Auckland is vibrant, multicultural and the largest city in New Zealand. It has been voted World’s Most Liveable City multiple times and attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists annually. And although Auckland is a popular 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, read my post on the best hostels in Auckland.
I have personally lived in Auckland, so I know its famously an expensive city for activities or things to do. It has even recently been ranked as one of the most expensive cities to visit in the world!
Don’t worry there are some great deals, and free things to do in Auckland – you just have to search a little and know where to look. Not easy when you’ve just arrived somewhere new or don’t have much time to spend in your destination.
So I’ve collected all my Auckland knowledge together and created this post of the Best Free Things to do in Auckland New Zealand, so you can make the most of your time in the City of Sails.
Completely free and if they’re not free, I’ve made sure they all cost less than $30.
BEST FREE THINGS TO DO IN AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND
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 at 10am from between the Ferry Building and the Queens Wharf Village, on Queens Wharf. 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 website before you turn up, tours are slimmed down in winter or low season.
Climb Mount Eden
The best place to get a panoramic view of Auckland, 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.
Coast to Coast Walk
Another one of the free things to do in Auckland is a 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 this by hiking across Auckland from one coast to the other, from Waitematā Harbour to Manukau Harbour.
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 city, suburbia, parks, volcanic cones with amazing views, plus you’ll discover some of the area’s Māori history.
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.
Viaduct Harbour & the Cloud
Want free things to do 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 Superyachts too.
The huge wooden loungers that are strewn around, are great for sun-baking 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.
Silo Park at Wynyard Quarter
One of the more popular free things to do in Auckland is hanging out in 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 it walls at night.
During summer, Silo Park hosts many community events and exhibitions, including Silo Sessions that attracts 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 catch a Super-yacht berthed in Silo Marina.
I found it really 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.
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.
Auckland Domain is Auckland’s oldest park and one of the largest inner city parks, located only 2.5 kms from the city centre. A spacious 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.
Walk through the native forest, chat to the ducks on the pond, check out the glasshouses in the Winter Gardens, marvel at the volcanic remains that the Domain was developed around and climb to the crater rim to get panoramic views.
Auckland Domain is the host to 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 and it’s definitely a walkable distance.
Another one of the completely free things to do in Auckland is probably one of the best things (in my opinion) and that is to go visit the beautiful Mission Bay.
Mission Bay is a popular Auckland inner city, beach suburb. It boasts stunning views of Auckland Harbour, out to Rangitoto island and it’s 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 gorgeous house with a pool, we were always torn between hanging at our amazing house or going down the road to chill at the bay.
Hot Tip for things to do in Auckland – This is one of our favourite things to do when we’re in Auckland.
To get a quieter beach or sunset experience, walk a little further up Tamaki Drive to St Heliers Bay, get amazing pizza *drool* from Scalini’s Italian Pizzeria for $10, a can of craft beer and kick back on the beach across the road to watch the sunset. Bliss.
Free Events in Auckland
There are actually heaps of completely, free events on in Auckland right throughout the year, that should top your list of free things to do 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.
Takapuna Beach and the North Shore
Takapuna on the 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 plus it’s beach-side cafes and eateries on the waterfront. I loved Takapuna, laid-back and slightly bohemian, Takapuna boasts a city rhythm with a beach vibe. It also has Auckland’s only fresh water 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.
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, DVD’s, online resources including downloadable music, eBooks and audio-books. free printing & copying services, free use of computers, plus free WiFi on your device.
Often the go-to place for cheap printing, I have spent many afternoons here printing visa documentation or emailing myself scan’s of I.D – which is required for so many things these days. 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?
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 to it 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.
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 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 and at night, it comes alive with many creative, unambiguous bars – you know what I’m saying.
Piha Beach is Auckland’s most famous surf beach, renowned by the aptly named Piha Rescue TV series. Lion Rock is the iconic rock 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 can be wild, wet and wind-swept. It also has a reputation for being 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.
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 *hot tip* if you go up to the free rooftop terrace, you can get stunning views and photo opps of the Manukau harbour.
Bike Rides with Onzo
Bike rides are free, but only if you have a bike right? Well this one made the list because it’s so cheap, it’s the closest thing to being free.
Now I know not everyone has a bike, and as a traveller or visitor to Auckland it’s very unlikely you’ll buy a bike.
With Onzo, the dockless, bike sharing movement, you don’t need to own your own bike because you can rent one of their bikes for just 25 cents.
Yep you read that right. It’s only 25 cents per 15 mins, so only $1 for an hour and so on.
I first saw these yellow and black bikes hanging around Auckland, all black and yellow looking and locked up in random places. So curiously I googled the name written on the side – Onzo – and discovered you can rent the bikes, with just an app on your smartphone.
You book your bike time on the app, pay, go to your bikes location, scan to unlock with your smartphone and ride away. Pretty nifty I thought. Check Onzo out here and get yourself the app.
If you’re reading this, you already know Auckland is super, sprawly and large to walk around and let’s face it – its public transport isn’t going to win any awards anytime soon.
Onzo list a few suggested bike ride routes, why not try cycling from K Road in the city to Queens Wharf or cruise from Britomart to Mission Bay on a sunny day.
Just remember in New Zealand, the rules are that you must wear a helmet at all times and have a rear reflector on your bike.
