The best of Auckland on a budget: top 5 things to do

Top 5 things to do in Auckland while keeping an eye on the budget.

View of Hekerua Bay on Waiheke Island
  • Jetstar
  • November 2017

Auckland has the best of all possible worlds: the cultural buzz of a thriving metropolis, plus the outdoor thrills and spectacular scenery of a natural paradise. There’s plenty on offer for budget-conscious city-breakers. Here are our top 5 things to do in Auckland while keeping an eye on the bottom line.

Beach-hop on Waiheke Island

Waiheke Island in the Hauraki Gulf has long been a favourite getaway spot for locals. Located just 35 minutes by ferry from Auckland, the island is famous for its seafood, wine and beautiful white-sand beaches. Onetangi, a stunning sweep of sand stretching nearly two kilometres, is Waiheke’s largest beach. It’s a perfect spot for swimming – except for one particular day in February when the community comes together for the Onetangi Beach Races. Join in the fun and enter the wheelbarrow race, or just watch and place your bets at the on-site tote.

If you’re looking for a more peaceful spot, spread out a picnic rug under the crimson-flowered pohutukawa trees that line the beach at Cactus Bay. Once the sun sets, take a stroll along the beach at Oneroa Bay to admire the mast lights of moored yachts bobbing on the swell.

Location: Waiheke Island

Our favourite link: Onetangi Beach races opens in new window

Birdwatch at Tawharanui

Escape the city and head to Auckland’s Tawharanui Open Sanctuary Society (TOSSI). Here, over 500 hectares of regenerated bushland, coastal wetlands and sand dunes blanket the lush lands. Just an hour drive north of the city centre, the sanctuary is home to thriving colonies of birdlife including kiwis, patekes, bellbirds, whiteheads and robins, as well as spotted doves, black shags and the paradise shelduck. Download a Birds of Tawharanui checklist and see how many species you can spot.

When you’re done with the birds, explore the peninsula’s walking tracks and beaches. If you’re feeling adventurous, pack a tent and spend a night under the stars at the park’s campground.

Location: 1181 Takutu Road, Tāwharanui

Our favourite link: Birds of Tawharanui checklist opens in new window

Hike along the Coast Walkway

Too much hokey pokey icecream? Walk it off on the spectacular 16-kilometre Coast to Coast Walkway, part of a continuous 3000-kilometre walking track known as Te Araroa, or the ‘Long Pathway’. From the sparkling waters of Viaduct Harbour, the walk winds its way through Auckland Domain, past five of Auckland’s most famous volcanic sites, including Maunga-whau (Mount Eden) and Maungakiekie (One Tree Hill). Both peaks offer bird’s-eye views of the city and its surrounding hills, a fertile area once known by Maori as Tamaki Makaurau, or ‘the spouse desired by a hundred lovers’. Allow five hours to complete the trip. Pack a map of the trail and water, although there are plenty of places to stop for food and drink along the way. At the end, jump on the train back to the city.

Location: Princes Wharf, Viaduct Harbour

Our favourite link: Coast to Coast Walkway opens in new window

Explore Auckland Domain

There’s plenty to discover at Auckland Domain, 75 hectares of sprawling parkland located on the site of an ancient volcano. Wander around the fernery and beautiful Victorian-era glasshouses in the historic Wintergardens, dodging the couples using it as a backdrop for their wedding photos. The tropical hothouse, heated to a steamy 28 degrees year-round, is a balmy place to visit in the colder months. Admire the nearby Auckland War Memorial Museum Tamaki Paenga Hira, an impressive neoclassical building that houses precious Maori and Pacific Island artefacts among its collection. Wander along the tree-lined Lovers Lane before looping back for a picnic lunch by the Duck Pond.

Location: Park Rd, Grafton

Our favourite link: Auckland Domain opens in new window

Check out local creations at Auckland Art Gallery

The most impressive of the city’s many galleries is Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki, New Zealand’s largest art institution, definitely worthy of an afternoon’s exploration, and free to enter. Looking over Albert Park, the gallery underwent a $120 million upgrade in 2011, transforming the beloved historic building into a stunning work of contemporary architecture. This also earned it the prize for World Building of the Year in 2013. Once you’re done strolling around the gallery’s airy rooms and balconies, admiring some of the collection’s 15,000 artworks, don’t forget to look up on your way out. Here you’ll see a vaulted kauri timber roof, built by local craftsmen, one of the award-winning building’s most spectacular features.

Location: Wellesley Street, Auckland

Our favourite link: Auckland Art Gallery—What’s on opens in new window