Things To Do

50 Rad Free Things To Do In Auckland

By Alice Rich

The gannet colony at Muriwai.

Sometimes things get a little tight…the washing machine breaks down the same week as the car does, and then the dog gets sick. And, let’s face it, as much as we love the City of Sails, it’s bloody expensive to live here. But this doesn’t mean you need to be bored—with a little creativity and a whole lot of thriftiness, we’ve found the best free things to do in Tāmaki Makaurau. If you've some change in your pocket, check out 50 epic things to do in Auckland. And here's what's on in Auckland this week, month and beyond. You’re welcome.

  1. Get Drawing | Every Friday lunchtime the Auckland Art Gallery offers a free, hour-long drop-in drawing session. Ever popular and suitable for all levels it's best to turn up early to secure your spot. Artist and observational drawing tutor, Abbey Lyman, will be in-session to guide you through the process. BYO drawing materials at red and orange levels. (And if you do miss out, there’s never a dull moment in their creative learning centre.) 

  2. Binge Free Theatre | Sign up to be an usher at The Basement Theatre and see endless shows for free. Seriously. You’ll need to arrive early for a briefing, seat attendees and be prepared to help out in the case of a fire but otherwise, you can sit back and relax, enjoying a free bevvy from the bar when you’re done. 

  3. Muse Over Markets | If you’re anything like us, you love soaking up them market vibes and while you will have to fork over some dollars at some point, you’re likely to get some serious bang for your buck.

  4. Practice Meditation | Learn how to actually meditate, or deepen your practice with these free meditation classes offered all around Tāmaki Makaurau. 

  5. Deep Dive Into Naval Heritage | For more nautical history than you can shake a trident at, hop to the Torpedo Bay Navy Museum at the foot of North Head.

  6. Learn Te Reo Māori | Unitec offers Kura Pō night classes in te ao Māori (the Māori world), from beginner to full immersion. The classes are free for domestic students and take place at the Mt Albert and Waitākere campuses. Kōrero mai—give it a go!

  7. Take A Nature Walk | Lucky for us, there are many beautiful walks and hikes around Auckland, and they’re all free! We’ve found the best Auckland walks we think you should take at least once, some absolutely stunning walks on Waiheke and Auckland’s best waterfalls—the options are endless. Just take care to protect our kauri from kauri dieback diseasePeople walk by a stunning beach on Waiheke Island, just one of 50 amazing free things to do in Auckland.

  8. Conquer The Coast To Coast Walk | Can’t decide where to go? There’s a walk for that! The Coast To Coast trail is a 16km walk that goes from the city to Manukau Harbour via Auckland Domain, Mt Eden and Cornwall Park, allowing you to revel in some of Tāmaki Makaurau’s best. 

  9. Go Volcano-Hopping | Auckland is home to an impressive 53 volcanoes, and they all offer striking views of our wonderful city. Here’s our pick of the best volcanoes to get your pulse racing

  10. Picnic In The Park | We’ve really got the pick of the parks here in Tāmaki Makaurau. And there’s nothing we love more than park picnics so we’ve rounded up the best picnic spots in Auckland. Take a mat, some cheese, wine, family, friends and comments like, ‘we should really do this more often’. 

  11. Try Disc Golf | Frisbees and golf collide in this ridiculously fun game with official courses dotted all around Tāmaki Makaurau. While forking out for a frisbee isn’t free, Woodhill Forest offers very reasonable disc hire or you could take a wade in course ponds to lay claim to someone’s long-lost disc. The U-Disc app shows you where all the courses are and helps you keep score. A disc golf basket in the middle of a forest.

  12. Tour Auckland Museum | Tāmaki Makaurau’s iconic museum is brimming with interactive displays and events and entry is free (if you take along proof of address that you’re a local). From science to history, nature to special exhibitions, there’s plenty to keep you interested. 

  13. Explore The Wintergardens | Just beside the Museum are several greenhouses full of intriguing exotic plants—even some carnivorous pitchers—and a forested glen that feels fairy made. It’s a slice of magic in the middle of the city. And there are a bunch of other gorgeous gardens to explore too. 

  14. Take A Trip To The Beach| One of the best things about Tāmaki Makaurau is there are epic beaches every direction you drive in, and they all have something a little special to set them apart from the rest. We’ve put together an ultimate guide to Auckland’s Best Beaches to help you figure out where to head. 

  15. Dig In At An Urban Farm | Community gardens, or urban farms, are green spaces within a community-run to educate, grow their own vegetables and connect with like-minded people. Most offer open volunteer slots once a week too, so there are plenty of opportunities to muck in. We’ve rustled up some of the best in Auckland

  16. Pick Up The Scent At CurioNoir| Semi-hidden in plain sight on Ponsonby Road, CurioNoir, is home to hand-crafted candles and essential parfums for skin and space. While these distinctive products aren’t free, learning about the inspiration behind them is. Informative and spiritual, this is one of the best free experiences in Auckland. 

