There are lots of fantastic free things to do in Auckland. Join us as we share a wide range of options – none of which will cost you a cent!
Though some consider Auckland to be an expensive city, there are a surprising number of fantastic free things to do.
Whether you’d like to stick close to the city centre or would prefer to head out into regional Auckland, there are plenty of options; none of which will put pressure on your bank balance!
Perhaps you enjoy spending time in nature and like to make the most of Auckland’s fantastic natural landscape?
Would you prefer a dose of art or culture in the city?
Or, are you looking for an affordable way to entertain the kids during the weekend or school holidays?
Whatever you’re after, this list is sure to spark a budget-friendly adventure or two on your next trip out in Auckland.
This article first appeared on Exploring Auckland.
The Best Free Things to do in Auckland
Check out the following suggestions to plan your next budget-friendly day out in the City of Sails.
Enjoy the Great Outdoors
1. Head Out on a Hike in Regional Auckland
There are a variety of fantastic walks in Regional Auckland. Many of the best walks are within 40-minutes from the city centre, making them easily accessible for everyone.
As a starting point, we recommend the Hunua Ranges Regional Park (in the east) and the Waitākere Ranges Regional Park (in the west). Both of these awesome regions offer a large selection of walks, catering for beginners through to expert hikers.
With beautiful bush, lake, waterfall and coastal views, you really are spoilt for choice when it comes to walking in Auckland.
Recommended walks in Auckland:
- Kitekite Falls – Piha
- Goldie Bush Walkway & Mokoroa Falls – Waitakere Ranges
- The Mercer Bay Loop Walk – Piha
- Walk along the Eastern Beaches – from Okahu Bay to St Heliers
- The Aotea Track – Great Barrier Island
- Duder Regional Park – Clevedon
- Incredible Auckland walks
- Family-Friendly walks in Northern Auckland
2. Visit the Arataki Visitor Centre
The Arataki Visitor Centre serves as a gateway to the Waitākere Ranges Regional Park – home to some of the best hiking in Auckland.
The Visitor Centre does an excellent job of showing off local flora and fauna through engaging exhibits and nature activities. You’ll find a variety of native plants in and around the centre and will leave well-equipped to spot these species on the Waitākere Ranges trails.
Keep your eyes peeled for kowhai, kauri and iconic silverferns.
The Arataki Visitor Centre is open 9am to 5pm every day except Christmas day and is located in West Auckland.
3. Climb a Volcano – Auckland Has a Multitude to Pick From!
In a city known for its volcanoes, climbing one is the perfect form of excercise.
Auckland has 53 volcanoes, with many of them offering fantastic 360° views – in fact, there’s almost no need to head up the Sky Tower!
For the best views, we recommend the following mountains:
- Mount Eden – enjoy awesome views of downtown Auckland.
- One Tree Hill – with its beautiful gardens and a large playground. Plus you’ll find the Stardome there (a great night-time activity)
- Mount Victoria – home to an important Māori pā site.
- Mount Wellington – a great walk that’s accessible to most.
- Rangitoto – one of our most iconic volcanoes and a great day trip from Central Auckland.
4. Take a Swim at One of Our Many Beaches
Auckland is surrendered by beautiful beaches – Takapuna, Mission bay, Muriwai, Piha – the list is practically endless. On every side of the city, the sand and the water beckons.
From the wild west coast (featuring stunning black sand beaches) to the calm waters of the Hauraki Gulf, there is a bay to suit all needs in the City of Sails.
Many of Auckland’s beaches come complete with grassy verges, plenty shade (provided by trees) and picnic tables. This makes them great for summer fun for the whole whānau!
Read about beaches in Auckland:
- West Coast Beaches
- The best beaches in Auckland
- Check the water contamination at Auckland beaches
- See bioluminescence at Auckland’s beaches
5. Ride on the Pink Cycle Trail – Te Ara I Whiti
The Pink Cycle Trail (formally known as the Light Path) is an Auckland must-see. Bright pink, this bike path is as much art installation as it is practical roadway.
The view from this fluro pathway is amazing at any time of day, but our favourite time to visit is at night when the sun starts to set, to get the full experience and sensation.
Whether you choose to ride a push bike (or e-bike) or walk on this trail, we recommend checking it out!
Did you know? This unique bridge is part of the Nelson Street Cycleway which connects Upper Queen Street to Quay Street. It was originally created from an unused overbridge!
6. Go for a Walk on the Waterfront
The Waterfront is the place to be in the central city. Full of world-class bars and restaurants, it’s a great place to spend a lazy afternoon or evening.
It’s also a great place to wander and people-watch. Whilst there, we recommend checking out Silo Park and the massive boats in their moorings (this is, after all, the City of Sails).
Great at all times of the day, it’s especially fantastic in the evening as the sunset colours reflect on the harbour.
Pro Tip: Whilst in the area, you might also like to walk over to Britomart to check out one of the many fantastic restaurants there.
Enjoy a Dose of Art & Culture
7. Check Out an Auckland Museum
If you’re looking for a free dose of history and culture in Auckland, look no further than one of our museums.
