18 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Whangarei© Sarah Orne - Northland Inc
18 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Whangarei

20 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Whangarei

© Sarah Orne – Northland Inc
Article Single Pages© NZPocketGuide.com
Article Single Pages© NZPocketGuide.com
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Stick to Your Budget with These Free and Affordable Activities in Whangarei

The hub of the Northland region of New Zealand is the perfect place for backpackers and travellers on a budget. There are free attractions in and around the city so you don’t have to worry about spending too much when exploring Whangarei. With that in mind, we put this list together of the top free and cheap things to do in Whangarei!

While there are some free and cheap activities on this list that you can access on foot from Whangarei city centre, note that a lot of the attractions are spread out across the city. Having your own transport will make it easier to see all these free things to do in Whangarei.

1. Visit Whangarei Falls – FREE

Arguably the most-visited natural feature in Whangarei, Whangarei Falls is a must-do on any Northland itinerary! It’s hard not to be impressed by this 26 m (85 ft) waterfall accessible only moments away from the car park. Extend the experience by getting different views of the falls on a 30-minute loop walk, or even follow the walking tracks down the Hatea River for a pleasant bush trail.

Location: Ngunguru Road, Tikipunga, approximately 5 km (3 mi) from Whangarei city centre.

NZPocketGuide.com© NZPocketGuide.com

2. Explore Abbey Caves – FREE

Just a mere 10-minute drive from the city centre of Whangarei is the Abbey Caves! A 2-hour loop walk takes you across farmland and native forest with interesting limestone outcrops and three free caves to explore. Check out the clusters of glowworms and small stalactites. For more free glowworm caves, check out the 10 Free Glowworm Caves in New Zealand.

Location: 71 Abbey Caves Road, approximately 6.5 km (4.2 mi) from Whangarei city centre.

NZPocketGuide.com© NZPocketGuide.com

3. Wander Around the Quarry Gardens – FREE

The words “Quarry” and “Gardens” are not often seen in the same sentence, but after you have seen what volunteers have achieved at the Whangarei Quarry Gardens you’ll see anything is possible! This quarry-turned-sub-tropical paradise benefits from the sub-tropical climate perfect for weird and wonderful plants from all over the world. Enjoy the network of walkways, have a bite to eat at the on-site cafe, and check out the art gallery.

Location: 37A Russell Road, Kensington, Whangarei, approximately 4 km (2 mi) from Whangarei city centre just off State Highway 1.

NZPocketGuide.com© NZPocketGuide.com

4. Climb Mt Manaia – FREE

For some of the best views in the Whangarei area, climb to the top of Mt Manaia! This 2-hour return walk is steep but well worth the effort for views overlooking the Whangarei Heads and Whangarei Harbour. Plus, you’ll walk through kauri forest and see the huge rugged pinnacles at the peak of the mountain. For more experiences in the area (including free things to do), check out the 15 Best Things to Do at Whangarei Heads.

Location: Whangarei Heads Road, approximately 28 km (17 mi) east of Whangarei. Park at the Mt Manaia Club’s car park. The walk is well signposted off the road.

NZPocketGuide.com© NZPocketGuide.com

5. Check Out Botanica – FREE

This free and perfect rainy-day activity incorporates both a fernery and a conservatory with a mix of exotic and native plants. The fernery holds one of the largest collections of native ferns in New Zealand with one of the highlights being the resident eels. On the other side of Botanica is the conservatory holding interesting displays of cacti, tropical plants and Japanese gardens. For more endearing attractions like this, check out the 10 Most Romantic Things to Do in Whangarei.

Location: 2 First Avenue, Whangarei city centre.

NZPocketGuide.com© NZPocketGuide.com

6. Visit the Native Bird Recovery Centre – FREE/CHEAP

See who’s currently in recovery at the Whangarei Native Bird Recovery Centre. This native bird hospital has aviaries open to the public, either free or by donation, so you can check out some of the birds before they are released into the wild. You could see kingfisher, morepork, harrier hawks and more. Plus, you might be lucky enough to meet the permanent resident, Sparky the kiwi or the talking tui! Check out more places to see kiwi in the 20 Best Places to See a Kiwi Bird in New Zealand.

Location: State Highway 14, Maunu (next to Kiwi North), approximately 6 km (4 mi) from Whangarei city centre.

