Auckland is the largest and most populous city in the country (it is not the capital, though!). As a tourist destination, it’s not one of New Zealand’s best places. I found the city to be a bit ugly, sprawling, and sort of bland. There’s some fun activities, food, and nightlife in Auckland so I wouldn’t write the city off completely, but I also wouldn’t spend a lot of time here as there are more exciting and more beautiful places in the country. This guide will help you get a feel for the city so you can decide if it’s for you.
Hostel prices – Dorm rooms start around 22 NZD per night. Private double rooms range from 60-90 NZD per night. Free WiFi is available in a handful of hostels, while self-catering facilities are available at most. My favorite hostels in the city are Base and Nomads. Outside the city center, is Fat Cats, a farm/homestay hostel with workshops, organic food, and volunteer opportunities. If you have a tent, there are a few campgrounds just outside the city and cost around 20 NZD per night for a single (without electricity).
Budget hotel prices – You can find budget hotels for around 100 NZD per night. While WiFi is generally included, very few budget hotels include free breakfast. If you go outside the city center, you can find rooms as cheap as 65 NZD per night. Airbnb is available in the city, with shared accommodation starting around 26 NZD per night and entire apartments costing 70 NZD per night.
Average cost of food – Budget meals such as sandwiches or pizza will cost between 8-17 NZD. Many Chinese, Japanese, and Korean restaurants will have food for as little as 10 NZD. Fast food (think McDonald’s) will cost at least 8 NZD. A meal at a nice restaurant with table service will cost around 45 NZD. For a beer at a bar, expect to pay around 8 NZD. If you plan on cooking for yourself, a week’s worth of groceries will cost between 65-80 NZD depending on your diet.
Transportation costs – Bus fares range from 1.80 NZD for short trips to 11.520 NZD around the entire city (if you have an AT HOP card; cash fares will cost slightly more). The link bus on Queen Street runs every 10 minutes and costs 1 NZD. Train fares run between 1-2 NZD. There is a day pass available that is valid for unlimited bus, train, and ferry travel. It costs 18 NZD. HOP passes cost 10 NZD to purchase and can be topped up around the city. They can also be used to purchase snacks and newspapers at certain retailers. HOP cards save around 20% when compared to cash fares. Bike rentals are available in the city, as well, with daily rentals costing between 15-20 NZD. Ferries to Rangitoto and Waiheke cost 30-36 NZD for an adult return ticket (discounts are available for children and families).
Suggested daily budget – 70 NZD / $50 USD (Note: This is a suggested budget assuming you’re staying in a hostel, eating out a little, cooking most of your meals, limiting your drinking, and using local transportation.)
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Money Saving Tips
- Free WiFi – Don’t pay for the internet. Go to McDonald’s and get it for free.
- Visit backpacker bars – Going out in New Zealand can be expensive. The best way to save money is to participate in the happy hours at the backpacker bars. They usually have 5 NZD drink specials. Start here to save money.
- Watch cricket for free – You can watch cricket matches for free if you head to Victoria Park on the weekends and watch the amateur teams play.
- Get the AT HOP Card – If you plan on using the public transportation often be sure to get this prepaid card as it will save you up to 20% on single fares. The card itself costs 10 NZD and can be reloaded throughout the city.
- Stay with a local – If you want to cut down on your costs, give Couchsurfing a try. It’s a great way to meet locals and get additional insight into the country.
- Take a free walking tour – If you want to delve beneath the surface of Auckland be sure to try a free walking tour. The Auckland Free Walking Tour is a great way to learn more about the city, its history, architecture, and its people.
Top Things to See and Do in Auckland
- Bungy jump – One of the world’s first bungee jumps is operated by AJ Hackett, the man who created bungy jumping. Here you jump off the bridge into the harbor. If you want something higher, head down to Queenstown for the 143-meter Nevis jump. A single jump at AJ Hackett’s will cost around 375 NZD.
- Explore the Hauraki Gulf – The gulf has an amazing array of sea life and activities. You can go scuba diving, boating, sailing, fishing, and whale watching here.
- Go up Sky Tower – This tower is over 1000 feet high and is the tallest in the southern hemisphere. It gives you panoramic views of the city and has a revolving restaurant at the top. It’s also connected to the city casino. Adult admission is 29 NZD, while children under 14 pay only 12 NZD.