The Auckland War Memorial Museum
Auckland War Memorial Museum has a countless permanent exhibitions, sharing the history of both Auckland and wider-New Zealand. In addition, it hosts a number of temporary (and ever-changing) exhibits, ensuring that every visit is a new experience.
This is one of the best places in Auckland to head if you’re wanting to experience Māori culture in person.
It is located in Parnell, within the Auckland Domain Park. There, you’ll also find plenty of 2-hour parking for free.
The New Zealand Maritime Museum
The Maritime Museum is conveniently located by the harbor. In a country and city where life by the ocean is explicitly intertwined, it’s worth learning more about our connection to the water.
At this museum, you’ll find a wide range of engaging exhibitions, sharing everything you could want to know about the New Zealand maritime industry.
It also gives insight into what it might have been like to have been an immigrant in the old days. This is an immersive experience – you will be given a ticket to come aboard and be part of the journey.
Suitable for all ages, we recommend paying a visit to the NZ Maritime Museum.
Did you know? These two museums are free for residents of the city. To get in, you’ll just need to show proof of your residence – a library card or bank statement is enough. For non-residents, tickets are not expensive either and will give you access to the permanent galleries and some exhibitions.
8. Watch a Movie at an Open-Air Cinema
During the summer season, it’s possible to enjoy outdoor movies right across Auckland.
Auckland Council organise these showings (which often include food carts, where you can purchase treats), covering a variety of movie genres.
This is an especially awesome free Auckland activity for families and dates.
So, next time you’re looking for something cheap to do, grab your picnic blanket, dinner and drinks, and enjoy watching a blockbuster under the stars!
For more information, check out Movies in Parks and Silo Cinema.
9. Enjoy an Art Exhibition
The Auckland Art Gallery
Located in the CBD by Albert Park, the Auckland Art Gallery offers a fantastic range of national, international, and Māori art.
Like the museum, the gallery offers free entry for residents of the city. This includes access to the permanent galleries and some limited exhibitions.
The Wallace Arts Trust
If you’re a real art-lover and would like to see more, we recommend checking out the Wallace Arts Trust.
They host an ever-changing collection of contemporary art and can be found in Hillsborough within Monte Cecilia Park. With over 9,500 works and a fantastic cafe on-site, it is well worth a visit to the Pah Homestead (which is the name of the building in which you’ll find the Wallace Arts Trust).
Entry is by donation.
Free Things to Do With Kids
10. Meet the Animals at Ambury Farm
The Ambury Farm is a working farm that hosts a wide range of animals (including cows, rabbits, sheep, goats and pigs).
Why not take the kids there on a weekend to learn how to milk a cow? Whilst there you can also discover their insect garden and feed their animals
In addition, there are also plenty of short walks where you can enjoy great views of the Manukau Harbor.
Did you know? This is a significant habitat for shorebirds and also an opportunity to see coastal basalt lava flows.
11. Check Out a Splash Pad
Splash pads are the perfect way to cool down on a hot summer’s day!
Auckland is fortunate to have a number of amazing water-play areas, all of which are available to the public at no charge.
Next time it’s hot out, why not bundle the kids up into the car (with togs, towels and buckets) and head for your local Auckland splash pad?
Our favourite splash pads in Auckland:
- Lloyd Elsmore Park – Pakuranga
- Stanmore Bay – Whangaparaoa
- Potters Park – Balmoral
- Catalina Water Play Park – Hobsonville Point.
12. Head to an Amazing Playground
Playgrounds are a fantastic way to keep kids entertained for hours – and thankfully, Auckland has countless winners!
From flying foxes to massive slides, each of our best playgrounds offer unique and exciting equipment in beautiful settings. Best of all, most of the following playgrounds cater to a wide range of ages and confidence levels.
We recommend you visit the following playgrounds in Auckland:
- Tui Glen Reserve – Henderson
- Parrs Park – Henderson
- Snakes and Ladders – Farm Cove
- Rocket Park – St Lukes
- Cornwall Park – One Tree Hill
- Waterview Reserve – Waterview
- Western Park – Freemans Bay
- Ōtāhuhu Recreation Precinct – Ōtāhuhu
- Daldy Street Park – Wynyard Quarter
- Takapuna Beach Playground – The Strand, Takapuna
Other things to do with kids in Auckland:
- Visit an indoor playground
- Pram-friendly walks in Auckland
- Where to play laser tag in Auckland
- Kid-friendly pubs in Auckland
Grab a Bite to Eat
13. Go for a Picnic
What is more relaxing than enjoying a picnic in a garden or by the beach?
Auckland has a range of beautiful gardens and parks right in the city itself. Some of them even have some playgrounds if you want to bring your kids along for the fun.
The main central parks are the Auckland Domain, Victoria Park, Cornwall Park, Myers Park and Albert Park – the choice is yours.
During the summer season, some concerts are even hosted free-of-charge at these venues.
Alternatively, if you’re looking for a conveniently located beach, we recommend the Eastern Bays. It’s hard to go wrong with the likes of Mission Bay and St Heliers Beach.
Next time you’re looking for a way to spend a sunny afternoon, why not fill your bag with treats from the fridge and head along to your local beach or park to enjoy a meal under the trees? Be sure to pack your playing cards and a picnic rug too!
