The Budget Guide to Auckland
New Zealand’s largest city, sprawling 4,894 km² (1890 square miles), Auckland is its own unique destination in the North Island. A melting pot of cultures resides here, which is evident in the array of foodie experiences, while cultural attractions like museums and art galleries allow you to connect more with the earliest voyagers and settlers to this harbour city. Admittedly, Auckland is not the cheapest city to visit in New Zealand, considering most attractions have an admission fee, but we’ll guide you through some of the best-value experiences, accommodations and some of the limited free things to do in this guide to Auckland on a budget.
Tips for Visiting Auckland on a Budget
- Don’t have your own transport? Make use of the cheap city buses that run regularly around the city. Find out more in Public Transport in Auckland.
- The widest array of budget accommodation you’ll find in Auckland are budget hotels and apartments. However, don’t pass up on the hostels, as they offer private room options too, which often work out to be much cheaper than a hotel.
- Save money by cooking your own meals in self-catering accommodation.
- Auckland has a ton of free events, especially in the summer months. Check out events like the Silo Cinema in Silo Park for free movie viewings on Fridays or Saturdays.
- The high season in Auckland is between November and March, so book your accommodation and activities early for this time to avoid disappointment (and having to pay more of an alternative).
For more general tips for saving money when travelling, take a look at 11 Ways to Save Money When Backpacking in New Zealand.
Free Activities in Auckland
A sure-fire way to stick to a low budget when visiting Auckland is by filling in some time with the free activities. One of the most common types of free activities you’ll find in Auckland, and anywhere in New Zealand for that matter, is going for a walk. A good walk for exploring the city centre and suburbs is the Coast to Coast Walk. The 16km (10-mile) mission runs from Auckland’s Viaduct Harbour all the way to Onehunga, taking in top free sights like Mt Eden and One Tree Hill.
Auckland is a coastal city with some superb beaches to relax on. One of the most popular beaches near the city centre is Mission Bay, backed by all sorts of eateries. If you have your own transport, you can make a day trip out of visiting the beaches of the Auckland region, such as Piha Beach, Karekare or the Goat Island Marine Reserve. Dive into some of the best beaches you can visit with Where to Find Black Sand Beaches in Auckland and the 5 Best Beaches for Snorkelling in Auckland.
More free attractions to enjoy in Auckland are its regional parks. There are around 20 different regional parks to explore, each with their own charms and sights. For instance, the Hunua Ranges in south Auckland hides a majestic waterfall, while the Waitakere Ranges boasts 17,000 hectares (42,008 acres) of unspoilt wilderness. Pack up the car, tie up your hiking shoes and discover that there’s more to Auckland than the bustling city centre. Check out your options in the 20 Auckland Parks You Can’t Miss.
And that’s not all the free activities there is to enjoy in Auckland. Be sure to check out our 17 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Auckland for some ideas closer to the city centre.
Cheap Activities in Auckland
Admittedly, Auckland’s museums, art galleries and other city attractions are not as “cheap” as what you will find elsewhere in New Zealand. Nevertheless, we’ve picked out some of the most affordable to add to the bucket list.
First, get some of the best city skyline and harbour views from the suburb of Devonport. It’s one of the most affordable destinations to get to on an Auckland ferry, costing around NZ$15 return per adult. The suburb has a quaint town centre where you can pick up some Kiwi fish and chips, enjoy a short walk up Mt Victoria for the views, and explore the old gun encampment tunnels of North Head. Ferries depart from the Downtown Ferry Terminal.
Auckland has a few fantastic museums, but the best-value option is the New Zealand Maritime Museum, costing around NZ$20 entry per adult. The museum tells the story of early migration of the Maori and Europeans across the southern Pacific Ocean to New Zealand. There’s also the option to upgrade to sailing tour of the harbour in a heritage vessel for only around NZ$50 per adult – one of the cheapest cruises in Auckland!
For more affordable attractions, check out the 17 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Auckland.
Auckland Cheap Eats
For those wanting to experience some of the tastes of Auckland, there are plenty of options for cheap eats! A favourite of ours is No.1 Pancake (corner Lorne Street and Wellesley Street) which serves some mean Korean-style pancakes, both sweet and savoury. Best Ugly Bagel (90 Wellesley Street West) is where you can get an affordable bagel fix, while Chinoiserie (4 Owairaka Avenue) does affordable Chinese food.
For something a little heartier, Coreano (130 Ponsonby Road) is famous for its cheap kimchi fries topped with pulled pork, cheese, sour cream, onion and more. Get a full Indian meal including dessert at Mukunda’s (268 Karangahape Road) or stick with a simple gourmet burger at Better Burger (31 Galway Street).
For more recommendations, head over to Cheap Eats in Auckland.