Travelling to New Zealand and looking for free things to do in Auckland? Perfect, you’re in the right place!
Auckland is vibrant, multicultural and the largest city in New Zealand. It has been voted the World’s Most Liveable City multiple times and attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists annually.
And although Auckland is a popular, expensive city, there are lots of free things to do in Auckland — even if you’re a backpacker on a budget.
If you’re looking for somewhere budget-friendly to stay in Auckland, check out this post on the best hostels in Auckland.
I have personally lived in Auckland, so I know it’s famously an expensive city for activities or things to do. Auckland has even been ranked as one of the most expensive cities to visit in the world, until recently.
But don’t worry there are some great deals, and free stuff in Auckland, you just have to know where to look. Not easy when you’ve just arrived somewhere new or don’t have much time to spend at your destination.
That’s why I’m here to help.
I’ve lived and worked in Auckland, I’ve been a backpacker there, and I’ve done housesitting in Auckland.
So, using all my savvy Auckland knowledge, I’ve created this post of the best free things to do in Auckland, so you can make the most of your time in the City of Sails.
Once you’ve done all the free stuff in Auckland, check out these fun cheap things to do in Auckland.
Fun Facts About Auckland
Before we dig into the free stuff in Auckland, let’s start with a few fun facts about Auckland.
- City of Sails: Auckland is often referred to as the “City of Sails” because it has one of the highest boat ownership rates per capita in the world. There are two major harbours — the stunning Waitematā and Manukau Harbours — and numerous marinas, with sailing being a popular activity for Aucklanders.
- Volcanic Landscape: Auckland is built on a field of more than 50 dormant volcanoes. Many of these volcanos are now scenic reserves, offering panoramic views of the city and its surroundings. Mt. Eden and One Tree Hill are two of the most famous volcanic cones to visit.
- Polynesian Population: Auckland is home to about 200,000 Pacific Islanders, with the largest group coming from Samoa, followed by Tonga, the Cook Islands, Niue, and Fiji. Some island populations, like Niue and Tokelau, are greater in Auckland due to climate change.
- Diverse Cuisine: Auckland’s food scene reflects its diverse cultural mix, offering a plethora of international cuisines. From Asian fusion and Pacific Island flavours to traditional Maori hangi (a method of cooking food in an underground oven).
- Sky Tower Thrills: The Sky Tower in Auckland is an iconic landmark and one of the tallest freestanding structures in the Southern Hemisphere. It offers thrilling experiences such as skywalking and sky jumping for adrenaline junkies.
- Auckland’s Island Paradise: Auckland could also be called the “City of Islands.” The Hauraki Gulf, which surrounds Auckland, is dotted with over 50 islands. Popular day-trip destinations include Waiheke Island, known for its wineries, and Rangitoto Island, a volcanic island with hiking trails and unique lava formations.
ALL the Best Free Things to Do in Auckland
So, let’s check out some of these awesome free things to do in Auckland.
1. Free Walking Tour of Auckland City
This should probably be the first of the free things to do in Auckland, as soon as you arrive. Nothing gets you immersed in your new destination more than a City Walking Tour.
You get to learn the cultural aspects of the city, plus you gain a little direction around the new place you’re staying in, making navigation much easier.
The walking tours are free, although a donation is encouraged and appreciated by the Tour Guides.
The free walking tours run most days and leave from the entrance to Queens Wharf, next to the Ferry building. The easiest way to find them when you get there is to look out for the Tour Guides’ big, blue umbrellas.
Check the calendar on the Auckland walking tours website before you turn up, tours are slimmed down in winter or low season.
2. Climb Mount Eden
The best place to get a panoramic view of Auckland city is to climb one of its many volcanoes.
There are 48 of them spread across the Auckland region and its volcanoes – Maunga – are one of the main things that make the landscape of Auckland so unique.
There are many accessible to hike or climb, but the most central one is Mount Eden (Maungawhau).
Mount Eden (located in the suburb of Mt Eden) is the highest of Auckland’s mainland volcanoes at 196 metres high, showcasing three craters and was formed around 20,000 years ago.