  17. Go Cycling | Who turns cycle paths into works of art? Auckland, of course. We boast a pink trail that lights up at night in the city, a rainbow path further west, and a host of other pathways with beautiful views.

  18. Get Up Close And Personal With Donkeys | Jump in the car and head to Highfield Garden Reserve & Donkey Sanctuary in Mahurangi. Bring apples, carrots, silver beet and a whole lot of pats. There’s even a working bee you can get involved with on Tuesdays. Looking for some furry friends closer to home? Head to Ambury Regional Park

  19. Go Bird Watching | Be at one with nature and head to Tawharanui’s Ecology Trail to be delighted by New Zealand’s native birds. If you’re feeling competitive, download a list of all the birds and challenge your friends to see who can spot them all first.

  20. Try Pet Sitting | If you yearn for a pet of your own but your wallet (and your landlord) won’t allow, then signing up for pet-sitting is a great option, and—bonus—you get to explore different neighbourhoods around Tāmaki Makaurau, too, without spending a cent. We love the TrustedHousesitters app. Two cute dogs look up at us expectantly

  21. Score A Free Workout | Gym memberships can be pretty expensive these days so save your coin and pump some steel at some of the best  free outdoor gyms in Auckland

  22. Up Your Language Skills | Mundo Lingo is a free ‘language social’ that takes place every Tuesday night at Brothers Brewery in Mt Eden from 6pm. Hang out, make friends and practice languages for free. 

  23. Trot Down Karangahape Road | Strolling up and down Karangahape Road you’ll meet vibrant people, come across quirky shops and get to enjoy some brilliant sculptures. Venture into St Kevin’s Arcade and pop down the stairs into Myers Park for a nature break. 

  24. Discover Muriwai Gannet Colony | Brave the wild winds at Muriwai and visit the gannet colony. It’s busy from August to March and, if you’re lucky, you’ll also find a seal or two. There’s also a blowhole shooting foam high in the air. 

  25. Get Amongst CreativeMornings| CreativeMornings is a global breakfast and lecture series for creatives that’s totally free! Talks happen every month featuring a different speaker. All events are currently online in solidarity with our overseas neighbours so you can beam in from the comfort of your own home. 

  26. Try Fire Spinning | Learn how to fire spin with the Auckland Fire and Flow on Sunday nights at Mission Bay or Wednesday nights in Victoria Park. Donations for community fuel are appreciated. 

  27. Join The World's Largest Treasure Hunt| It’s not a revival of Pokémon Go but it’s a surefire way of bringing out your inner adventurer. Hidden around the world are secret bits and pieces known as ‘geocaches’ and Tāmaki Makaurau is no exception. The free version of the geocaching app gets you access to beginner-style caches so give it a download and put your treasure-hunting skills to the test.

  28. Take On Mt Victoria | Climb to the top of Mount Victoria and drink in some sweet views while perching on a toadstool, then head to the nearby bunker for some folk music. Some gigs are free entry, others cost $5-8 on average. There’s always free tea, coffee and, most importantly, free milo. 

  29. Read Up At Auckland Libraries | With 55 permanent libraries and four mobile libraries from Wellsford to Waiheke to Waiuku, a visit to BookLand is always a great way to spend an afternoon. Get lost in books, magazines, DVDs, videos, books and audiobooks to your heart’s content. There’s also free events and talks. 

  30. Feel Some Live Music | While your Spotify may be overflowing with a cracking collection of music, nothing beats the sweet, sweet sound of live music. On any given night of the week, bands take to the stage of some of Auckland’s best live music venues and bless our ears with their musical prowess. 

  31. Expand Your Mind Stargazing | If you’re too late for sunset, you can always wish upon a star instead. Here’s our pick of the best places to stargaze in AucklandA deep blue night sky with stars and purple moments.

  32. Check Out Stanley Bay Wharf | Stanley Bay Wharf is where the local kids of Devonport spend their summer days. The wharf is heated by the hot sun which makes it a perfect tanning spot and when you need to cool down, take a leap of faith into the water. 

  33. Explore Arataki Visitors Centre | Head out west to marvel at views of the Waitakere ranges (be sure to pose for a photo in the golden frame), reveal creepy crawlies at the Arataki Visitors Centre and spot Ricky Baker’s jumper and other mementoes from Hunt for the Wilderpeople. It’s a movie-loving nature buff’s dream—(also see point 46).

