20 Fun Things To Do In Auckland For Under $20
Feeling the pinch? Save your pennies with our round-up of cheap and free things to do around Tamaki Makaurau
1. Indulge in an ice cream at Mission Bay
No trip to Mission Bay would be complete without a scoop or two of the good stuff. The seaside suburb is the perfect spot to soak up an uninterrupted view of Rangitoto with an icecream in hand — either at the beach itself or grassy Selwyn Reserve. You’ll be spoilt for choice with Ben & Jerry’s, Movenpick and New Zealand Natural all located along Tamaki Dr, plus KiwiYo for those who prefer frozen yoghurt. Prices vary, but you can nab a cone for under $8.
2. Down a plate of dumplings
When hunger strikes, skip that sad instant noodle dinner and head to one of Auckland’s many excellent dumpling joints. Dominion Rd is a great place to start, with eateries like Barilla, New Flavour and Spicy House offering plates of 20 dumplings for under $15. Add a cold can of something fizzy and you’ll be fed and watered with change to spare.
3. Wander through the Auckland Domain Wintergardens
What better place to stop and smell the flowers than Auckland’s historic Wintergardens? These Victorian-style glasshouses are home to an ever-changing display of both tropical and seasonal plants. Admission is free, so you can spend any spare change at the Wintergarden Café kiosk which offers gelato, coffee, pastries and more.
4. Take the family to a farmers market
For a wholesome (and more importantly delicious) excursion, consider checking out a farmers market near you. Peruse local produce, discover artisan makers and soak up the community spirit. You’ll often find live music and entertainment to enjoy, free of charge. Fair warning though, you may be in danger of breaking your budget once you're immersed in the sights and smells.
5. Chow down on fish and chips at the beach
It doesn’t get much better than posting up at the beach and unwrapping a parcel of fish and chips. Auckland has plenty of beaches to choose from, but FishSmith and Herne Bay is one combination we just can’t quit. You can grab the fish of the day with chips, slaw and sauce for just $16.50, or if you’re feeling fancy, try the fish tacos with chips or salad for $19. 200 Jervois Rd, Herne Bay
6. Spend an afternoon among art and history
Get cultured without spending a cent at two of Auckland’s most thought-provoking places — Auckland War Memorial Museum and Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki. From international exhibitions to acclaimed art, there’s something to spark curiosity. Auckland Museum is free to Auckland residents, while Auckland Art Gallery is free to all New Zealand residents. Simply bring along your ID with proof of address.
7. Get zen at the Fo Guang Shan temple
Tucked away in Flat Bush you’ll find Fo Guang Shan, the largest Buddhist temple in the country. Enjoy a peaceful stroll around the perfectly manicured gardens, then be sure to visit the incredible onsite Water Drop Vegetarian Café. We rate the barbecue wonton noodles, which will set you back just $12. Entry is free but donations are welcome, so contributing a few gold coins will be much appreciated. 16 Stancombe Rd, Flat Bush
8. Hire a standup paddleboard
Make like a celebrity on a tropical vacay and try your hand at stand up paddleboarding. Mission Bay Watersports offer half an hour hire for $20 — the perfect timeframe to get your feet wet and try SUPing for yourself. You’ll be good to go with a paddle, board and leash and a full safety briefing included. Mission Bay beach
9. Get happy at Coco's Cantina
Karangahape Rd favourite Coco's Cantina offers prime pavement-side tables to peruse Auckland's most colourful strip. Savvy diners eat there for less with the popular Happy Hour offering, which runs Monday-Sunday, from 4-6pm. You can combo up your Happy Hour pasta with an antipasti or pud for just $18 (or pair with a prosecco to make an even $20). Belissimo. 376 Karangahape Rd, City
10. Take a dip at Parnell Baths
Pop on your best retro-inspired swimsuit and pay the iconic candy-coloured recliners at Parnell Baths a visit. As New Zealand’s largest saltwater swimming pool, Parnell Baths has been a favourite for those looking for a sand-free dip since it opened its doors more than 100 years ago. Adult entry is just $6.70 and children under 16 swim free, plus you can bring a packed lunch, snacks and drink to keep your coins in check. 25 Judges Bay Rd, Parnell
11. Have a laugh
Keep your eyes peeled for Basement Theatre’s ever-popular Snort show, pegged to return to the stage this February for a special run as Snort Live. The improv show features an hour of fast-paced scenes with performances from some of New Zealand’s best comedians. Tickets are from $5 and include a free drink and snack. Lower Greys Ave, City
12. Take a hike
Getting fit for free? Sign us up. Explore the best Auckland has to offer by stretching your legs on one of the city’s many excellent walks. From inner-city ambles to bush-bashing treks, there’s something to suit any age and ability. Check out some of our favourites here.
13. Take an Onzo bike for a hoon
Fancy a peddle down the famous pink bike path? What about a lazy roll along the Westhaven promenade? Onzo bikes are the perfect way to explore the city’s cycleways, costing only $1 to hire for an hour. They also come with a helmet provided, so you can literally just hop on and go.
14. Dine out in Ponsonby
Trust us, you can score a meal and a drink on Ponsonby Rd for under $15, no sorcery needed. Freeman & Grey’s pizza offering is legendary, dishing out pizzas for just $5 between 12-2pm or 5pm-7.30pm, every day of the week. Pair that with one of their $10 wines or beers and you’re set for a thrifty meal on Auckland’s poshest strip. 43 Ponsonby Rd, Grey Lynn
15. Catch an outdoor movie
Grab a buddy, BYO blanket and snuggle in for a outdoor movie at Silo Park. From classics like Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone to new releases like the latest Lion King, there’s a film every Friday until the end of March to enjoy for free. If you prefer your movies indoors, Lorne St’s Academy Cinema offers special $5 tickets every Wednesday. Cnr Beaumont St and Jellicoe St, City
16. Marvel at Auckland's magnificent maunga
Unlike any other city in New Zealand (or indeed the world) Auckland is home to 48 maunga (dormant or extinct volcanoes). Discovering them is not only free, it’s also the perfect way to get a geographical sense of the city. For amazing views, Maungawhau (Mt Eden), Maungakiekie (One Tree Hill) and Te Pane o Mataoho (Mangere Mountain) are all excellent options.
17. Find farm animals
Craving a taste of country life? You don’t have to go far to make your barnyard dreams come true, with several parks throughout the Auckland region home to an array of farm animals. Our pick is Ambury Regional Park in Mangere Bridge, where you can see sheep, goats, pigs, cows and peacocks, to name a few. Entry is free, so pack a lunch and make a day of it, or make use of one of the onsite barbecues. 43 Ambury Rd, Mangere Bridge
18. Have a geeze at the gannet colony at Muriwai
Pause that Dave Attenborough doco and see a natural wonder in real life at Muriwai’s gannet colony. Just an hour out of Auckland you’ll find one of only three places where gannets nest on the mainland in New Zealand. The viewing platform makes it easy to see the birds swooping in and out. Pencil in your visit between March and August, when the gannets come to nest. 428 Motutara Rd, Waitakere
19. Pack a picnic
When the weather calls for an al fresco platter but the budget won’t stretch to a seat at your local bistro, a picnic is the perfect compromise. Grab whatever wine, cheese and crackers are on special at the supermarket and head to the park — Cornwall is one of our favourites.
20. Give a workshop a whirl
Keen to try Tai Chi? Want to know more about meditation? There are plenty of workshops going on every week in Auckland city, offering free instruction, information and entertainment. Try everything from tarot card readings to DIY car maintenance.