Top 20 Free Or Cheap Things To Do In Auckland

Tuesday, March 26th, 2019

Read about 'Top 20 Free Or Cheap Things To Do In Auckland' on USAVE, the place for all things car rental.

Maxed out the budget and need to find some free or cheap things to do in Auckland? Look no further – we have sorted through the best of the best and found 20 great free activities, attractions and places to go in Auckland.


1. Visit One Tree Hill And Cornwall Park

Neighbouring parks that when combined make up one of the largest parks in Auckland, this is the perfect destination for some fresh air and sunshine. Bring along a picnic, and enjoy spotting some of New Zealand’s beautiful native birds as you make your way around the wide open spaces and beautiful gardens.

Cornwell Park also runs as a fully working farm, so look out for farm animals such as cows and sheep, and even baby lambs and calves during the Spring. Visit the Cornwall Park Information Centre on your way in for more information on the Park and self-guided walks, and exhibitions.

You can also check out the night sky from One Tree Hill, within the grounds you’ll find the Auckland Stardome Observatory. Entry costs about $15 for adults and $12 for children, family discounts are available. The Observatory has a range of shows both during the day and the evening suitable for all ages.

2. Watch A Movie At Silo Park

During the summer months visitors to Auckland’s iconic Silo Park can enjoy a free movie projected onto a silo at the “Silo Cinema”. Just across from the Viaduct Harbour, this fun cinematic event takes place every Friday and sometimes Saturday or Sunday over the summer months.

While you are there explore the artistic delights of Silo 6 – the very unique exhibition space with its ever-changing displays of local and community based displays. Check out the children’s playground, and get your feet wet in the splash pool under the iconic Auckland ‘Wind Tree’ sculpture. Every Sunday afternoon there is a regular community event encompassing a range of activities, games, and workshops for all ages and abilities.

Enjoy a taste of the Auckland community atmosphere with street style entertainment, a huge range of events, buskers and browse the culinary delights of the nearby food trucks for lunch or dinner – or both! Year round you’ll find Silo Park is one of the best free things to do in Auckland.

3. Appreciate Some Art At The Auckland Art Gallery

Faced with some less than perfect weather? Than the Auckland Art Gallery is the perfect ‘free’ place to be. With a collection of over 15,000 works of art and some just beautiful exhibitions and events from both local and international artists will mean you can quite easily lose track of time – but good news there is an onsite café where you can get you ‘mojo’ back – yes the Café is called Mojo!

Look out for the regular free talks and tours held daily at 11.30 am and 1.30 pm, interactive family activities and the awesome Creative Learning Centre, check out the website before you visit to get an idea of what’s on for the day you plan to visit.

4. Bask In The Culture Of The Auckland Museum

Free for New Zealand residents (or make a donation if you choose), the Auckland Museum is open from 10 am to 5 pm every day. Browse the interactive displays, wander among the history exhibits, ponder the science and learn a little along the way!

The Auckland Museum is one of those places you can’t miss when visiting Auckland, perched proudly at the top of the remains of a dormant volcano in the Auckland Domain, just the surroundings and building alone are worth a look. The neoclassical building also stands as a war memorial to those who have lost their lives in the military as well as housing many artifacts from the Pacific and its people.

The Museum is one of New Zealand’s very first Museums, and holds one of New Zealand’s top three heritage libraries. Visitors will find extensive collections of Māori and Pacific pieces along with a natural history, social and major military history collections.

5. Be Blown Away By The Manukau Heads Lighthouse

This one requires a scenic drive out along the stunning Awhitu Peninsula which will take roughly an hour and a half from central Auckland, or just under that from the Auckland Airport.  The Awhitu Peninsula is a great way to escape the hustle and bustle of the city while also providing a scenic destination with some amazing views of the Tasman Sea and the Manukau Harbour as well as great parklands and quiet beaches.

Enjoy the Āwhitu Regional Park on foot and explore the wetlands and pastures (see here for more info on free walks at the Awhitu Peninsula), check out the almost empty beautiful sandy beaches, pretty waterways and excellent bird life then barbecue up some lunch in the provided barbecue areas.

Of course visiting the Manukau Heads Lighthouse is going to be the number one thing to do on your list while on the Awhitu Peninsula. One of the few lighthouses in New Zealand that you can go inside (there are roughly 120 stairs to climb to get to the wrap around balcony) the Manukau Heads Lighthouse is the perfect place to spot a Maui dolphin – one of the world’s rarest mammals.