BEST ALMOST FREE THINGS TO DO IN AUCKLAND
Auckland Sky Tower or the Giant Hypodermic Needle as some New Zealanders have affectionately named it, is New Zealand’s iconic, defining landmark. It’s also the tallest, freestanding structure in the Southern Hemisphere, standing at an awesome 328 metres (1,076ft) tall.
You can look at it, go stand at the top, walk around the outer ledge or jump off it. For $29 I was happy just standing at the top. It is a bit pricey but the only place in Auckland you can get up that high.
With amazing views across the whole Auckland region and out to the harbour, there’s also a portion of the floor that’s made from thick glass sections, so you can see straight down from dizzying heights, to the city below.
Auckland Art Gallery
Auckland Art Gallery is New Zealand’s largest and most expressive visual arts experience, with four floors of exhibitions to explore and showcasing centuries of art.
Entry is free for residents and only $20 for international visitors.
Gelato at Giapo
One of the more popular almost free things to do in Auckland is visiting Giapo Gelato. Giapo is an ice cream parlour serving hand-made gelato and sorbet, famed for its innovative and adventurous flavours. Vegan and Gluten free flavours available.
Try Central Otago Sheep Milk, Banana Gelato With Peanut Butter Rice Crunch *drool* or a vegan Roast and Smoke which is Miller’s Coffee & Single Malt Laphroaig for around $9 a serve.
You can even have your chosen gelato flavours in a deluxe Milk Chocolate lined Waffle Cone or even wrapped in a Roti or a Parāoa Parai – a Traditional Māori Fried Bread.
Be sure to take your smartphone or camera, this place is total Insta-worthy territory.
New Zealand Maritime Museum
The New Zealand Maritime Museum delves into New Zealand’s seafaring history and takes you on a journey of discovery, from the first Polynesian settlers arriving to today’s Maritime heroes.
Explore their extensive range of nautical and historical galleries and artefacts. Entry is $20 for international visitors and for a little extra, they offer regular one-hour sailings on the Waitemata Harbour aboard one of their heritage vessels.
The Auckland War Memorial Museum – Tāmaki Paenga Hira – is one of New Zealand’s most significant museums and war memorials. The collections focus on New Zealand history, natural history and military history.
It’s New Zealand’s first museum, being officially opened in 1929 and its architecture is Neoclassical in nature.
It’s located in Auckland Domain and entry is $25 for international visitors or free if you’re an Auckland resident.
Okay so ‘free for residents’ is no good if you’re a tourist but if you’re on a Working Holiday Visa and sticking around for a year, take along proof of residence (a recent power or phone bill, library card etc.) and get free entry.
Devonport by ferry
Why not go down to the harbour and jump on a ferry to Devonport on the North Shore. They leave every 30 mins from Pier 1 at the Ferry Terminal, it’s only a 12 min journey and costs just $12.50 for a return ticket.
When you get there, hike up Mt Victoria for some of the best cityscape views of Auckland, swim at one the four beaches or just hang in one the iconic cafes and watch the world go by.
Explore deeper and walk the self-guided Devonport Village Walk, which takes in Devonport village, Mount Victoria, Art Galleries and a Chocolate Shop.
All I heard was chocolate – sold!
Cheap Cinema nights
Going to the cinema in New Zealand is sometimes a tad expensive. Especially on peak days at prime times, like Friday or Saturday nights when it can be close to $20 to see a movie.
However just do things slightly differently and you can still have a movie experience for cheap – just go on Tuesday or Wednesdays for the specials or cheap deals.
The winners for amazing value are:
Auckland’s Academy Underground Cinema tucked away underneath the city library, is a two screen complex and has a 16 seat boutique theatre alongside a full-size 211 seat theatre. It has a great selection of American indie, foreign and documentary films.
It offers $5 screenings every Wednesday and $9 showings on any other weekday, as long as it’s before 5pm. After 5pm weekdays, weekends & public holidays – it’s still only $12 bucks.
Rialto Cinema in Newmarket has discounted tickets on ‘Cheap Tuesdays’, with tickets for only $12.00 and they show a selection of your mainstream Hollywood blockbuster movies.
Dress Smart in Auckland is New Zealand’s largest retail outlet shopping experience with over 100 stores including fashion luxury brands plus High St favourites.
There are over 80 big brands like Kathmandu, MacPac, Merrell, Converse, Adidas, Huffer, New Balance, Quiksilver, Esprit, Forever Now, Peter Alexander, Oakley, Nike and Under Armour.
The best thing about Dress Smart is everything is discounted and there’s even a free shuttle bus for tourists and visitors that leaves four times a day, from several pick-up points in the city – check the timetable online for details.
Over 135 species of animal live at Auckland Zoo and a total of 1,400 animals call it home. There are daily free Zookeeper talks, exhibitions and you can even peek at the Pet Hospital through large, viewing windows.
It’s $24 entry if you book online on the day or turn up on the day. You’ll save 20% if you book tickets in advance – only $19 entry.
You can get there by bus, the zoo is located on Motions Road, just west of Auckland city centre. The closest bus stop is stop #8124 on Great North Road – check the Auckland Transport website for timetables.
That concludes this post of the Best Free Things to do in Auckland. Have fun seeing how many you can fit in to your next visit…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.
And if you’re visiting Auckland soon and you’re looking for somewhere budget friendly to stay, read my post on the best hostels in Auckland.