It’s an easy gradient walk, allow 30 mins each way and you’ll be rewarded with awesome views from the summit. And yes – you can do it in trainers or sneakers.
3. Auckland Coast to Coast Walk
For some more free stuff in Auckland, try doing the Coast to Coast walk. In a big city like Auckland, it’s pretty amazing to be able to walk from one ocean to another ocean in only 4-5 hours.
The Coast to Coast walk allows you to do just that by hiking across Auckland from one coast to the other, from Waitematā Harbour to Manukau Harbour. Ultimately, you will be walking from the Tasman Sea to the Pacific Ocean, which is crossing the width of the country in one day!
There are many amazing beaches in Auckland and this Coast to Coast walk will see you traverse two of them.
The walk starts from Viaduct Harbour in the city and runs for 16 km to One Tree Hill (Maungakiekie), one of the most culturally significant volcanoes.
On this walk, you’ll pass through the city, suburbia, parks, and volcanic cones with amazing views, plus you’ll discover some of the area’s Māori history.
4. One Tree Hill & Cornwall Park
One Tree Hill and Cornwall Park are adjoining parks and together they create Auckland’s largest parkland, with a total of 540 acres (220 hectares) of green space. You’ll also find the Auckland Stardome Observatory here.
There’s no tree here anymore, unfortunately. When Auckland was founded as a colonial town, a Pōhutukawa tree stood near the summit which gave the hill its English name – One Tree Hill.
But this tree was cut down by a white settler in 1852, either for firewood or because he was vandalising – depending on which historical account you read. Many further tree plantings have failed and so now, One Tree Hill is tree-less.
Lazing around in the park is free but if you stay until nightfall and feel like looking up at the night sky, it’ll cost $2 to see the Space Gallery and exhibits and around $15 for entry to the Planetarium. Stardome is open every day and night, except Monday night.
5. Explore Auckland Viaduct Harbour & the Cloud
For free things to do right in Auckland city centre, take a little stroll around the Viaduct Harbour area. There’s always something to look at and it’s where you’ll make the most of the afternoon sun.
Watch the ferries shoot people over to Waiheke Island or check out the container ships steering into port.
There’s always something different to see, I’ve seen huge luxury Cruise Ships and massive enviable Superyachts too.
The huge wooden loungers that are strewn around the harbour area, are great for sunbathing or just for people watching from behind your sunnies.
You can also take advantage of The Cloud, a unique event venue leftover from the 2011 Rugby World Cup which now hosts events such as festivals and expos. However, when there’s nothing on, it’s often open and free to go in and wander around.
6. Silo Park at Wynyard Quarter
For more free stuff in Auckland, spend some time in the waterfront, industrial, and arty Silo Park.
Silo Park is a unique public park in the Wynyard Quarter, with a fusion of industrial history, modern-day art and outdoor spaces.
Named for its cluster of six silos on-site, these silos were once used as giant containers to store cement, to be transported on the nearby railway. Now, Silo 6 is an art and exhibition space and Silo 7 is used as Silo Park’s cinema, with a movie being projected against its walls at night.
During summer, Silo Park hosts many community events and exhibitions, including Silo Sessions that attract local & international music talent (follow their Facebook page for event listings).
And on Friday nights and Saturday afternoons, enjoy the hustle and bustle of the Silo Artisan Markets.
Stay for the great views of the cityscape, the harbour and out across to Auckland Harbour Bridge, or just wander around sampling the street food style stalls and maybe see a Super-yacht berthed in Silo Marina.
I found it interesting to walk around an area that has taken its industrial past and revitalized it to become a colourful, ultramodern and fresh outdoor area, that feels like a real community.
7. Free movie night at Silo Park
Free things to do in Auckland don’t get much better than free entertainment!
As mentioned in the Silo Park entry, Silo Park hosts many events, including the ever-popular Silo Cinema nights where films are projected onto the side of Silo 7 to create a magical, open-air movie theatre.
So on Friday nights, grab a bite from the food stalls and a beanbag and enjoy the alfresco movie experience. Not always running in the chilly winter months, however, Silo Park returns each summer so follow Silo Park on Facebook for announcements.
