Outdoors on budget

Getting out and about doesn’t necessarily have to cost an arm and a leg. We reckon we’ve found some outstanding budget-friendly activities for you to do across New Zealand.

Check out this a varied list of 15 random-selected free outdoor things to do which we’ve put together. These free outings have organised geographically from north to south so, get out and explore the fun Aotearoa has on offer. Enjoy these wonderful activities without having to take your wallet from your pocket.

Things to do in North Island New Zealand:

1. Snorkelling at Goat Island – Leigh, North Auckland

Goat Island, specifically the Okakari Point Marine Reserve, offers excellent snorkelling opportunities and it’s free. Put on your mask and snorkel and dive on in. It’s a fantastic way to explore New Zealand’s coastal biodiversity and discover diverse marine life.

2. Walk the Coast to Coast Walk – Auckland

Coast to Coast Walk is scenic route takes you through parks and volcanic cones like Mt Eden and One Tree Hill and offers great views of Auckland city. You can begin in the city centre on the shores of the Waitemata Harbour and finish at Manukau Harbour. If you do the whole 16 km walk it takes about 5 hours, or you can just cover the major highlights between Auckland Domain and One Tree Hill. Visit Auckland City Council for more information and a map.

3. North Head Historic Reserve Trail – Auckland

Easily one of the best vantage points in Auckland, North Head offers unparalleled views of Auckland, its harbour, Rangitoto Island, and Hauraki Gulf. This historic site from World War II also has tunnels deep inside the volcanic cone to explore. North Head has an expanse of open spaces with gentle sloops and flat areas. Great for a picnic. Take a short ferry ride from downtown Auckland to Devonport and hike up to North Head Reserve.

4. Ambury Regional Park – Auckland

Located in Māngere Bridge, Ambury Regional Park is a working farm where you can mingle with sheep, cows, pigs, chickens, and rabbits. Enjoy a picnic by Manukau Harbour and stroll through the paddocks for an up-close encounter with farm animals.

5. Hamilton Gardens – Hamilton

Even if you have limited time, try to set aside at least two hours to explore the diverse range of themed gardens suitable for all ages. It will be worth it. However, you could easily spend the whole day here if you wanted to. In the 58-hectare space, there are 21 themed gardens to walk through. Each garden represents the art, beliefs and traditions of various civilisations throughout history. Young visitors can enjoy a discovery trail and a very cool destination playground.

6. Blue Springs – Putaruru, South Waikato

The Blue Springs is a freshwater wonderland with brilliantly clear waters. The free 4.7km (one way) Te Waihou Walkway trail is an easy wander, making it a must-visit natural attraction.

7. Hot Pools at Hot Water Beach – Coromandel

At low tide, you can dig your own free hot pool. Hot Water Beach boasts natural thermal springs beneath the sand. Indulge in a relaxing soak amidst the coastal beauty. A perfect way to enjoy the beach during winter.

8. Natural Hot Springs – Rotorua

Kerosene Creek is a 25-minute drive from Rotorua’s CBD, partway down a forestry road. Once you’re at the car park, take a short walk through the forest beside the hot water stream, and then you’ll come across the large pool. This natural hot water swimming hole is great for relieving those aches and pains or just relaxing after a busy day. It is one of the best free ways to relax and unwind in Rotorua.

9. Mount Victoria Lookout – Wellington

Accessible by car, foot, or bike, Mount Victoria offers panoramic 360-degree views of Wellington city, the harbour, and nearby hills. Enjoy the scenic beauty and alfresco dining while embracing the city’s famous winds.

Things to do in South Island New Zealand:

10. Hooker Valley Track – Aoraki Mount Cook National Park

The breathtaking Hooker Valley Track has well-developed tracks and stunning vistas. A 10km return walk, it showcases Mueller Lake, Mueller Glacier, Hooker Lake, and alpine tarns. Experience the suspension bridges and marvel at the beauty of icebergs on alpine lakes during winter.

11. Christchurch Botanic Gardens – Christchurch

Right in the city centre near Canterbury Museum, Christchurch Botanic Gardens are a beautiful place to while away an hour or two. Why not find a nice shady spot among the blooms and then dig into a delightful picnic hamper? From grassy open spaces surrounded by mature trees to native bush, ponds and playgrounds, there’s something for everyone. In spring you’re surrounded by fields of daffodils. In summer, tulips and rose blossoms abound could also hop on a punt tour of the Avon River for another point of view, but you would have to pay for that

12. Margaret Mahy Playground – Christchurch

As the largest playground in the southern hemisphere, Margaret Mahy Playground is a paradise for children and the young at heart. Featuring a four-meter-wide slide, double flying fox, and water play area, it promises endless fun for little ones.

13. Queenstown Hill Time Walk – Queenstown

A popular 1.5km walk, the Queenstown Hill Time Walk offers rewarding views of the town centre, Lake Wakatipu, and surrounding mountains. Reach the summit and take a well-earned rest by the Basket of Dreams sculpture. Don’t miss the short loop track for the best views, especially during sunrise.

14. Kelvin Heights – Queenstown

A short water taxi ride or a 15-minute drive from the town centre, the 90-minute stroll along the Kelvin Peninsula Trail has stunning views of Lake Wakatipu, the Remarkables, and Queenstown. Discover hidden beach coves and sculptures by New Zealand artists.

15. Take a Self-Guided Street Art Tour – Dunedin

Dunedin’s street art scene is vibrant and diverse. Grab a free map from the Visitor Centre and explore over 30 murals by local and international artists. Marvel at masterpieces like the Haast eagle by Chinese artist Dal East and enjoy the revamped Heritage Precinct.

We hope we’ve helped you to see that having a good time in New Zealand doesn’t always have to be super expensive. There’s so much to see and do for free. So, get out there and just do it!