- Shop at Otara Flea Market – Every Saturday, there is a large Polynesian and Maori market, full of clothes, food, and local items. You can get some amazing deals here as well as delicious food.
- Hang out on the Auckland Domain – This giant, beautiful park in the middle of Auckland. During the warm summer months, this place is filled with people running, playing sports, and just laying out. There are a lot of nice walks here and beautiful gardens.
- Visit Auckland Zoo – This zoo has 150 animal species, 500 animals, and a number of different habitats such as the Rainforest and Pridelands. Most people don’t normally visit zoos but they have a lot of wildlife from the region. Adult admission is 28 NZD, while a family pass (for one adult and 2 children) is 47 NZD.
- Head to Waitakere Ranges – Waitakere Ranges have impressive waterfalls and rugged but beautiful beaches. They are a popular day trip for locals, especially during the summer time when temperatures get really hot.
- Visit the north shore – Auckland’s main beach area is popular with locals and tourists alike. The nightlife here is also very active and you can even do some surfing. Every local will tell you this area is a “must see.”
- Check out MOTAT – Also known as the Museum of Transport and Technology, this interactive museum is host to more than 300,000 technology and transportation-related items. If you happen to be going to the zoo, you might as well stop here, as it is a few blocks away. Admission is 16 NZD for adults, and 8 NZD for children and students.
- Head underwater at Kelly Tarlton’s Sea Life Aquarium – Here, you can peer through the depths at an array of fish, stingrays, and sharks, which swim around you as you travel through a long transparent tunnel. Additionally, you can experience the Antarctic in the permanent winter exhibit. Adult tickets are 31 NZD if purchased online (39 NZD if bought at the gate).
- Get (water) sport-y at Mission Bay – Located close to Kelly Tarlton’s Sea Life Aquarium, Mission Bay is one of the most popular urban beaches in Auckland. Its’ peaceful waters are perfect for swimming, paddleboarding, and kayaking. After working up a sweat on the water, take in one of the many eateries in Mission Bay and if you happen to be on the beach at nightfall, check out the light-up fountain.
- Go back in time at Howick Historical Village – This is one of those ‘living museums’ that really makes you feel like you are in another time. With staff dressed in costumes dating back to the mid-1800’s and speaking in peculiar accents, it’s fun and cheesy all at once. Admission is 12 NZD for adults, with discounts available for students, seniors, and children.
- Walk through Waikumete Cemetery – This is the largest cemetery in the country. It is home to a number of heritage buildings, including the Corban family mausoleum. It is really interesting to walk around and the dates on many of the tombstones can be startling to really think about. If you happen to be here on the first Sunday of a month, guided tours are available at no charge.
- See the Gannet Colony at Muriwai – Along the Muriwai beach, you can find thousands of breeding gannet birds nesting between the black sand dunes. They are here between August and March. There are two viewing platforms from which to watch the birds. If you’re not a bird person, you can also come to Muriwai for the surfing, biking, or hiking. A surf school is set up at a spot on the beach.
- Day Trip to Waiheke Island – Waiheke Island is the home of scenic beaches, tons of wineries, and fun outdoor activities. Located 40 minutes from downtown Auckland by ferry, the island is the perfect place to spend a relaxing day. You can explore by bike, bus, cruise, or rental car to get a feel for the entire island or you can take a stroll along its beaches, kayak or zip-line, or partake in wine tastings. The ferry will cost around 36 NZD.
- Feed lambs at Sheepworld – New Zealand is known for having more sheep than people. The best way to get up-close-and-personal with sheep as a traveler? See the live demonstrations and feedings at Sheepworld, a small family farm located 45 minutes from Auckland by bus. See how sheep are farmed and sheared and see the process of what happens after the wool is harvested. Admission includes a sheepdog show and is 34.50 NZD for adults, with discounts available for seniors and children.
- Climb to the summit of Rangitoto Island – An iconic part of Auckland’s horizon, Rangitoto Island is a 600-year-old volcano that gives unbeatable views of Auckland. A trail offers casual hikers a one-hour climb to the top. The island also has lava caves worth exploring. Be sure to bring water and good hiking shoes.