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

Forget Auckland’s pricey reputation: there’s lots of low-cost fun to be had in the City of Sails.

Young man looks down from a mountain at the view of Auckland below.
  • Jetstar
  • November 2021

As a holiday destination, Auckland sure ticks a lot of boxes. On one hand, it’s got all the buzz and culture of a thriving metropolis. On the other, its outdoor thrills and spectacular scenery give it an irresistible natural paradise vibe. Best of all, this breezy harbourside city offers plenty of scope for the budget-conscious traveller. Here are five suggestions to get you started.

Get the inside story at Auckland Museum

Get a feel for New Zealand’s history and indigenous cultures at the Auckland Museum (Tāmaki Paenga Hira). Housed in a magnificent neo-classical building in the sprawling parklands of Auckland Domain, the museum is a fascinating place to spend a few hours. Its impressive collection of Māori artifacts (including an amazing traditional war canoe) is unmissable; so too are its moving War Memorial galleries. While you’re in the area, be sure to explore the Domain, Auckland’s oldest park. Dotted with sculptures and lovely walking trails, it occupies the site of an ancient volcano.

Exterior of Auckland Museum, a fine example of neoclassical architecture.
Make tracks to Auckland Museum for an insight into New Zealand’s Māori culture, military history and more.

Hike across the country from Coast to Coast

It's not often you get to walk from one side of a country to the other in a day, but the spectacular 16-kilometre Coast to Coast Walkway lets you do just that! From the sparkling waters of Waitemata Harbour, you’ll wind your way through Auckland Domain, past famous volcanic peaks including Maunga-whau (Mount Eden) and Maungakiekie (One Tree Hill). After taking in panoramic views of the city, harbour and beyond, follow ancient lava flows down to Manukau Harbour. From there, simply grab a bus back to the city. Allow five hours to complete the hike.

View of Auckland, New Zealand, seen from the top of Mount Eden.
You’ll want to stop along the way to admire the views from Mount Eden (that’s an ancient volcanic crater by the way).

Chow down at a farmers’ market

Eating out is one of the pleasures of travel, but it can also eat away at your budget. A great way to make your hard-earned last a bit longer is by heading to one of Auckland’s many weekend farmers’ markets. Fill up on gourmet snacks and multicultural treats, locally grown fresh produce and artisanal cheese, delicious bread and pastries, and more. From the Gallic goodness of super-popular La Cigale French Market to the sustainability-focused Grey Lynn Farmers’ Market, plus a range of fabulous options further afield, your tastebuds (and bank balance) will thank you!

The kind of French pastries you’ll find at La Cigale French Market, Auckland.
To fully enjoy La Cigale French Market, be prepared to forget about the diet

Be inspired at Auckland Art Gallery

The most impressive of the city’s many galleries is Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki. New Zealand largest art institution, it’s free to enter (and offers free guided tours twice daily). The building is a work of art in itself: melding historic and contemporary architecture with stunning results. Once you’re done strolling around the gallery’s airy rooms and balconies, admiring some of the collection’s 15,000 pieces, 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.

People look at paintings in Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki. Image courtesy of Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki
Don’t miss the wonderful Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki! Image courtesy of Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki

Swim, sunbathe and stroll around Waiheke Island

A 40-minute ferry trip from Auckland, Waiheke Island is a favourite getaway spot for locals. Located in the Hauraki Gulf, Waiheke is famous for its vineyards and beautiful white-sand beaches. Onetangi, a stunning sweep of sand stretching nearly two kilometres, is its largest and most popular beach. Prefer to lay your towel somewhere a little less crowded? Try the gorgeous, secluded Sandy Bay. Walking trails crisscross the island, taking you along cliff tops, through native forest, and – in the case of Stony Batter Historic Reserve – via old World War II gun emplacements and underground tunnels.

An idyllic beach on Waiheke Island, Auckland, New Zealand.
Waiheke Island is much loved by Auckland locals for its glorious white-sand beaches.