8. Relax at Auckland Domain
Auckland Domain is Auckland’s oldest park and one of the largest inner-city parks, located only 2.5 km from the city centre. A spacious, inner-city mecca for relaxing in the sun, it’s a great place for getting away from the city on a sunny day and kicking back for a few hours.
There’s also heaps to do here if you want to spend some time:
- Walkthrough the native forest
- Chat with the ducks on the pond (is that just me?)
- Check out the glasshouses in the Winter Gardens
- Marvel at the volcanic remains that the Domain was developed around
- Climb to the crater rim to get panoramic views
Auckland Domain hosts many free events throughout the year too, including the Chinese New Year Lantern Festival which we went to.
The domain is in the suburb of Grafton which has frequent buses leaving from the city (the Outer Link buses stop here too). Although we walked from the Lantern Festival back to Britomart, it’s a walkable distance.
9. Chill at the iconic Mission Bay Beach
Another free thing to do in Auckland is probably one of the best, and that is to go visit the beautiful urban beach of Mission Bay.
Mission Bay is a popular Auckland inner-city, beach suburb. It boasts stunning views of Auckland Harbour, out to Rangitoto Island and its waters are safe to swim in year-round.
Vibrant eateries and bars line the waterfront, you can kayak or paddle-board in the sparkling waters or just chill in the grassy areas.
We did a house sit here in Mission Bay for a week once and it was a beautiful, high-end house with a pool, so we were always torn between hanging at our amazing house or going down the road to chill at the beautiful bay.
Top tip: For the best free things to do in Auckland, this is one of our favourite things to do when we’re in the city:
To get a quieter beach or sunset experience, walk a little further up Tamaki Drive to St Heliers Bay, grab some amazing pizza *drool* from Scalini’s Italian Pizzeria, a can of craft beer and kick back on the beach across the road to watch the sunset. Bliss.
10. Go to All the Free Events in Auckland
There are heaps of completely, free events on in Auckland right throughout the year, that should top your list of free stuff in Auckland.
There’s live music, concerts, conventions, outdoor movies and major cultural events, including the vibrant Pasifika Festival, the Chinese New Year Auckland Lantern Festival and Tāmaki Herenga Waka Festival, a celebration of New Zealand’s unique Māori culture.
HEADS-UP: If you visit Auckland during any of these above events, you’ll often find most accommodation is booked up completely (remember how small Auckland is), so make sure you book your Auckland accommodation ahead of time.
Want More Free Stuff in Auckland?
11. Explore Takapuna Beach and the North Shore
Takapuna on Aucklands North Shore is another popular, beach suburb in Auckland. Residents that live ‘on the shore’ love the distance from the bustling city, but are still happy they’re close enough to get there if needed.
Takapuna is known for its white-sand beach and its trendy beachside cafes and eateries on the waterfront.
I loved exploring Takapuna and experiencing its laid-back and bohemian vibe. Takapuna boasts a city rhythm with a side of beachy. It is also where you’ll find Auckland’s only freshwater lake – Lake Pupuke.
For foodies, don’t miss Fortieth and Hurstmore, an outdoor Melbourne-esque laneway exhibiting a delicious collection of food establishments serving gourmet burgers, organic cupcakes and Havana Coffee out of a Kombi.
12. Hang at Auckland Library
There are 55 libraries across the Auckland region and Auckland Central City Library on Lorne Street is Auckland’s first library. Even as a visitor, you can have access to hundreds of books, magazines, DVDs, downloadable music, eBooks and audiobooks.
Plus, free stuff like printing & copying services, free use of computers, or just go hang for the free WiFi.
Often the go-to place for cheap printing, I have spent many afternoons here printing visa documentation or emailing myself scans of I.D. – which is required for so many things when you’re travelling.
It’s also a great place for curling up with a book, especially in the winter months.
Awesome cafe on site too and did I mention the free WiFi?
13. Visit Western Springs Park
Western Springs is another of Auckland’s many parks, a wildlife sanctuary with a natural spring-fed lake and you can get there from the Ponsonby end of the city.
You’ll find long-finned eels in the lake, the Fukuoka traditional Japanese Garden complete with pond, waterfall and tea pavilion and the Wetland Boardwalks that introduce you to the native Pukeko, the Australian Coot and Shoveler birds.
