Auckland is a city full of great attractions and sights to see, a well-known fact amongst those who visit and those who call it home. What people don’t necessarily appreciate or realise, is just how many of these activities are free.
It’s always nice to enjoy a few complimentary activities whenever you’re travelling to keep costs in check so we decided to put together a list of the best free things to do Auckland that you can experience, saving a few dollars at the same time.
1. Auckland’s Volcanoes
Auckland is one of the few cities in the world built on an actual active volcanic field which is not only an interesting fact but one you can explore by visiting one of the 50+ peaks that dot the city. If this sounds risky, you need not worry as there hasn’t been any volcanic activity for a few hundred years, so they’re perfectly safe places to visit and enjoy.
Many of them, like Mount Eden, One Tree Hill and Mangere Mountain offer superb unobstructed 360-degree views of the city that are simply breath-taking.
Our free tip: On many of the mountains like One Tree Hill and Mount Eden, you’ll also find remnants of old Pa (Maori fortification) from centuries ago.
2. Cornwall Park
One of the most beautiful and cherished parks in Auckland is Cornwall Park which surrounds One Tree Hill and is a great place to enjoy some peaceful walks in picturesque surroundings.
Gifted to the public in 1901 by Sir John Logan Campbell, the 425-acre park has some amazing trees, open spaces, bbq facilities, off-road trails and is also an urban working farm so you’ll no doubt run into a few sheep along the way.
A great one for all to enjoy.
Our free tip: If you visit during the Spring you’ll also get to see the beautiful Cherry Blossom in full bloom!
3. Silo Park on Wynyard Quarter
Silo Park is a repurposed facility, formerly used to store cement, and now enjoyed as a modern space for cultural and arts events and film screenings (where they actually project onto the Silos themselves!). The great thing about this of course, is that most of these events are free attracting good crowds and creating an enjoyable atmosphere.
Situated in the heart of the redeveloped Wynyard Quarter, a great public space in itself, with many popular bars and restaurants to enjoy. A real highlight of the city.
Our free tip: Wynyard Quarter is a great place for families with a play area for the kids and water for paddling!
4. Mission Bay
There are hundreds of beaches in Auckland, and you could justifiably include all of them on this list, but one of the more popular city beaches is Mission Bay.
The reason for this is down to a few things. The beach is a very pleasant stretch of white sand that has the magnificent Rangitoto Island in its horizon. It’s also a place where you can enjoy some fine food, ice creams, gelatos and fish and chips, a Kiwi favourite.
Also within walking distance is Bastion Point at the top of a cliff rise and the Michael Joseph Savage Memorial. From here you can take a wander around the gardens and gaze off into the horizon towards the sea.
Our free tip: If you go after sundown you’ll be able to see a light show at the iconic Trevor Moss Davis Memorial Fountain which shoots water as high as 12m!
5. Auckland Domain and the Wintergardens
Auckland Domain is the oldest park in the city and is actually the site of an old explosion crater making it also one of the biggest.
There are a number of very pleasant open green spaces to relax in with views of the city to enjoy and also a number of walks around the perimeter like the Domain Walk, Centennial Walk (to the popular Duck ponds) and the Lovers’ Walk (we’ll leave that to the imagination).
The Auckland Domain is also where you can find the Auckland Wintergardens, which consists of two large greenhouses that have all manner of native, tropical and exotic plant species. It’s also very warm inside and has an average yearly temperature of 24°C, perfect for those winter months!
Our free tip: The Wintergardens are also home to the Amorphophallus Titanium whose flowers smell like rotting flesh. If that doesn’t make you want to go then nothing will!
6. Auckland Night Markets
Whilst this one is free to attend, you might find it hard not to spend any money, given the mouth-watering food on offer and tasty treats to try.
The Night Markets started small taking place in one location in 2010 but have since expanded to seven different locations all around Auckland. Their success is not only down to the great food you can try, but the variety of vendors selling other wares like clothes and toys, and the all-around atmosphere with lots of people in attendance and live entertainment often featuring.
It’s a great one to go to if you’re looking to experience something on the local scene which the Night Markets definitely are.
Our free tip: The Night Markets are all in undercover locations so you don’t need to worry about the weather as you’ll be nice and sheltered!
7. Movies in Parks
In what has become a summer staple in Auckland, Movies in Park, run by the Auckland City Council is one of the most anticipated community events in the city that is free and open for everyone to enjoy.
Taking place in parks all around Auckland, the programme always includes a wide variety of films to choose from including the most recent blockbusters, animated films, Kiwi films and some all-time classics!
There are also food stalls to enjoy and usually some sponsor giveaways to enjoy as well!
Our free tip: If you like Movies in Parks then you might also be interested in Music in Parks, another great local series of events!
8. Manukau Heads Lighthouse
There’s something deeply nostalgic and peaceful you experience when you visit lighthouses like the fantastic one we have at Manukau Heads.
Perhaps it’s the thought of the dedication, commitment and lifestyle of solitude that lighthouse keepers went through, day-to-day, for the safety and lives of others.
It could be the breath-taking scenery the lighthouses look over with the open waters, strong currents and surrounding cliffs.
It might be stories of shipwrecks and rescues that you read about when you’re there.
In truth, it’s probably a mixture of all these things, but it makes for a unique experience and one that is well worthwhile.
Our free tip: A great thing to do in addition to this visit is to stop by the Awhitu Regional Park on the way where there are some very pleasant walks and a great beach to take a swim as well.
9. Muriwai Beach and the Gannet Colony
Another wonderful and unique (and free) experience can be had at Muriwai Beach and Auckland’s West Coast in the form of bird watching with the resident Gannet Colony.
The Australasian Gannets have been residents on the cliffs of Muriwai for many years with steps and viewing platforms having been constructed to give members of the public the best views without being intrusive to the birds.
August – March is the peak nesting months where up to 1,200 pairs will take their spots making for an extraordinary sight. An experience you won’t want to miss.
Our free tip: Muriwai Beach itself is an amazing stretch of black sand and a great place to enjoy a long coastal walk. If you’re a surfer, you can add this to your list of things to do!
10. Stargazing at Shakespear Regional Park
Stargazing is a great thing to do in New Zealand with especially clear skies (compared to many other countries in the world). Auckland is easily the biggest city in the country and susceptible to a bit more light pollution but you don’t have to travel too far before the stars start to stand out.
One of the best places to go is Shakespear Regional Park on the Whangaparaoa Peninsula, around 40 minutes’ drive from the CBD. It’s a wonderfully isolated spot at the top of the peninsula with tremendous vantage points giving you unobstructed 360° views of everything around including the skies above.
The regional park is also a conservation area and open sanctuary and has 24-hour pedestrian access.
Our free tip: An outing to this park is a great one to make a day of as there is a beach to enjoy (Army Bay) as well as several walking track including one past the picturesque Gully Waterfalls!