Manukau Heads Lighthouse-auckland

6. Go Go Gannet Colony

Taking a trip over to Muriwai (about 40 minutes to the west) you will find the very busy home of hundreds of gannets. The Muriwai Gannet Colony is one of only three places where gannets nest on the mainland in New Zealand, and it is the most easily accessible.

Although you can get to the gannet colony lookout point from several directions the best way is to follow Waitea Road and take the first right, you will end up at a car park at the end of this short side road. From here take the Takapu Refuge Walk for a few minutes over to the Muriwai Gannet Colony Lookout for a sneak peek from the side or continue on around the edge of the cliff to view from above.

Continue on the Takapu track and return to your vehicle via Motutara Road and the Maukatia-Maori Bay Track, or make more of a walk and head on up to the Lookout Track Lookout Point via Quarry Track (a little further back up Waitea Road after you exit from the Maukatia-Maori Bay Track).

7. Follow In The Footsteps Of Our Founders At Otuatua Stonefields

Transport yourself to another world at the Otuatua Stonefields in Mangare. The 100ha Ōtuataua Stonefields is a site of cultural, archaeological and historic significance to the people of New Zealand. The main entrance to the reserve and car parking area is located at the end of Ihumatao Quarry Road, Mangere roughly 30 minutes from the city centre or just a short 8 minute drive from the Auckland Airport.

Classed as the number one most significant historical site in New Zealand, the Otuatua Stonefields are thought to be formed circa 1300. The Otuataua Stonefields Historic Reserve is home to several different themed walks and remnants of the inspiring dry-stone walls built by early Maori to extend the growing season for their favourite crops.

This handy Otuatua Stonefields map will help you find other points of interest including the site of an old Maori Pa, storage pits and early European huts. Might pay to keep in mind there are no toilets at the Reserve.

8. Day Trip To Goat Island

Probably our top pick for ‘almost free’ things to do in Auckland, a day trip to Goat Island is one you are definitely going to remember. Established in 1975 Goat Island was New Zealand’s first ever marine reserve, and after just a short time the reserve has become a haven for a large range of sea creatures who call the rocky shores, sandflats, deep reefs and underwater canyons home. Although you can learn all about the reserve and its inhabitants at the Goat Island Marine Discovery Centre, getting up close and personal in the water is the best way to fully experience Goat Island and all it has to offer.

Get out in the water for free – if you have your own snorkel gear even better – or departing from our ‘free’ theme for just a moment (trust me its worth it) – clear kayaks are a great option if you prefer not to get in the water – just as described the kayaks are see-through giving you a bird’s eye view of the underwater life. For competent swimmers there are guided dive and snorkel options or take it up a notch with the glass bottom boat tour.

Entry to the Goat Island Marine Centre is $9 per adult, $5 per child and under 5’s are free. Glass bottom boat tours are $35 per adult and $15 per child. Clear Kayak hire is $60 for two people, the prices for guided dive and snorkel tours are available from the website. Find out more about things to do on Goat Island here.

Goat Island Beach

9. Hit The Beach

Naturally surrounded by beautiful clear ocean waters, New Zealand is incredibly lucky to have beautiful beaches at pretty much every turn. Each and every one offering you just that little something different from great surf through golden sands and beautiful bays. Which beach is the best in Auckland you ask? Well here goes, these are our top picks and why.

  • Piha Beach. Surfing, walking, and beautiful black sand, Piha is the epitome of rugged West Coast beaches and is just under an hour’s drive from Auckland.
  • Mission Bay. Close to Auckland (15 mins), ice cream, cafes, calm waters, good swimming.
  • St Heliers. Further down the coast from Mission Bay, less crowed, good for kayaking and swimming, 25 minutes from Auckland.
  • Takapuna. Sun, sand and cafes! Takapuna is the perfect place for a lazy afternoon at the beach complete with kids playground. 15 minutes from Auckland.
  • Snells Beach. Flat and shallow, perfect for kids, sheltered, good rock pools to explore. Snell Beach is just under an hour from Auckland travelling up the East Coast.

Now you know where to go all you have to remember is don’t forget your sunscreen!

10. Relax In The Auckland Botanic Gardens

Home to over 10,000 plants, beautiful park like grounds and stunning themed gardens the Auckland Botanic Gardens are definitely one of the best free things to do in Auckland. Wander the gardens at your own pace, take a self-guided tour or if you are there on Wednesday enjoy a free guided garden tour.