NZPocketGuide.com© NZPocketGuide.com

7. Marvel at the Claphams National Clock Museum – CHEAP

Moving on to one of the cheap things to do in Whangarei that won’t break the bank, Claphams National Clock Museum is certainly one of the quirkiest attractions in Whangarei. If the 2,100 clocks and timepieces at this museum don’t amaze you, then the museum building itself might! Who can complain at just NZ$10 entry per adult?

Location: Dent Street, Quayside, Town Basin.

Samuel Mann on Flickr© Samuel Mann on Flickr

8. See Giant Trees at the AH Reed Kauri Park – FREE

This stunning forest is a must-do if you are looking to escape to nature in Whangarei! The AH Reed Kauri Park is home to 500-year-old kauri trees, as well as other native tree species. Walk the Canopy Loop for a view of the nikau palm trees and walk to the hidden gem of Whangarei, Pukenui Falls. The Kauri Park can be accessed via the Hatea River Walkway from Whangarei Falls or by the car park. For more walks around the city (all of which are free), check out the 20 Best Walks in Whangarei & Whangarei Heads.

Location: Whareora Road, Tikipunga, approximately 5 km (2.8 mi) from Whangarei city centre.

19 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Whangarei© NZPocketGuide.com

9. Visit the Whangarei Art Museum – FREE

For a good dose of culture, take a look around the Whangarei Art Museum with its ever-changing displays of local and international art. There is a mix of heritage and contemporary pieces to enjoy in this free-entry venue.

Location: 91 Dent Street, Town Basin.

Pexels© Pexels

10. Play Glow-in-the-Dark Mini-Golf – CHEAP

Everyone loves mini-golf, but glow-in-the-dark mini-golf is a whole new level of fun! Play 16 holes through 7 different themed areas. Extreme Mini Golf is under NZ$20 per person, so it rightfully earns its place on this list of free and cheap things to do in Whangarei! Early-week golfers be aware that the place is closed on Monday and Tuesday.

Location: 2 Reyburn Street.

19 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Whangarei© NZPocketGuide.com

11. Explore the Town Basin – FREE

One of the most picturesque places in the Whangarei city centre, the Town Basin is a water-side area packed with cafes, artisans, eateries, galleries, museums, sculptures, a children’s playground and a petanque court. It’s a great place to sit back and watch the people and yachts go by.

Location: Quayside, just off Dent Street.

20 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Whangarei© Northland Inc

12. Do the Hatea Loop Walkway – FREE

Walk or cycle the 4.2 km (2.6 mi) Hatea Loop. The walk begins in the Town Basin (see above) and follows the waterfront incorporating sculpture art from local Maori artists. Walk across the elegant footbridge known as “Kotuitui Whitinga” and see the impressive “Te Matau a Pohe” opening bridge. There are information panels along the walkways telling the local history.

Location: Begins and ends at the Town Basin on Quayside. Follow the well-marked signs and pathway along the Hatea River.

20 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Whangarei© David Kirkland - Northland Inc

13. Check Out the Whangarei Markets – FREE

Experience a real Kiwi market with arts, crafts and local produce for sale! You’ll pick up some authentic souvenirs to take home and try some yummy treats. There’s also live music adding to the vibe.

Markets in Whangarei

  • Artisans Market – 3-7 pm, Saturday from Labour Weekend through summer – Town Basin
  • Whangarei Growers Market – 6-10 am, Saturday – 17 Water Street
  • The Canopy Night Market – 5 pm fortnightly Fridays through summer – Town Basin
  • Tikipunga Market – 6:30-11 am, Sunday – Corner of Wanaka Street and Denby Crescent.

See more like this in the 10 Best Foodies Experiences in Whangarei.

20 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Whangarei© NZPocketGuide.com

14. Visit the Reyburn House Art Gallery – FREE

For more art and culture in Whangarei, check out the Reyburn House Art Gallery. The gallery is set inside a heritage home displaying art from local artists. The exhibits are everchanging so who knows what you will discover?! There are gifts for sale too.

Location: 17 Reyburn House Lane, Town Basin.

