Auckland is a popular destination for people from all over the world and is often ranked as ‘most liveable city’ or in lists of the Top Ten most popular places to visit. But Auckland has two main drawbacks. Firstly, lots of people think there are no things to do and that therefore Auckland is just a place for a quick stopover before moving on to other parts of New Zealand and secondly it was recently ranked as one of the most expensive places to visit.
Well, we know a few secrets to help you see and experience Auckland on a budget and to convince you to stay in town for a little bit longer than one or two days!
Auckland Things to Do
Many people are surprised to find out just how much there is to do in Auckland, from bungy jumps, to skydiving, kayaking to jetboating and sailing to climbing volcanoes. Many of the activities on offer will cost you a few dollars but I can honestly say that most of them are well worth the cash so work out what you want to do and put some aside (Personally I recommend Skydiving, bungy jumping and the skyjump – hmm, bit of a theme there isn’t there!?) But if you’re looking for some free or cheap things to do in Auckland then there are plenty of things to choose from:
1. Walk to Mission Bay
If you like walking then walking along the seafront to Mission Bay from the CBD is a really nice option. Not only do you get spectacular views all the way, but when you arrive you are rewarded with a lovely beach and can have a dip in the sea to cool off. If walking isn’t your thing then catch the bus, it’ll cost you about $4.50 one way if you pay by cash, however if you’re in town for a while buy an AT HOP card and it’ll cost you $3.10 one way.
2. Check out the View from Mt Eden
Mount Eden is a relatively easy volcano to get to and climb in Auckland. Again you could walk there, but if you’re feeling lazy catch the bus, climb to the top and enjoy amazing views of the whole of Auckland. On a clear day you’ll be surprised at just how much you can see.
3. Go to the Top of Auckland Skytower
If you have a backpacker card then you can get into the Skytower for $20. The view from the top is pretty amazing, of course for a bit more cash you can also jump off it!
4. Head to the Art Galleries
Head to the Art Gallery next to Albert Park for a bit of culture, it’s free! Or take the innerlink bus from outside the Mercure Hotel and head to Parnell, the cost is about $2.50 one way (or $1.80 with an AT Hop card). Or if you walk, it’s free, just be aware of the hill you have to climb, other than that it’s really not far from the CBD. There are a variety of art galleries located along Parnell Rd in the village itself, they’re either free or a gold coin donation to get in. Incidentally Parnell is a really pretty part of town to spend some time at. After window shopping you can head to…
5. Visit Parnell Rose Gardens
Feeling romantic but don’t have much cash to treat your other half? Head to Parnell Rose Gardens which is much larger than you think it is. In addition to the rose garden itself there’s a huge park to enjoy and even a small beach. Head a bit further past the beach and you’ll find an amazing outdoor swimming pool (which you will have to pay to get into).
6. Have a Picnic in the Auckland Domain
Auckland Domain is a large park not far from the city centre. It’s actually a really lovely place to have a picnic and chill out and relax for the day, it’s also where you can find…
7. Learn Things at Auckland Museum
Personally I love going to museums, it’s a good way to find out more about the country you’re visiting and Auckland Museum is a great one! Entry will cost you about $25 but is worth it, however if you’re an Auckland resident you can get in free, so maybe wait until you’ve found somewhere to live and have proof of address.
8. Visit Waiheke Island
If you’re heading to Waiheke Island then set off early so that you can spend the whole day there. You will have to spend up to $36 for the return ferry and then more for a bus ticket to get around the Island, but if you like your wine and beaches then $36 – $45 dollars for a day out is not too much to pay. (Check with the travel staff at your hostel to see if they have any ferry ticket specials) – Wine will cost extra!.
9. Take a ferry to Devonport
Talking of ferry rides you can also catch a ferry to Devonport from Auckland CBD (return tickets cost about $12). Devonport is a really cute little place to spend a morning or afternoon. While there you can visit the fortifications on North head; from the pier walk to the right along the coastline to north head and up to the top, you’ll need to have a torch if you’re going through the tunnels. Or if you want to really make the most of your money then buy a ticket for the Auckland Harbour Cruise which is a 1-1.5 hour cruise that will show you the Waitemata harbour, give you a commentary on Aucklands landmarks and includes a free return ticket to Devonport, you even get a brief stop at Rangitoto Island (pictured below) and morning or afternoon tea (hot drink and a muffin). All for just $42 for adults.
10. Check out the night sky from One Tree Hill
One Tree Hill & Cornwall Park are neighbouring parks, together being the largest parkland in Auckland. Within the grounds you’ll find the Auckland Stardome Observatory. If you enjoy looking at the night sky then definitely head here in the evening, it’ll cost about $14 for entry.
We haven’t even scratched the surface of all the cheap or free things to do in Auckland but hope we’ve given you a few ideas. When you’ve spent the day doing fun stuff and seeing the city then you might be wondering where to go to eat or drink that won’t cost you an arm and a leg! Don’t worry, we have a few ideas for you…
Ok, so the first tip is use your common sense. If you’re on a budget then eating out every night is not an option. Some of the supermarkets in town are expensive, others less so, but it makes sense to check out the special offers in store and to write yourself a shopping list before you go so that you don’t accidentally come back with bags full of stuff that you didn’t really want or need.
11. Visit the Markets
There are some good markets in Auckland where you can find good quality locally grown produce, they aren’t always cheaper than the supermarket but are worth checking out nevertheless. If you do fancy a night out or want to eat out for lunch then your first port of call is to speak to the staff at your hostel for their tips. Local take-aways, restaurants and cafes often have specials and the staff generally know where to find cheap food locally because this is where they get their lunch too.
Going out with your new backpacker friends is top of the list for many visitors to Auckland, and we’re lucky here in that we have lots of great bars in the city. Many of them are expensive though so it helps to know where to head for a few cheap beers.
12. Go on a Cheap Bar Crawl
13. Go the Cinema on Tuesday (it’s cheaper!)
You might be on holiday but everyone likes to watch a movie now and then don’t they? But going to the cinema can be expensive… If you want to see the latest blockbusters then head to the cinemas on a Tuesday when it’s generally cheaper than going on any other day of the week. (For example, at todays prices go to the cinema on a Tuesday and it will cost you $13 to see the latest movies, go any other day of the week and it’ll cost you $18.50!)
14. Watch a Free Movie at Silo Park (in the summer)
However you can also see movies for FREE in Auckland at Silo Park on a Friday night (this is only during summer though because the Silo Park cinema is outdoors and no-one wants to sit outside in the cold of winter!)
No surprise here with what budget accommodation I’m going to recommend in Auckland! Check out Nomads Auckland Hostel which has a rooftop kitchen and outdoor dining area and even a spa on the roof. The hostel fills up fast and tends to attract ‘long-termers’ who just can’t seem to leave; but don’t worry we make sure they’re friendly and welcoming long term backpackers not the type that think they own the place and make newcomers feel unwelcome! Make sure you book in advance, especially if there are concerts at Spark Arena, because Nomads Auckland fills up quickly when big artists come to town due to its proximity to the concert venue!
I hope I’ve helped you to see that Auckland doesn’t have to be expensive to have a good time and it also shouldn’t be just a stopover because there’s so much to see and do here. Have fun in our City of Sails and if you need more inspiration for when it’s a bit cold or wet check out some Indoor / Winter Activities to do in Auckland.