Explore Hastings on a Budget
In the heart of the sunny Hawke’s Bay region of the North Island, Hastings is definitely one for the itinerary! While its neighbouring city, Napier, gets all the attention, Hastings is actually the most-inhabited city and you’ll definitely find a lot more cheap and free things to do in Hastings than in Napier! So if you’re travelling in Hawke’s Bay on a budget, definitely consider making Hastings your base! It’s the closest city to the main Hawke’s Bay natural attractions, like Te Mata Peak and Cape Kidnappers, while having a few priceless surprises that you’ll be glad to discover.
To keep the costs down further in Hastings, consider staying in one of the 8 Best Backpacker Hostels in Napier and Hastings or other accommodations listed in our Accommodation Guide to Hastings. Plus, add to your itinerary with our 8 Awesome Things to Do in Hastings.
1. Get on Top of Te Mata Peak
This is one you simply cannot miss in Hastings! Either drive up Te Mata Peak or take one of the five walking tracks through the bush onto the open hilltop. From here, you’ll get sensational views of the Tuki Tuki River Valley, the coast and the Kaweka Ranges. The most photogenic times to visit are sunset and sunrise (6am and 8pm daylight saving time).
Location: 12km southeast of Hastings via Te Mata Peak Road.
2. Visit Havelock North Village
The attractive village of Havelock North is only a 5-minute drive from Hastings! The green-filled streets are packed with boutiques shops, cafes and restaurants. Havelock North also hosts some spectacular markets, like the Growers’ Market at the Black Barn Vineyard every Saturday in summer, and the craft market in the centre of the village every first Saturday of the month.
Location: 5km east of Hastings down Havelock Road.
3. Check Out the Hawke’s Bay Farmers’ Market
Regarded as one of the best farmers’ markets in New Zealand, the Hawke’s Bay Farmers’ Market is a must-do! What’s more, it’s a cheap activity with lots of free tastings, live entertainment and lots of local goods to browse. It’s definitely a place you can afford to treat yourself here and there. Check it out every Sunday 8.30am to 12.30pm.
Location: Hastings Showgrounds.
4. Cycle the Hawke’s Bay Cycle Trails
Of course, this is only a free activity if you have your own bike, but for those of you that do, you’ve hit jackpot with the wealth of cycle trails in the Hawke’s Bay region! See parts of the Hastings district that you would never get to experience by car, whether it’s to check out some of the most stunning scenery in the area, or to hop from winery to winery. Get a full guide to cycling in Hawke’s Bay and Hastings in our Mountain Biking in Hawke’s Bay.
Location: All around Hastings. Pick up a cycle map from the local information centres.
5. Go On a Self-guided Spanish Mission & Art Deco Tour
That’s right, Napier might be taking the limelight when it comes to Art Deco architecture, but did you know that Hastings actually has more of these buildings in its city centre? Pick up a self-guided walks brochure from the Hastings information centre and follow the trail to some of the Art Deco, Spanish Mission and Stripped Classical architecture around the city.
Location: Hastings city centre.
6. Go to the Hastings City Night Market
If you can’t make it to one of the other markets we’ve mentioned already, then don’t worry! Hastings is full of them, including the Hastings City Night Market. Held every Thursday between 5pm and 9pm, the vibrant night market is alive with musicians and street performers among rows and rows of fresh produce stalls, artisan stalls, art stalls and amazing ethnic street food.
Location: 100 Heretaunga Street West.
7. See Maraetotara Falls
Who doesn’t love a good waterfall? If you haven’t seen enough waterfalls in New Zealand, then make sure you head to Maraetotara Falls on the beautiful Maraetotara Falls bush walk. The short walk takes you through native forest to a cascading waterfall, or follow the walk downstream to see the old Havelock North Power Station, which was taken out by a lightening surge in 1941.
Location: 21km southeast of Hastings. Maraetotara Road.
8. Do Some Wine Tasting
The great thing about Hastings and the Hawke’s Bay region is that there are over 70 wineries! Wine tasting need only by the price of a glass of wine, and many of the cellar doors in the area will do some complimentary wine tastings. Te Awanga, just east of Havelock North, holds a great little cluster of wineries. To the west of Hastings are the Bridge Pa Triangle and Gimblett Gravels wine districts. So take your pick and sample a wide selection of wines, from Chardonnay to full-bodied reds.
Location: Bridge Pa is 9km from Hastings, Gimblett Gravel is 10km from Hastings, and Te Awanga is 16km from Hastings.
