks to choose from. My favorite is definitely the baked Alaska gelato stick.
Come from 6 pm and you can order a dessert dish. Each plate is ornately presented with flavors expertly married together. Everything you will see in Milse is truly a work of art!
20. Bungy Jump off the Harbour Bridge
|Location:||105 Curran Street, Westhaven|
|Cost:||$165 NZD for adults, $135 NZD for children|
|Rating:||3/5 – An expensive thing to do in Auckland |
(but cheaper than most other places you can bungy in NZ!)
New Zealand is filled with great options for adventure activities so its no surprise you can go bungy jumping in Auckland. Auckland’s Harbour Bridge is over 40m high and Aj Hacket (world renowned bungee operator) can take you on an adventure of a lifetime.
The bungy is available for children 10 years and over, and for those 35-150 kgs. Tandem Bungee is also an option.
While this isn’t necessarily a “cheap” thing to do it is one of the cheapest bungy jumps in all of New Zealand. So, if jumping off a bridge is on your bucket list then Auckland may just be your place!
For those of you who aren’t willing to take the plunge (literally), they also have a Harbour Bridge climb.
You can book your bungy jump online here.
21. Pack a Picnic Lunch for the Botanic Gardens
|Location:||100 Hill Road, The Gardens|
|Rating:||3/5 – A beautiful stroll with plenty of |
opportunities for photos
These botanic gardens are always a pleasure to visit. It’s about a half an hour drive south from central Auckland.
Stroll through the many different gardens and enjoy the views of sculptures and plants to complement the views of the flowers and native plants.
This is another opportunity to pack a picnic and just relax.
22. Visit the Gannet Colony at Muriwai Beach
|Cost:||FREE / Tours are around $150|
|Rating:||5/5 – A beautiful place to visit especially for bird loves!|
The Gannet Colony on the cliffs at Muriwai Beach is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Auckland. Not only are the cliffs and surrounding beach stunning but the birds are a magical site to see.
If you want to see the birds you’ll need to visit between the months of August and April with December to February being the best time to see baby Gannets. There are literally hundreds of them on the cliffs and the boardwalk lets you get pretty close without disturbing them.
Muriwai Beach is located around a 45 minutes drive from Auckland and if you don’t have your own transport then consider booking this tour! This is easily one of the best things to do in Auckand!
- Best FREE Glow Worm Cave in NZ – To us, this cave is better than any paid one too!
- 33 Free and Cheap Things to do in Queenstown – our favorite town in New Zealand offers a ton of things to do and see
- Cathedral Cove Walk – Everything you need to know about visiting Cathedral Cove in the Coromandel
- The Best Beaches in New Zealand – These are beaches you absolutely need to see while you’re in New Zealand
About the Author
Delilah is a freelance travel writer from New Zealand. Her personal travel blog is Our Travel Mix, which offers a variety of useful travel tips, guides, and advice for a range of countries. Despite having a long bucket list, Delilah’s favorite destination is Queenstown in her home country, New Zealand.
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January 19, 2020