14. Take the family to Ambury Park
If you want to do some fun stuff in Auckland and have a blast with your family, check out Ambury Park.
It’s totally affordable and super fun, especially if you love animals. You can hang out with sheep, goats, chickens, rabbits, and baby cows – all for free!
Plus, the Auckland City Council runs the park, so it’s safe and well-maintained. The animals are living their best lives in a sweet farm atmosphere.
Definitely worth a visit!
15. Check out K-Road Op shops
If you’re into shopping, another of the free things to do in Auckland is to take a wandering stroll down K Road. K Road is the affectionately shortened name given to Karangahape Road.
Linking the city’s west suburb of Ponsonby and Queen St, K Road has an individual, alternative and exciting vibe. It’s lined with retro op shops and cultural eateries that are always worth exploring. Then at night, it comes alive with many umm…creative and unambiguous bars – if you know what I’m saying.
16. Take a Road trip to Piha Beach
Piha Beach is Auckland’s most famous surf beach, renowned for the aptly named Piha Rescue TV series. Lion Rock is the iconic rock standing at the northern end of Piha Beach and gives you a superb scenic backdrop to the surf activity.
Piha is the product of the eruption of an undersea volcano called the Waitakere Volcano years ago, today resulting in the black sand that makes Piha Beach so unique.
Piha has dramatic, rugged landscapes, strong rips and currents and it can be wild and wind-swept. It also has a reputation for being very unforgiving of the daring or reckless swimmer, so only swim in patrolled areas and only if you’re a confident swimmer.
The only potential downside to this beach haven is that there is still no public transport to Piha Beach from anywhere in Auckland.
So to make this beach day happen, you need a car or a good mate with a car.
17. Explore the west side at Titirangi Village
Titirangi Village itself is an iconic area of West Auckland, loved by ‘Westies’. With a view of the Waitakere Ranges wherever you go, Titirangi Village has all the charm of a ‘bush meets beach’ Kiwi village and almost feels like you’ve stumbled into the rainforest.
Lopdell Precinct is an arts and culture building in Titirangi Village, West Auckland. The historic Lopdell House Gallery, The Treasure House and Te Uru Waitakere Contemporary Gallery all form the precinct.
Entry to Lopdell House and The Upstairs Art Gallery is free and TIP – if you go up to the free rooftop terrace, you can get stunning views and photo ops of the Manukau harbour.
18. Indulge in free samples at Giapo gelato
Giapo is an iconic ice cream parlour serving delectable hand-made gelato, located in downtown Auckland. They’re famous for their innovative and adventurous flavours, their art creations and their walk-in guided tasting experience.
(Yes – Vegan and gluten-free options are available).
You’ll find drool-worthy creations such as:
- Caramel Hazlenut Praline Amaretti
- Banana Bread With Caramilsied Peanuts
- Double Cream Hokey Pokey
- Vegan Roast and Smoke – Miller’s Coffee & a dose of Single Malt Laphroaig whiskey
All of these delectable flavours and more for around $10 a serve.
However, if you’re on a very tight budget, simply visit their Gore St branch for the Giapo guided tasting experience, where you get to taste their different ice cream creations for free.
If you do decide to buy, you can even have your chosen gelato flavours nestled in a deluxe Milk Chocolate lined Waffle Cone, a Pretzel Caramilk cone or even wrapped in a Roti or a Parāoa Parai — a Traditional Māori Fried Bread.
It’s super popular so be prepared for queues out of the door at peak times, and be sure to take your smartphone or camera, Giapo is total Insta-worthy territory.
So that concludes this post on the Best Free Things to Do in Auckland.
Have fun seeing how much free stuff in Auckland you can fit into your next trip. Or just pick off a few of the better ones!
Do you know of any more free things to do in Auckland? Let me know in the comments.
If you’re visiting Auckland soon and you’re looking for somewhere budget-friendly to stay, check out this post on the best hostels in Auckland.
And if you’ve got a small budget and are looking for more fun stuff in Auckland, check out this post on these Cheap Things to Do in Auckland.
Until next time!
Happy and Safe Travels