  34. Trek To Goat Island | One of Tāmaki Makaurau’s treasures is Goat Island. New Zealand’s first marine reserve, you can pop flippers and snorkel on and go for a swim. Here you’ll find snapper—including two sixty-year-old residents—and other marine life to enjoy.

  35. Explore The North Head Tunnels | For the intrepid among us, grab your torch and head to North Head to check out the tunnels. Download the guide for your walk and discover a part of our military history. 

  36. Stroll Around Silo Park and Wynyard Quarter | Silo Park’s six silos were once used as giant containers to store cement but now Silo 6 is an art and exhibition space, and Silo 7 comes alive at night with free outdoor movies throughout summer. Just along the road Wynyard Quarter is always a-buzz. Whisper sweet silly nothings to each other in the talking funnels and watch the yachts come and go. 

  37. Scenic Drive To Manukau Heads Lighthouse | Take a drive along the stunning Awhitu Peninsula and climb the 120 stairs of the iconic Manukau Heads Lighthouse. If you’re lucky enough, you’ll be able to spot one of the world’s rarest mammals—the Maui dolphin—as it finds refuge in the ocean. Love a roadie? Discover these epic scenic drives around Auckland.

  38. Sort Your Life Out At Citizens Advice Bureau | If you’re in need of any sort of advice, your local CAB could very well help you out. They can point you in the right direction for free legal advice, support if you’re struggling with abuse, employment and tenancy rights, money matters and even how to start a small business. 

  39. Hike To Bastion Point | Soaking in Auckland’s history is Bastion Point. Drive to the top and drink in the views of Waitemata Harbour and the city. Get involved with The Orakei Marae’s ecological restoration project and learn all about our native flora and fauna.

  40. Hunt Down Some Public Art | There are more than 400 public artworks in the Auckland Council Art Collection. Luckily the good folks in the Public Art department have put together this guide so you can hunt down Tāmaki Makaurau’s best public artworks and revel in each piece’s unique story

    Two small bronze sculptures on Karangahape Road of a girl holding hands with an elephant.

  41. Go Over To The Dark Side | If you’ve ever struggled to find a buddy to come with you to the latest horror flick, NZ Horror Fans is for you. Joining the meet up is free but you’ll need to pay for the actual events which range from movie screenings to escape rooms and quiz nights. It's sure to be a total scream. 

  42. Up Your Knowledge At Ōtuataua Stonefields | Classed as the number one most significant historical site in New Zealand, the 100 hectares of volcanic stonefields hold huge importance for mana whenua. The land was confiscated from local Māori back in 1863, violating the Treaty of Waitangi, and has been a site of contention ever since. 

  43. Just Plane Interesting | Get lost in the strange, obscure world of antique and collectable store, Just Plane Interesting, in Henderson. There’re actually two stores—one’s on the main road, and one’s down the opposite driveway—be sure to visit both. 

  44. Go Fishing | Aucklanders don’t need a boat to catch some fresh fish. Take a chair to one of these 12 awesome fishing spots, sit back and catch your own Fish Of The Day. Just be sure to only take the big ones home and stick to your quota—we want there to be fish for everyone.

  45. Watch The Sunset | Sunsets will never stop being beautiful and Tāmaki Makaurau has some of the best spots to watch it from. Grab a blanket and a loved one and settle in for one of Mother Nature’s most stunning shows. 

  46. Take A Movie Tour | Some say New Zealand was put on the map by the Lord Of The Rings films but that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to films that our lands have brought to life. Take a self-guided tour of these epic movie locations you had no idea were in Auckland

  47. Go Skateboarding | Brush the dust off your skateboard and pop an ollie at one of Auckland’s best skate parks

  48. Seek Out Lush | Ok, so Lush isn’t unique to Tāmaki Makaurau, it isn’t even unique to New Zealand but the team is and we absolutely love them. This group of humans are always down to chat about the merits of the different moisturisers, help us navigate the impressive but overwhelming collection of bath bombs, and hook us up with testers. 

  49. Get Involved With Conservation Work | If you aspired to join The Planeteers as a child, you’ll be delighted to know you actually can. These organisations won’t give you an elemental ring, but with your forces combined, you’ll do some seriously important mahi to help save our beautiful planet earth.

  50. Dine Like A King At Everybody Eats | While Everybody Eats isn’t technically free, it’s pay-as-you-feel so you can eat even if your bank account’s running a little low. Better yet, pay it forward and invite a homeless person to join you. A feed and a new friend? Winning.

Got a little cash to splash? Check out 50 of the best things to do in Auckland.

Image credit: Gannet Colony by Thomas Necklen, A Waiheke beach by Walk Waiheke, Disc Golf Basket by Ted Johnsson, Dogs by Jay Wennington, Stars by Andy Holmes, Street Art by Public Art Auckland.

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