9. Walk and Birdwatch at the Peka Peka Wetlands
Believed to be one of the oldest wetlands in New Zealand, formed around 9600BC, the Peka Peka Wetlands are part of an ancient peat swamp and providing vital habitat for an array of native bird and plant life. Use the network of boardwalks and pathways to explore the wetlands, looking out for unusual wildlife along the way. Information panels also give a lot of insight into the local Maori history of the area.
Location: 16km south of Hastings. State Highway 2.
10. Stroll Around Frimley Park
Hastings has a number of parks to enjoy, whether you want to go somewhere pretty for a stroll, find somewhere outside to hang out, or somewhere to get some exercise. Frimley Park is an excellent choice with its interesting English style with its collection of over 5,500 roses.
Location: Frimley Park, Frimley.
11. Check Out Cornwall Park
Speaking of parks, another one to spend some time in is Cornwall Park! Cornwall Park is the oldest park in Hastings, gifted in 1901, and a special feature of the garden is the Osmanthus Garden named from the Osmanthus family of plants. You’ll find strong-scented shrubs planted throughout the garden.
Location: Cornwall Park, Roberts Street.
12. Hop On the Keirunga Park Railway
Whether you’re travelling with kids or just a plain old train enthusiast, don’t miss the Keirunga Park Railway! Jump on board the miniature carriages pulled by a miniature steam locomotive and travel the hillsides of the Keirunga Gardens in Havelock North. Rides are only around NZ$2 per person, so this activity definitely earns its place on this list of free and cheap things to do in Hastings!
Location: 7km southeast of Hastings. Keirunga Gardens, Havelock North.
13. Taste Honey and Learn About the Honeybee at the Arataki Honey Visitor Centre
If you have shopped in any New Zealand supermarket, then no doubt you will have seen Arataki Honey on the shelves! The Arataki Honey Visitor Centre is a great way to learn about the largest beekeeping operation in the Southern Hemisphere, with interactive displays suitable for both children and adults. See hives on display, watch a Bee Movie, and taste a wide selection of Arataki Honeys. What’s more, the Visitor Centre is free.
Location: 8km southeast of Hastings. Arataki Road near Havelock North.
14. Pet the Animals at the Hawke’s Bay Farmyard Zoo
Hawke’s Bay is packed with activities for kids, and a highlight that’s kind on the wallet too is the Hawke’s Bay Farmyard Zoo. Say hi to a huge selection of farm animals, feed the animals and even take the kids on a pony ride. There are playground and barbecue areas to relax after all the excitement.
Location: 13km east of Hastings. East Road, Haumoana.
15. Visit the Hastings City Art Gallery
To get your dose of art and culture, visit the Hastings City Art Gallery in Hastings city centre. The free-entry art gallery has ever-changing exhibitions from both local and international artists.
Location: Nelson Street.
16. See the Nga Pou O Heretaunga
A public open-air art piece you can’t miss is the Nga Pou O Heretaunga! Wander among 18 Maori carvings, each representing an ancestor from the local area. Each ancestor is facing its marae (Maori meeting ground), while the whole piece is positioned to form the constellation of Matariki (Matariki is a star constellation that represents the Maori New Year).
Location: Civic Square.
17. Watch a Movie at the Focal Point Cinema
Probably the best-looking cinema building in New Zealand, the Focal Point Cinema shows mainstream movies in a boutique cinema setting. Choose something yummy from their cinema cafe and sit down to a movie for a cheap thing to do in Hastings. Cinema tickets are around NZ$13 per adult.
Location: 126 Heretaunga Street East.
18. Take a Trip to Napier
When you’ve done all the cheap and free things to do in Hastings, it’s time to hit Napier just a 20-minute drive north. There are even bus services running between the two cities to keep the costs to a minimum. Once you’re in Napier, check out a whole host of free things to do there in our list of 11 Free or Cheap Things to Do in Napier.
Location: 21km north of Hastings via State Highway 2.
19. See the Gannets at Cape Kidnappers
[Update: This walk is currently closed – look for track updates on the Department of Conservation website].
While seeing the world’s largest mainland gannet colony is a breathtaking experience, a trip to Cape Kidnappers is about more than just the birds. The walk to Cape Kidnappers along the beach reveals mighty geological giants in vertical cliffs filled with fossils, fault lines and gullies. All of which have been formed between 300,000 and 4.5 million years ago! At the end of Cape Kidnappers, you’ll encounter the majestic gannets. The best time to see the gannets is between early October and late April. The walk takes 5-6 hours return and can only be done at low tide.
Location: 19km east of Hastings. Take State Highway 2 then turn onto Mill Road just after Clive. Continue toward Clifton where the walk starts along the beach.