If you don’t want to self-cater, you can purchase a fantastic click and collect meal to enjoy at the park or beach.
14. Find Free Local Events on Facebook
So many of the fabulous little events that happen around Auckland are advertised on Facebook.
From a free night in the bars to complimentary little concerts or activities, all you need to do is jump on Facebook and set your location. From there, you’ll be able to see what is available around you and plan your weekends accordingly.
This is a great way to experience something new (or to explore a new part of the city).
See Something New In Auckland
15. Go to the Farmers’ Market During the Day…
Auckland has a range of fantastic farmers’ markets, all of which are free to attend (though we can’t promise you won’t choose to spend your hard-earned money!)
Each market attracts a wide range of boutique growers and artisans, selling fresh produce, baked goods and more.
The practically all farmers’ markets operate on the weekend, so we suggest tying a visit in with another awesome free activity on this list.
Highly recommended farmers’ markets in Auckland:
- Oratia Farmers’ Market – Saturday
- City Farmers’ Market – Saturday
- Matakana Farmers’ Market – Saturday
- Hobsonville Point Farmers’ Market – Saturday and Sunday.
- Grey Lynn Farmers’ Market – Sunday
- The Clevedon Farmers’ Market – Sunday
- Coatesville Farmers’ Market – First Sunday of each month.
- Puhoi Farmers’ Market – Last Sunday of each month.
16. Get Dinner at a Night Market
Abuzz with energy, food and culture, the night markets around Auckland are awesome!
As with farmers’ markets, there is no cost to explore a night market in Auckland, though you’ll want want some money on hand should you wish to make a purchase.
A wide range of cuisine is available at the Auckland night markets, including Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, Italian, Polish and more. There really is something for everyone!
Expect a lot more than just food though – music, performances, shopping and more – these markets are a great way to spend a budget-friendly evening.
Did you know? Different markets are held right across the city (including Mt Wellington, Pakuranga, Botany Town Centre, Henderson, and Papatoetoe) on different nights of the week. For more information, be sure to check out the schedule on Auckland Night Markets.
17. Join a Free Walking Tour
Even if you think you know Auckland well, it could be worth hopping on a free walking tour through the central city.
With your knowledgeable guide, you’ll learn about the history of New Zealand whilst ducking in and out of little Auckland streets. Even if you’re local, you’re practically guaranteed to learn something new!
18. Enjoy the Botanic Gardens
The Auckland Botanic Gardens is another place you have to add to your free-things-to-do-in-Auckland list.
This beautiful garden is located in South Auckland (by Totara park) and, of course, is free to access.
It offers a trail with a variety of plants, a library, a café, and plenty of events throughout year to celebrate the four seasons.
It provides a stunning background to your photos and is a fantastic place to relax and enjoy Mother Nature at her finest.
19. Wander around Caffeine & Classics
Smales Farm is the place to be on the last Sunday of each month – that’s where you’ll find a massive collection of classic cars. And of course, because they’re on this list, you know entrance is free!
This show is open to the public for viewing, but if you have a classic car, you’re also welcome to show it. In fact, any vehicle that is at least 30 years old is welcome (plus newer vehicles that are scratch-built, obscure or exotic).
You can expect to see an incredible array of all classic vehicles, including classic and vintage cars, hot rods, muscle cars, and motorcycles.
In addition, they’ve got great food and coffee available for purchase – we recommend you make a morning of it!
Pro Tip: There is no spectator parking within Smales Farm when Caffeine & Classics is on. The Smales Farm bus station has fast and efficient connections via the Northern Busway stations and Britomart – so that’s your best option on the day!
20. Climb into a Lighthouse
Perhaps you’ve heard of the Manukau Heads Lighthouse? Located on the peninsula in the district of Franklin, it is over 140 years old and one of the few that are open to the public in Aotearoa.
Facing Auckland’s Waitakere Ranges regional Park, it offers spectacular views. This is even more true at sunset as the sky turns countless shades of crimson.
Be warned though, with over 100 stairs, there is a little climb to the top. It’s worth the effort though!
Entry is by donation.
21. Take in the Auckland Harbour Bridge Light Show
Using a range of eco-friendly technology (including solar power), the Harbour Bridge comes to life multiple times a year.
The lights ablaze, reflecting in the Waitematā Harbour really is unsurpassed in Auckland City!
Keep an eye out for the next light display and be sure to head along to check it our for yourself.
Catch the display from any of these locations:
- Little Shoal Bay, Northcote
- Bayswater Marina
- Mt Victoria, Devonport
- Queens Parade, Devonport
- Bastion Point
- Auckland waterfront
- Harbour View Beach Reserve, Te Atatū Peninsula
- Sentinel Beach, Herne Bay
- Mt Eden
Did you know? When watching the light display, you can also tune in for accompanying music. What fun!
And there you have it – 21 fantastic free activities in Auckland to keep you entertained (whilst keeping your wallet happy).
You don’t need to spend a fortune to have fun in the City of Sails – in fact, nothing could be further from the truth.
Written by Lara Cita.