The Potter Children’s Garden is a great place for the kids; its purpose-built design incorporates the Garden’s living aspects including its insects, birds, and plants. The huge play area is sure to keep young and not so young occupied for hours. Don’t worry there is a café nearby to refuel those hungry tummies!

There are often a range of free events at the Auckland Botanic Gardens so keep an eye on the events coming up before you go. The Gardens are open daily from 8 am to 8 pm.

Auckland Botanic Gardens

11. Take The Ferry To Devonport

Catch the ferry from Auckland’s waterfront and take a short ride across the Waitemata Harbour to the idyllic seaside destination of Devonport. While the trip isn’t free, its only $12 per person return providing something a little different at very little cost.

The Devonport Ferry runs every 30 minutes and sometimes more during busy times. Upon arrival in Devonport the best way to make you way around for free is on foot. Mount Victoria is a good place to start – you can’t miss it as it stands out above the rest of the landscape. At around 87 metres high, Mt Victoria is the highest of Auckland’s Northshore volcanoes and climbing to the top is a great way to get your bearings and check out the views.

Look out for the remnants of a Maori pā (pā terraces and pits) on the upper slopes, and sign of the military development later on in its history. Find one of Devonport’s “disappearing guns” at the summit and keep an eye out for old concrete bunkers, one of which is now a music venue for the Devonport Folk Club.

Leaving behind the green slopes of Mount Victoria, North Head is your next destination. Take a torch with you and explore the iconic military tunnels, gun emplacements and fortifications as you wander the North Head Scenic Reserve.

After a long morning of exploring head down to the beach for some relaxation and fun. Our top pick is Cheltenham Beach, on the left hand side of North Head. Soak up the sun, go for a swim or just grab some lunch from one of the nearby cafes and relax on the beach for the afternoon.

12. Get To Gibbs Farm

Register online to visit the wonderful Gibbs Farm for free and enjoy one of New Zealand’s largest private art collections. Gibbs Farm is just under an hour’s drive from Auckland and is easy to find just off State highway 16.

After building the collection over the past 20 years, Gibbs Farm is home to a growing number of larger than life outdoor sculptures all set among the rolling green hills overlooking the Kaipara Harbour.

This unique open-air sculpture park is only accessible to the public when registering via the website, usually two to three times per month, spaces are limited and admission is free.

13. Walk, Walk, Walk!

Auckland is full to the brim of great walking tracks for all levels of fitness and ability. Whether its hiking up an extinct volcano, through a rainforest, along a windswept beach or across rolling farmland Auckland has it all. Here are some of the best walks in Auckland.

  • Milford To Takapuna Coastal Path. Coastal walks are simply a must-do when visiting New Zealand, and what better place to do it than Auckland’s miles and miles of coastline. The Milford To Takapuna walk takes around an hour and a half and you can explore rock pools, swim and enjoy the views of Rangitoto Island along the way.
  • The Coast To Coast Walk Auckland. Hike the whole way from East to West and tick this unique walk off your bucket list. Walk across country from the Waitemata Harbour to the Manukau Harbour in around 5 hours and pass by several volcanic fields and several historical sites.
  • Shoreline Heritage Walk. Take a self-guided walking tour of the city’s historically significant and beautiful heritage buildings along the waterfront. Trace the city’s original shoreline and see the changes that have been made over the years. This walk is around 5km.
  • Auckland Free Walking Tours. Join one of Auckland’s guided free walking tours and see the best sights and sounds of this vibrant city. Tours depart from 89 Quay Street at 10 am and 2 pm daily – rain or shine. While these tours are free, it is customary to offer a small donation upon completion.
  • Westhaven Marina Promenade. With over 2,000 boats, Westhaven is the largest yacht marina in the southern hemisphere. Enjoy a stroll along the promenade and watch the boats out on the water, grab a coffee or just watch the world go by.

14. Ponder Some Poetry With Poetry Live

Every Tuesday night at the Thirsty Dog Tavern and Cafe there is a free to enter live poetry night. As New Zealand’s longest running dedicated poetry event, Poetry Live is the hub of the Poetry community in Auckland.

Each week features a weekly guest poet, guest musician and open mic section. Go along and mix with the other guests, stand up and have a go or just enjoy the evening of poetry and entertainment.

