As locals, we don’t always appreciate all that Auckland has to offer. Somehow, we don’t see the attractive architecture of the city centre or the green spaces that appear everywhere you look. We’re 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.

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1. Have a drink at the Viaduct or Wynyard Quarter

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. Plus, over the past few years, the Wynyard Quarter area of the Viaduct has been developed too, to make for even more options.

Take your pick from dozens of bars and restaurants, all with sea views.

Auckland Viaduct
Head to the Viaduct for a drink or two.

2. Visit one of the many markets around the city

Otara market
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.

Alberton market
One Sunday a month in summer, one of Auckland’s historic houses plays host to a pleasant little market full of tasty food and handmade items. It’s located in the fairly central suburb of Mt Albert, so it’s pretty easy to get too.

La Cigale French market
The French market is held in the even-more-central suburb of Parnell on Saturday and Sunday mornings, and there’s also a sister market held right in the city centre on Saturdays too. If you’re looking for French cheeses or pastries, this is the place to go.

Clevedon farmers market
This Sunday event is one of our favourite markets for its range of fresh produce and delicious lunch food. We usually find something surprising there too — last time, we bought a mini mushroom farm, to grow mushrooms in a plastic cup. Plus, you can easily create a day trip out of a visit to the Clevedon markets by adding in a hike or some wine tasting.

Matakana markets
Although it’s about 90 minutes drive north of Auckland, a trip to the Saturday markets in Matakana is worth the journey. Add in a wander around the town and some wine tasting, and you’ve got a perfect day.

Night markets
Heavy on food, the night markets around Auckland are a great choice for a street-food-style dinner. Find the one that’s closest to you here.

3. Attend a concert or watch a movie in a park

In summer, Aucklanders head outside, and so does the music. The biggest event is Christmas in the Park held in Auckland’s immense Domain, but other, smaller concerts are held in parks throughout the city all through summer.

Movies in parks are also a summer staple, with free films being shown in parks and public spaces of all sizes. There are also ticketed outdoor movies for newer releases.

At the grounds of Auckland Museum.
Getting outside in summer is the way to go!

4. Have a coffee in Mission Bay or Takapuna

These beachside suburbs are packed on weekends, as people come to enjoy the sun or have a drink if the weather isn’t favourable. Both Mission Bay and Takapuna feature a range of bars and restaurants, a nice beach, and a playground for children, and both are easy to reach by public transport from the city centre.

Check out Mission Bay’s iconic fountain and have an informal game of soccer, rugby, and frisbee in the park alongside the beach.

5. Go for a walk

Auckland is a great city for walking. If you’re up for a challenge, we recommend the 16km Coast to Coast walk, which stretches from the Viaduct Harbour to Onehunga.

There are lots of urban routes to follow, which will help you learn a bit about Auckland’s history. Check out the list on the Auckland Council website or drop into a library to pick up a paper brochure.

The Waitakere Ranges Regional Park, a vast stretch of native bush, is situated about half an hour’s drive from the city centre and boasts an impressive range of well-maintained walking paths of various lengths. Unfortunately, many of these walks are currently closed to stop the spread of Kauri Dieback disease, which has killed many native trees already. Some walks are still open though — stop in at the Arataki Visitor Centre to pick up information on the tracks.

Alternatively, head south to the Hunua Ranges Regional Park for a range of good hikes, including to the iconic Hunua Falls. Please remember to clean your shoes and keep to the tracks to help with the control of Kauri Dieback.

Auckland hiking
Head out for a walk

6. 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.

7. Go secondhand shopping in Devonport

If you’d like to get out on the water but don’t want to head to Rangitoto, Devonport is a good option. This North Shore suburb is just ten minutes from the city centre by ferry, and boasts some really nice secondhand bookstores as well as a range of opportunity shops. There are also some great restaurants and cafes, as well as a brand-new library.

Add a walk on to your trip by visiting Mt Victoria and North Head. North Head is full of tunnels dug out during the Second World War, and exploring them is a rite of passage for Auckland kids — join them, and take a torch if you can.

Ferry in Auckland harbour
Get on the water, and head across to Rangitoto or Devonport!

8. 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.

You’ll also hear of wine tasting on Waiheke Island, but pricy ferry tickets and tasting charges means that Waiheke wine tasting isn’t really a budget option!

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.

Auckland beach and beer
Fish and chips and a beer on the beach = awesome.

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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This article was originally published in 2010, and was recorded as a podcast in 2019.

Your thoughts on "Top 10 cheap things to do in Auckland, New Zealand"

  • 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.

    on November 1, 2010 at 4:08 pm Reply
    • 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 :)

      on November 3, 2010 at 4:24 am Reply
  • 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

    on November 13, 2010 at 7:13 am Reply
    • Muriwai is amazing! Great call, Robbie, but transport can be tricky indeed.

      on November 13, 2010 at 10:24 am Reply
  • 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!

    on December 6, 2010 at 4:54 am Reply
  • 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.

    on December 29, 2010 at 7:28 am Reply
    • Hey guys, good to hear from you again! Auckland certainly is a lot of fun :)

      on December 30, 2010 at 9:05 pm Reply
  • 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 :)

    on September 12, 2011 at 8:44 pm Reply
    • lol. Fair enough. So, any more recommendations then?

      on September 13, 2011 at 5:38 am Reply
  • 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

    on October 14, 2011 at 8:08 pm Reply
    • Grunty One Charters - Zed Pier Auckland

      on October 14, 2011 at 8:09 pm Reply
      • Westhaven Marina - central Auckland - just under the Harbour Bridge

        on October 14, 2011 at 8:10 pm
    • Thanks Patricia - fishing around Auckland is great fun, and the results are delicious.

      on October 16, 2011 at 9:49 am Reply
  • money problem is the biggest problem for the travelers. without money we can't travel our favorite places and can't fully enjoy. You have shared very helpful tips. Now everyone can fulfill there travel dreams easily in a budget.

    on March 28, 2017 at 12:48 am Reply
  • Hike at Longs Bay Park. Here's an activity for someone in Auckland for a day (like a cruise ship passenger in port that day or a pre- or post-cruise day). You'll get to see the northern suburbs and have a hike in a nice sea-side park. Take a bus (about NZ$5 each way, about 70 minutes) from the central business district to Longs Bay. The bus ride will start just a few blocks from the dock or your downtown hotel. You can check out the route ahead of time but I think it's easier to ask someone where to catch a bus to the North Shore. Some routes require a change of buses but many are direct. Take the route that ends at Longs Bay, the bus stop is just inside the park. Once in the park there are several options, you can walk a very short distance to the beach or you can hike for hours and hours on well marked trails. The return trip is very easy, return to the bus stop and take a bus that goes back to the Auckland CBD.

    on March 28, 2017 at 12:56 pm Reply
    • Great tip! Yes, having a good public transport connection is important -- getting to the Waitakeres can be a challenge, for example.

      on March 28, 2017 at 1:37 pm Reply
  • Auckland is an awesome place of New Zealand, you suggested so good things to enjoy beauty of that at affordable price.

    on March 29, 2017 at 8:48 pm Reply
  • I like the Auckland city in new Zealand ,looks very beautiful in this city. people enjoy the market of month we plan a trip of Auckland ,thanks for sharing wonderful tips.

    on October 16, 2017 at 6:49 pm Reply

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