Though a trip to Auckland can easily be part of a stopover, there are multiple cheap flights to New Zealand arriving in Auckland daily. For a small taste of the kiwi experience, here is a budget guide and itinerary to Auckland that includes day trips to Waiheke Island and the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park.
In this budget guide to Auckland, we’ll cover what you need to know before you go, tell you about the best free things to do in Auckland and outline our ideal three-day itinerary.
What to know about Auckland before you go
When is the best time to visit Auckland?
Auckland is great all-year-round, though the best time to visit is any time from May to September. December through February are the hottest months and typically the most crowded.
What do I need to pack for a trip to Auckland?
Weather in the Auckland region can change drastically over the course of a few days. Bring a mix of warm and cool weather clothing to layer, especially if you’re visiting in Spring or Autumn. Pack a day bag, comfortable walking shoes, a hat and sunscreen for this itinerary.
What are some money saving tips for Auckland?
Use public transportation if traveling solo, and rent a car if traveling with companions to cut down on transport costs. Dining out can be expensive, even at fast-food venues, so prepare a simple meal at your accommodation whenever possible.
Why visit Auckland?
Though Auckland doesn’t come to mind as a top budget travel destination in New Zealand, the city offers incredible value. Adventure travellers will love its beaches, walks and adrenaline-inducing activities. Visitors with a penchant for art and culture will love its museums, live performances, Maori exhibitions and thriving music scene. If you live to eat, then you’ll find plenty of tasty food at all price points throughout Auckland.
The best free things to do in Auckland
Visit the Manukau Heads Lighthouse, a restored lighthouse that has been saving ships for 140 years. Manukau Heads Lighthouse is also one of the only places where people consistently see the rare Maui dolphin.
Watch a free outdoor movie at Silo Cinema every Friday during summer. Flicks tend to be family friendly and you can buy cheap eats at the Silo Park night market. There are also plenty of venues that play free live music throughout Auckland all year long.
Stroll around the public parks and trails. Make like Frodo and go on your own quest around Auckland’s parks and trails. Top trail-heavy sites include the volcano of Mount Eden, Cornwall Park, Parry Kauri Park, The Domain, coastal walks, the Parnell Rose Gardens, the Tawharanui bird sanctuary and more. You’ll quickly see why open spaces make for some of the best Auckland attractions.
Auckland is called the City of Sails because of the yacht-studded Auckland Harbour. Daydreamers will love people watching and enjoy seeing the sailboats cruise by.
Auckland budget travel guide overview
Note that this budget does not include your flight to Auckland. You can easily find cheap flights to New Zealand using the Skyscanner Australia search function. Prices are in AUD.
Auckland Accommodation: 3 nights in a dorm room at $25 per night. ($75)
Transport: Bus fare is around $25 for three days, car hire to Waitakere Ranges Regional Park is $40, ferry to Waiheke Island is $22. ($87)
Food and drink: Budget around $40 per day if dining out for every meal. If you’re up for cooking some meals in your hostel, expect to pay around $25 per day. (average $100)
Activities: Walking tour donation $15 and Stardome Observatory and Planetarium $15. ($30)
Auckland in three days: A budget itinerary
Where to stay in Auckland: Haka Lodge Auckland. In the heart of Auckland’s BCD, Haka Lodge has free WiFi, a shared kitchen, lounge area and is walking distance from major attractions and bus stops.
Day 1: Explore Auckland
Morning activity: Sightsee in Auckland during an Auckland Free Walking Tour
Meet at Queens Wharf Village at 10 a.m. to depart on the Auckland Free Walking Tour that will take you around Auckland’s main points of interest including the Britomart Transport Centre, through the neighbourhood hosting the Auckland Art Gallery, Albert Park, University of Auckland, the Te Wero Bridge. The free walking tour ends at at Silo Park.
Though the tour is technically free, operational costs are funded by donations. We suggest donating around $10-20 per person. ($15)
Afternoon activity: Visit Auckland’s North Shore
The main beach of north shore is beloved by all who live and visit Auckland. Stroll along the sand, go for a swim, surf, or throw down a towel to sunbathe. Adventure travellers will also love surfing, kitesurfing, kayaking and body boarding.
Transport to North Shore: $10 return by bus.
Evening activity: Watch the sky turn from blue to pink to black over the ocean before heading back for the night. There are plenty of bars and restaurants in the area to choose from.
Day 2: Day trip to Waiheke Island
Waiheke Island has something for every type of traveler. Explore Wikheke’s wineries, art galleries, walking trails and historical sites. You can easily spend the entire day on Waiheke Island without getting bored.
The island has an accessible public transport system for navigating around Waiheke Island, or consider renting a bike.
Morning activity: Purchase a Waiheke Island round-trip ferry ticket for $22. Catch the Ferry to Waiheke Island. The ferry ride lasts around forty minutes and you’re likely to see marine wildlife along the way.
Once at the island, take the public bus and hop off at whatever beach your driver recommends – there are over 90 beaches on this small island! Visitor favorites are Onetangi Beach, Sandy Bay, Palm Beach and Garden Cove. (~$10 for bus fares.)
Afternoon activity: Stroll around the local art galleries near Oneroa Beach or visit a local winery. Locals love the Man O’ War winery, which calls for a half-hour hike along a dirt path to get to. Passage Rock and Te Whau Vineyard are crowd pleasers as well. After your adventure on Waiheke Island, catch the ferry back to Auckland.
Optional extra activities: Cultural tour, hiking, ziplining, horseback riding and wine tasting.
Evening activity: Dinner D.I.Y. at one of Auckland’s night markets. Almost every night of the week you can find a night market in the city serving delicious fare at reasonable prices.
Our favourite night markets tend to take place in Silo Park, though there is one on every night of the week throughout Auckland.
Day 3: Day trip to Waitakere Ranges Regional Park
The Waitakere Ranges, a subtropical rainforest, offers trails that weave through roaring waterfalls, unique beaches and through the habitats of native wildlife. You cans stretch your lets across 250 kilometers of hiking trails, so pack comfortable shoes, a day pack and water.
Getting to Waitakere Ranges: Rent a car for ~$40 per day.
Morning activity: Retrieve your hired car and drive approximately forty minutes to the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park. Stop at the Arataki Visitor Center to grab a map and find out more information about the park. Pack a picnic, snacks, water and sunscreen.
It’s possible to spend the entire day here doing whatever suits you. If you’re lost for ideas, these are some of the best things to do in the Waitakere Ranges.
Enjoy the black sand beaches. Piha, Bethells, Whatipu, Karekare and Muriwai are all rugged and provide a wild atmosphere.
Pay homage to the parks waterfall’s. Kitekite, Fairy and Karekare Falls are sure to impress. If you’re brave, try canyoning down the park’s waterfalls!
Channel your inner bird nerd at Muriwai and witness thousands of gannets in their natural habitat, with nests perched atop a nearby clifftop.
Evening activity: Walk to the top of One Tree Hill in Auckland for incredible nighttime skyline views of the city. One Tree Hill is a 157-meter high volcanic peak that is home to the Stardome Observatory and Planetarium. Here, you can learn about what exists beyond our atmosphere and look through telescopes at the stars. Entry is $15 per adult.
Note that hotels, car rental and activity prices change often and without warning and may not always reflect the prices listed in this guide.