Find the Thirsty Dog at 469 Karangahape Road, Auckland Central. This kiwi style pub is open from 12 to 12 most days. Check the website for events and entertainment for other nights of the week.

15. Meet The Animals At Ambury Park

Take the kids and enjoy some time with the farm animals at Ambury Park. There are a variety of animals including goats, sheep, pigs, chickens and cows and you can get right up close from the specially constructed walking lanes, and even go right in the paddock with them when signs allow.

Visit in the spring and you can even take part in feeding the baby orphaned lambs, or see the cows being milked. Enjoy a walk along the foreshore and find the perfect place for a picnic or just enjoy the views across to the Manukau Heads and Waitakere Ranges.

Ambury Park is open to pedestrians 24 hours a day, and entry is free. There are also BBQ’s located around the park which are free to use.

16. Wander The Wynyard Quarter

Next to Auckland’s Silo Park down on the waterfront is the vibrant Wynyard Quarter. This area is always a hive of activity with plenty of people, entertainment and fantastic food.

On any given day you will find buskers, an ever-changing lineup of events and an array of food trucks, cafes and restaurants just waiting to serve you some of their excellent food and beverages

Help out in the community garden, play some basketball with the locals on the court, browse the fresh fish markets, have some fun with the talking funnels, spend some time on Daldy Street, check out what’s on at the ASB Waterfront Theatre or just get some authentic gelato from Gelatiamo and watch the boats go by.

Wynyard Quarter, Auckland

17. Cycle (Or Walk) The Iconic Auckland Pink Lightpath

Check out this award winning inner city purpose built cycle route labelled the Pink Lightpath and enjoy cycling through the inner city without the hassle or danger of cycling among the traffic. Hire a bike if you don’t have one or just make the journey on foot, either way the pink path delivers stunning vistas of the city day or night.

The cycle way is 3 metres wide and yes it is actually pink! Riding the Pink Lightpath is even a great activity at night at the pathway is lit up very brightly. You can get on or off wherever you choose, but be aware you are sharing the path with cyclists, walkers, people on scooters and skaters.

The Lightpath has won awards around the world and was designed to encourage safe cycling within the central city.

18. Visit Hunua Falls At The Hunua Ranges National Park

Just an hour’s drive south from Auckland you will find the Hunua Ranges National Park, take a walk through pristine native New Zealand forest or just make the short trip to the Hunua Falls for an excellent photo op in the life sized photo frame.

Hunua Falls is roughly 30 metres high and there is a beautiful pool at the bottom of the falls. You can view the falls from the bottom or from a lookout point at the top. The Hunua Falls Park gates are open 6am to 7pm daily.

Lookout for the Suspension Bridge Loop walk for something a little longer and enjoy crossing the suspension bridge along the way. There are toilets located near the car park at the Hunua Falls car park.

19. Stroll Through Parnell Rose Gardens

This beautiful little park (also known as the Dove Myer Robinson Park) is famous with locals for its absolutely stunning rose gardens. The park is home to the Parnell Festival of Roses each year and the rose gardens are found within the larger park area that also contains a small harbour-style beach.

The rose garden contains over 5000 roses with many bred by internationally renowned rose breeders. For the best time for viewing check out the Parnell Rose Gardens between November and March each year. During October through April is the best time to view the Nancy Steen Cottage Garden heritage rose section.

You will find the Parnell Rose Gardens in the Dove Myer Robinson Park, entrance off Gladstone Road on the ocean side of Parnell, just a couple of minutes’ drive from central Auckland.

20. Stargaze At The Shakespear Regional Park

Our beautiful clear night skies are free for all to enjoy here in New Zealand. Pack a warm jacket and some snacks and head out to the Shakespear Regional Park (just an hour’s drive north of Auckland) and set yourself up for a fun night time activity – stargazing.

The Shakespear Regional Park is the perfect destination for stargazing as it is almost surrounded by water and far enough out of the city meaning the least amount of artificial lighting interference and getting the best views of the stars above.

The Shakespear Regional Park is also a fully working farm and conservation area, so keep an eye out for the resident farm animals and native bird life while you are there.

Shakespear Regional Park

Need cheap car hire to get you to all these great free places in Auckland? USAVE Car Rentals have an excellent range of budget rentals available short or long term. Hire a car from their handy Auckland Airport or Auckland City locations.

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