Pexels© Pexels

15. Climb Mt Parihaka – FREE

It’s hard to miss this ancient volcano standing prominently in the Whangarei skyline. Hiking to the top of Mt Parihaka will give you some awesome views of Whangarei and the Whangarei Harbour. There are a couple of walks accessible from the city. Additionally, there are mountain biking trails on the east side of the mountain which are worth exploring and free if you’re travelling with a mountain bike!

Location: The Hokianga/Dobbie Track to the summit starts from Mair Park. The Ross Track starts from Dundas Road. Both are approximately 2 km (1 mi) from Whangarei city centre.

Lisa Conze on Wikipedia© Lisa Conze on Wikipedia

16. See Wildlife and More at Kiwi North – CHEAP

For around NZ$25 adult admission, Kiwi North is definitely a cheap thing to do in Whangarei! What’s more, you’re sure to get good value for money with access to a kiwi house, gecko and tuatara enclosures, native fish aquariums, the Whangarei Museum and the Whangarei Heritage Park! It’s a full day out! See more activities like this in the 15 Best Things to Do in Whangarei with Kids.

Location: 500 State Highway 14, Maunu, approximately 6 km (4 mi) from Whangarei city centre.

NZPocketGuide.com© NZPocketGuide.com

17. Marvel at the Whimsical Artwork of the Hundertwasser Art Centre with Wairau Māori Art Gallery – CHEAP

Whangarei’s premier attraction just qualifies as being a cheap thing to do in the city! Immerse in the life, art and legacy of the Austrian artist, Friedensreich Hundertwasser, who spent half of his life in Northland with many architectural displays around the region. It all comes together at the Hundertwasser Art Centre with Wairau Māori Art Gallery with three exhibitions of whimsical and cultural art.

Location: 81 Dent Street, Town Basin.

20 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Whangarei© Northland Inc

18. Visit the Packard Motor Museum – CHEAP

Want another thing you can do in Whangarei for $20? Check out the unique collection of Packard cars, as well as other vintage vehicles at the Packard Motor Museum. There are all sorts of treasures to discover! The museum is open Tuesday to Saturday.

Location: Old Dairy Factory, 1146, State Highway 14, Maungatapere, approximately 12.5 km (8 mi) from Whangarei city centre.

GPS 56 on Wikipedia© GPS 56 on Wikipedia

19. Swim, Soak and Splash at the Whangarei Aquatic Centre – CHEAP

Whether your style is to keep fit, take the kids or have an indulgent soak, the Whangarei Aquatic Centre is here to serve! The indoor facility has more than seven pools including a spa pool with a soothing temperature of 38°C (100°F) and a super-fun wave pool. At around NZ$8 entry per adult and NZ$5 per child, this activity rightfully earns its place as a cheap thing to do in Whangarei!

Location: Ewing Road, Riverside.

18 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Whangarei© Pixabay

20. Try Out the Foodie Delights – CHEAP

Whangarei has many streets brimming with cafes, restaurants and dessert shops – Rathbone, Cameron, James, John, Bank Streets and Quality Street Mall to name a few! So, depending on how much you order, it could be a pretty cheap thing to do in Whangarei. For recommendations, head on over to The Food Guide to Whangarei: Places to Eat & Food Tours. We also have cheap eats listed in the The Travel Guide to Whangarei on a Budget.

Location: Bank Street, Whangarei city centre.

20 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Whangarei© David Kirkland - Northland Inc

More Things to Do in Whangarei

If you want to save more money, consider staying in one of the 5 Best Backpacker Hostels in Whangarei for some cheap accommodation. As for more insightful guides, check out the following:

That’s it for our list of cheap and free things to do in Whangarei. For more free stuff, check out the 50 Best Free Things to Do in New Zealand.


The information in this guide has been compiled from our extensive research, travel and experiences across New Zealand and the South Pacific, accumulated over more than a decade of numerous visits to each destination. Additional sources for this guide include the following:

Our editorial standards: At NZ Pocket Guide, we uphold strict editorial standards to ensure accurate and quality content.

About The Author

Laura S.

This article has been reviewed and published by Laura, the editor-in-chief and co-founder of NZ Pocket Guide. Laura is a first-class honours journalism graduate and a travel journalist with expertise in New Zealand and South Pacific tourism for over 10 years. She also runs travel guides for five of the top destinations in the South Pacific and is the co-host of over 250 episodes of the NZ Travel Show on YouTube.

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