15 Totally Free Things to do in New Zealand, North Island (with Map)
Awesome Free Things to do on the North island of New Zealand
New Zealand is an expensive country. But it’s well-worth spending the money when you get to experience such a lush, vibrant and adventurous country. But some days you just want to do something fun that doesn’t cost the Earth, right? You sick of paying $100 + for like, literally, everything. Well, that’s how I felt anyway. I had already hired my van and embarked on an epic 3-week road trip around the North Island of New Zealand, I simply didn’t have the money to be bungee jumping and going dolphin watching every single day! So how to do all of New Zealand’s “must see” when you’re low on funds?
Instead, I took the time out to do equally as fun but totally free activities. And some of them are honestly really cool! This is my list of free things to do in New Zealand, North Island edition!
Free things to do in Northland
1. Check out Cape Reinga lighthouse
‘Te Rerenga Wairua’ in Māori language means the leaping-off place of spirits. There’s a tree here known to be where spirits decent into the underworld. It’s roots are steps down to the water. There’s a lot of cool Māori history and stories laid out on plaques around the lighthouse. My favourite is the story of the meeting of the two seas (the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean) who are male and female oceans. And as they collide and churn against one another it symbolises the creation of new life.
2. Slide down the Te Paki giant sand dunes
The long stretch of beach between Kaitaia and Cape Reinga is home to Ninety Mile Beach. Here you can find the endless Te Paki sand dunes. If you have no access to cardboard or a body board to slide you can rent stuff from nearby, BUT a barefoot run and roll can be just as fun!
3. Visit ancient Kauri trees in Waipuoa Kauri Forest
I’m talking 3, 000-year-old trees here. Trees with a 5-meter wide girth. Trees that have lasted through all of the world wars. Really impressive trees. All of the trees are closely spread out within 30-minute walks from the road.
4. Kiwi bird night walk from Trounson Kauri Park Campground
If you’re in the market to see a kiwi in the wild then this walk is a great option. At night you can hear their calls all around you and the book inside the campsite kitchen will inform you of the latest kiwi spottings and where. You’ll just need a flashlight, as the campground supply red cellophane to cover your torch and make it night vision.
Free things to do in Auckland
Everybody loves free stuff, especially in Auckland, a big and expensive(ish) city. There are loads of free things to do in Auckland, and none of what I have listed are museums – YAY!
5. Auckland Art Gallery free guided tour
Always love a free guided tour. Auckland’s public art gallery set in a beautiful 1887 building with a très moderne facelift, houses international stars such as Picasso, Cézanne and Gauguin. There are two daily free tours at 11.30am and 1.30pm.
6. Walk to the top of Mt Eden – Auckland’s active volcano
A great day trip from Auckland is the panoramic views you’ll see from the top of Mount Eden. This place is a volcanic cone – you’ll have to check it out to see what that means. Also, there are 5.5 acres of award-winning gardens on the side of Mount Eden with colourful plants, waterfalls, rock formations, birds and harbour views.
7. Dig a hot spa in the sand at Hot Water Beach
How cool is this? Just take a shovel or something to dig and make your own spa! Perfect for those rainy NZ days (you wouldn’t want to go there when it’s hot!). The hot water isn’t all over the beach though and there’s a specific time you should go. Head to where the rocks are about 2 hours before the lowest of the low tide – so you’ll have about 4 hours to dig and sit in your spa before the waves devour them again.
8. Cathedral Cove for a beautiful beach
This beach was possibly the most beautiful beach I saw in New Zealand and I wish I’d spent more time there. It’s an easy 30-minute walk from the car park so don’t be put off by this! It opens out to an amazing rock formation (the Cathedral) and some of the clearest, greenest water I’ve ever seen!
A little bit off the beaten path is this little gem of a walk. We did it in the rain and so we had the entire place to ourselves – no one in sight! The walk and the waterfall are both a short 2-minute drive from each other or a quick walk. The Kauri walk will take you to the “twin Kauri” (two trees that have fused into one). And we even took a dip in the freezing but the refreshing green milky water of the waterfall!
TIP: The 3G out here is terrible so it’s much easier just to get on the ‘309 Road’ then follow the signs to Waiau Falls.
10. Do the Historical Walk at Karangahake
Despite doing it in the pouring rain, I really, REALLY enjoyed this walk. It’s absolutely stunning and the path not only leads you through some beautiful rainforest but also through kilometre-long abandoned train tunnels and under rocky crevices. The walk is around an old gold-mining town and has interesting information littered all about.
Free Things to do in Rotorua
11. Kuirau Park for hot springs and geothermal activity
I highly recommend this park right in the middle of Rotorua town. All within an easy stroll of each other are a bunch of different bubbling hot springs. Some are green, others mud and my favourite was a big lake with bright yellow build up on the bottom. Beware – it does smell a little bit.
TIP: Drive or walk around afterwards and check out the Māori houses with steam coming through their front lawns and yards.
12. Soak in the warm waters of Kerosene Creek
Just in case you haven’t had enough of geo-thermic activity, here’s another good one. Although everyone knows about it, this little spot has everything… There’s a cooler lake near the entry, or a waterfall a little more upstream!
WAIKATO (Hamilton Region)
A little west of Hamilton is the surfing mecca of Raglan. Manu Bay is famously known for having the longest and most accessible left-hand break in the world. But even if you aren’t into surfing there is some cool volcanic black sand coastline to check out and you can swim/body board at Ocean Beach. There are also some walks to do and the township of Raglan is super cute and a definite place to check out.
14. Watch Mokena Geyser burst and spit hot water into the air
About every 45 minutes this little, unassuming Geyser will make a sudden appearance blasting out hot soda spring water. The Geyser feeds the Te Aroha spa and can be found just behind the facility at the base of Mount Te Aroha.
15. Explore Wellington’s Cuba Street
Probably New Zealand’s coolest street, an inner city slice of Bohemia where you can check out street art alleyways, buskers, shop, and visit quirky cafes. Great food culture can be found here and people from all walks of life.
Watch my Vlog on NZ: Northland!
Place: North Island
Country: New Zealand
Currency: New Zealand Dollar
$1 AUD = $1.05 NZD
I was there: September 2016
Post Updated: 3rd November 2017
What are other free things there to do in New Zealand?
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