Top 10 cheap things to do in Auckland, New Zealand

As a local, I don’t always appreciate all that Auckland has to offer. Somehow, I don’t see the attractive architecture of the city centre or the green spaces that appear everywhere you look. I’m blind to the white-sand beaches and the clean air. But a city that has one of the highest standards of living in the world also has a lot to offer the casual tourist – and a lot of it is cheap or free.

1. Visit the Otara markets

Every Saturday, thousands of people congregate in Newbury Lane, in the South Auckland suburb of Otara, to buy fresh produce, clothes and arts and crafts. It’s a great place to experience Polynesian culture – if you’re lucky you’ll be treated to an impromptu concert or two.

2. Have a drink at the Viaduct

Auckland’s harbour area was freshened up in the late nineties to host two America’s Cup regattas, and is now a pleasant place for a drink in the evening. Take your pick from dozens of bars and restaurants, all with sea views.

3. Attend a concert in a park

In summer, Aucklanders head outside, and so does the music. The big events are Christmas in the Park and the Starlight Symphony, both held in Auckland’s immense Domain, but other, smaller concerts are held in parks throughout the city.

4. Have a coffee in Mission Bay

This beachside suburb is packed on weekends, as people come to enjoy the sun or have a drink if the weather isn’t favorable. A row of bars and restaurants face the sea, separated only by a strip of park (adorned with an iconic fountain) that’s a popular setting for informal games of soccer, rugby, and frisbee.

5. Walk the Waitakeres

The Waitakere Ranges Regional Park, a vast stretch of native bush, is situated about half an hour’s drive from the city center, and boasts an impressive range of well-maintained walking paths of various lengths. Stop in at the Arataki Visitor Centre to pick up information on the tracks – several easy paths start nearby.

6. Go wine tasting

There are several wine regions within a short drive of the city, and most wineries don’t charge for tastings – though it’s good form for at least one of your party to buy a bottle at each stop. Head north to Matakana, northwest to Kumeu, or south to Clevedon and sample some of what New Zealand has to offer.

7. Climb some volcanoes

Auckland is full of volcanoes – quite how many is the subject of some discussion, but at any rate several make their mark on the skyline. One Tree Hill and Mt Eden are both pleasant settings for a picnic, and if you’re feeling lazy you can drive up instead of going by foot.

8. Visit Rangitoto

Rangitoto Island’s profile is another symbol of Auckland, and this relatively new volcanic formation (it burst out of the sea about 800 years ago) can be seen from many parts of the city. If you’re feeling up for a bit of exercise, take the ferry across and climb to the top. Be aware that there’s almost no infrastructure on the island – take everything you need with you and be prepared to carry rubbish out again.

9. Eat fish and chips on the beach

Fish and chips could be called NZ’s national dish, and eaten fresh and crispy from the paper, smothered in tomato sauce – ah, there’s nothing better. Wash it all down with a can of L&P, the national soft drink.

10. Surf or swim at Piha

Head out to the west coast to burn your feet on the black sand and get in amongst the waves.

There’s a lot more to do in Auckland than just these ten things – Waiheke Island, the restaurants of Ponsonby, the quirky atmosphere of K Road. But I don’t want to give too much away – go and discover Auckland for yourself.

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14 Responses to “Top 10 cheap things to do in Auckland, New Zealand”

  1. Sophie November 1, 2010 at 4:08 pm #

    Great tips. Lived on the North Shore for a while and for a few months Rangitoto was the view from our living room. Beautiful! We loved visiting the islands in the Hauraki Gulf, too. I’d add Waiheke as no 11. And Devonport as no 12…. and and and … Auckland is full of great spots.

    • Craig and Linda November 3, 2010 at 4:24 am #

      There really is heaps to do around Auckland; it’s just a shame the public transport system isn’t the best for hooking everything together, but to get out to the islands and Devonport is really easy from the downtown ferry building. Great suggestions, Sophie – Thanks :)

  2. Robbie Mackay November 13, 2010 at 7:13 am #

    I’d also recommend a trip out to Muriwai, another fantastic west coast beach. It may be a little easier to get to than Piha, but public transport still won’t get you all the way.

    Dinner/Lunch/Anything at Elevation restaurant.. its on the way to Piha and on a clear day has an amazing view of Auckland from the balcony!

    Rangitoto and Motatapu are both pretty amazing.

    If you like a good farmers market – try to get out to Oratia farmers market. They set up every Saturday at Artisan wines (so you can even do a wine tasting while there)

    Just a few picks on the top of my head :) Hope anyone visit Aucklands has fun.. I’m missing it myself while I’m exploring the UK

    • Craig and Linda November 13, 2010 at 10:24 am #

      Muriwai is amazing! Great call, Robbie, but transport can be tricky indeed.

  3. Andrea December 6, 2010 at 4:54 am #

    This is great – just looking for things to do in Auckland when we’re there in the next few weeks. Thanks for a great list!

    • Craig and Linda December 6, 2010 at 5:31 am #

      Awesome; glad to help out. There’s a few kiwis in the Indie Travel Podcast Community, so feel free to ask any questions you have in the Oceania travel forum and we — or someone else — will jump in to help out.

  4. Dave and Deb December 29, 2010 at 7:28 am #

    We have got to get ourselves to New Zealand. It is always fun to explore your home town eh? We never really appreciate it until we slow down and take a look. There is a lot to do in and around Auckland, between that and the rest of the country, it is an adventure paradise. Thanks for the information.

    • Craig and Linda December 30, 2010 at 9:05 pm #

      Hey guys, good to hear from you again! Auckland certainly is a lot of fun :)

  5. rachael September 12, 2011 at 8:44 pm #

    umm to be honest, i wouldnt do any of this stuff… maybe the Piha beach but nothing else cause im 15 and most of it looks boring :L hahahahahahahahaha. but im sure its fun for when you’re older :)

    • Craig and Linda September 13, 2011 at 5:38 am #

      lol. Fair enough. So, any more recommendations then?

  6. Patricia October 14, 2011 at 8:08 pm #

    You need to also look at fishing with a Skipper called Panapa – he is known as Aucklands best fishing skipper and worthwhile getting to know

    • Patricia October 14, 2011 at 8:09 pm #

      Grunty One Charters – Zed Pier Auckland

      • Patricia October 14, 2011 at 8:10 pm #

        Westhaven Marina – central Auckland – just under the Harbour Bridge

    • Craig and Linda October 16, 2011 at 9:49 am #

      Thanks Patricia – fishing around Auckland is great fun, and the results are delicious.

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