It’s true – New Zealand is a great place to visit.
However, people always seem to have one major complaint about my home country – it’s too expensive.
And this, is also true. After many years of travel, I can confirm that New Zealand, particularly the big cities, are some of the most expensive places in the world. But that doesn’t mean you can’t squeeze through these places on a budget. All you need is an insider to tell you where to go 😉
The great thing about New Zealand is, it’s full of nature, it’s full of artsy fartsy stuff and it’s got a lot of small communities around the place. Those are all nesting places for fun activities that don’t really cost a lot of money, or anything at all.
So, that’s what I’m going to show you. Thirty things you can do in New Zealand for 100% free. Scroll down for a list of things to do in all New Zealand’s major cities, for no money at all.
Free things to do in Auckland
- Watch a high school rugby game, a great alternative to buying tickets to a pro game and fighting the crowds. You’ll be standing right on the sideline, will witness grassroots rugby at its finest and, if you’re lucky, might even witness a high school haka. For a visitor, this might be one of the most fun things to do in Auckland for free.
- Walk through the Parnell Rose Gardens, a small but charming garden in the centre of Auckland. Rose lovers especially will enjoy the many different colours and varieties on display.
- Drive or walk up to Bastion Point, a memorial lookout spot where you can enjoy an incredible view of the Auckland skyline and Rangitoto Island. Just below sits Mission Bay, a popular Auckland beach where you can relax in a café or walk along the beachfront.
- Spend a day wandering through the Waitakere Ranges, a beautiful rainforest with an incredible coastline, barely an hour’s drive out of Auckland. One of the best free things to do in Auckland – you can easily spend a couple of days out there! Also a great place to surf if you’re a wave junkie.
- Visit Cornwall Park, a huge reserve in central Auckland with walking tracks, free picnic and barbeque areas and some exceptional native trees and flora. The park lies at the base of the iconic One Tree Hill, which you can climb to enjoy an incredible 360 degree view of the city.
Need a place to stay in Auckland? Check out my insider’s guide here.
Free things to do in Hamilton
- Visit the Hamilton Gardens. It’s one of Hamilton’s most popular sites, with beautifully themed gardens where you can relax with friends, have a picnic or simply enjoy the scenery.
- Take a morning walk along the Waikato River. This is the largest river in New Zealand, runs right through the middle of Hamilton, and is conveniently paved giving you the perfect spot to take your morning stroll.
- Visit Artspost, a branch of the Waikato Museum which showcases the talent of local artists. It is housed in a beautiful heritage building and entry is free.
- Enjoy your Sunday morning at the Hamilton Farmer’s Market, a great place to check out the local produce, have a Kiwi breakfast and mingle with some of the locals.
- Head out to Kawhia Hot Water Beach. It’s a little hard to find, but is a beautiful place to spend the day fishing, sunbathing, or digging your own hot water pool.
Free things to do in Wellington
- Watch the sunrise at Te Ahumairangi Hill Lookout, an incredible spot to start your day looking out over the city.
- Visit The Beehive, New Zealand’s uniquely designed central parliament building. Entry is free.
- Enjoy a day at the Wellington Botanic Gardens, filled with native plants and gorgeous sculptures. If you’re around during summer you may be able to catch one of the free concerts that take place there.
- Enjoy the great cuisine, artsy décor and the talented buskers around Cuba Street, one of the most happening spots in town. A perfect place to spend a night soaking up the fun and the culture of the country’s capital.
- Head to Te Papa, New Zealand’s most famous museum. Most of the museum is free to enter and you’ll find a lot of New Zealand history and nostalgia in here. Plenty of distractions for the kids, too.
Free things to do in Christchurch
- Visit the New Zealand Air Force Museum, the only one of its kind in the country. The museum aims to preserve the history of the Royal NZ Air Force, with the display of old military aircraft, medals and other memorabilia.
- Enjoy a day at one of the many parks throughout the city, such as Hagley Park, The Botanic Gardens or Groynes Park (this one’s great for dogs). Christchurch isn’t nicknamed “The Garden City” for nothing!
- Visit the Christchurch Farmers’ Market, a great place to enjoy local music, fresh produce, good coffee and beautiful food. Open every Saturday. An Artisan market is also now open on Sundays.
- Go enjoy some local live music at the new hotspot in town, Dux Live. Many of the gigs are free, although the food and drinks are not, of course.
- Visit RE:Start on Cashel Street, an innovative mall built to help the city bounce back from the devastating earthquakes of 2011 and 2012. Retailers and restaurants serve customers out of shipping containers, while street stalls and buskers add to the scene’s character. A must see.
Free things to do in Dunedin
- Visit the Otago Museum, one of the better free museums in New Zealand with various free exhibits and many quirky displays. A great place for kids to spend the day.
- Take the walk to Tunnel Beach, a short drive from the centre of Dunedin. You’ll walk through the hand carved tunnel to reach the sand, and enjoy some stunning views along the way.
- Make a visit to Baldwin Street, officially recognised as the steepest residential street in the world. If you’re around in July you may be lucky enough to witness the world famous Jaffa Race, where 25,000 Jaffas (New Zealand candies) are rolled down the street to raise money for various charities.
- Head out to the Otago Peninsula where you can see the famous yellow-eyed penguin, one of the rarest in the world. Viewing is best done from a viewing box or a ‘hide’, as penguins generally do not like human company.
- Visit Dunedin’s public art gallery, which houses a stunning collection of old and contemporary paintings by both local and overseas artists. It is situated in The Octagon, Dunedin’s city centre.
Free things to do in Queenstown
- Take a day trip to Arrowtown, about a half hour drive from Queenstown centre. This quaint, charming little town deserves at least a half day visit and is so neat and polished it may feel like you’re walking through a movie set. You can also visit the old Chinese gold mining settlement, a flashback to the town’s glory days as a gold mine darling.
- Walk the Gibbston River Trail, a purpose built walk suitable for cyclists, walkers of all ages, and families. Various wineries, cafes and picnic spots can be found along the way.
- Do the Queenstown Time Walk, a 2-3 hour walk up Queenstown Hill. It is lined with panels that will give you a look into the town’s history, and a glorious view of Queenstown once you finally reach the top.
- Visit The Earnslaw Park Market on Saturdays down on Queenstown’s lake front. A great place to enjoy the afternoon people watching, wandering the market stalls and enjoying the many talented buskers that frequent the area.
- Take the walk out to Bob’s Cove, a scenic reserve where you can see native plant and birdlife, look at the old limestone limekilns and enjoy a breathtaking swim when you finally reach the cove itself.
Enjoy New Zealand!