With a skyline dominated by the iconic Sky Tower rising above the central business district, Auckland is New Zealand's largest city and one of its most recognizable. If you're looking to enjoy cultural attractions in the country, there are few better places to do it than here. The city centre is packed with must-visit attractions like Auckland Art Gallery, Auckland Museum, and Auckland Zoo. Built around Mission Bay and surrounded by volcanic mountains, Auckland City also provides incredible access to the great outdoors. Although not a large city by world standards, Auckland provides some of the best urban experiences in the whole country while maintaining that typical New Zealand proximity to nature that makes the country so inviting to visit.
However, Auckland isn't cheap. The city has some of the most expensive real estate and the highest cost of living in New Zealand, already not a particularly affordable country. Central Auckland, in particular, has a way of sucking the money right out of your wallet, so if you're traveling on a budget, Auckland presents a significant challenge to your financial goals.
Still, that doesn't mean you can't enjoy Auckland on a budget. There are plenty of cheap things to do in the city that will only cost you a few dollars or even less. And by saving money on accommodation and food while enjoying cheap and free things to do in and around Auckland CBD, you can have a great time in the city while sticking to your budget goals.
The first step is to drop off any unneeded bags at a Bounce luggage storage in Auckland. Bounce partners with local businesses in Auckland City to make sure you always have a place to leave your bags. Traveling light makes it much easier to enjoy budget-friendly activities in Auckland Central Business District, so don't hesitate to book luggage storage today.
Cheap places to stay in Auckland
Flights to New Zealand can often be quite expensive, but generally, the biggest single expense on your trip is going to be finding a place to stay. And as much as you may want to save money, you also want a nice place that isn't going to put a damper on your trip. If you want to be close to some of the best things to do in the city, the temptation is to stay close to the city centre so you can be within walking distance of everything. However, that's not always the best strategy.
Auckland is a fairly compact city, so it doesn't take long to travel even from the outer suburbs to the central business district, where you'll find the Sky Tower and Auckland's other top attractions. And staying in the suburbs of the city is generally cheaper not only for accommodation but also for finding cheap eats and free things to do. And when you want to head into the inner city, it's easy, thanks to Auckland's reliable public transit system.
It's also worth remembering that some of the best Auckland attractions are outside of the center of the city. Places like Mount Eden, One Tree Hill, North Head, and Waiheke Island are absolute must-visits on any trip to Auckland, and you'll need to take some kind of transportation to get there. With that in mind, it's worth familiarizing yourself with the different neighborhoods of the city before you commit to a location.
Let's take a look at some examples of the kind of places you can find to stay in Auckland on a budget.
Quest on Queen Serviced Apartments
If you really want a central location, you can't do much better than this. Just a few blocks from Albert Park and 650 m from the Sky Tower, this hotel is practically surrounded by some of the best museums in Auckland and is right next to Britomart Train Station. It's also a short walk from here to the ferry terminal, where you can take ferry rides to some of the beautiful islands surrounding the city.
But this four-star hotel has more going for it than just its incredible location. Instead of a regular hotel room, here you get a fully functional apartment with far more space than you'll generally find in a centrally located hotel. A one-bedroom apartment will set you back around $120 even in the height of Auckland's tourist season in December, so if you're monitoring your spending habits, this is a great option for an affordable place to stay. And perhaps best of all, because you get a full apartment, you also get kitchen facilities so you can cook your own meals. It's only 300 m from the hotel to the Village Square City Market, where you'll find tons of food stalls and vendors selling local produce, making it easy to cook for yourself here.
Western Springs Villa
This boutique hotel is located outside of Auckland city centre, but with Western Springs Lakeside Park, the Museum of Transport and Technology, and Auckland Zoo just steps away, there's plenty to keep you occupied in this area. It's also just a short distance from several great beaches and oceanside parks, so this area provides a more relaxing take on an Auckland vacation. And when you want the thrills of the city, it's very easy to get to.
Morningside Train Station is less than a kilometer away from the hotel, and several trains leave every hour from here for Britomart in the center of Auckland. As a result, this hotel offers the best of both worlds, with countryside peace and tranquility and lively urban life at your fingertips.
This heritage property is surrounded by a beautiful garden, and there are rooms available in both the main house and the guesthouse. In December, a queen room with a garden view, free Wi-Fi, and access to the pool will cost you only around $80, and it's not much more for an upgrade to a king room. The villa also has a shared kitchen if you want to make some of your own meals.
Waiheke Backpackers Hostel
Maybe it's not the urban life that's brought you to Auckland, but the incredible natural environment instead. If so, Waiheke Island is an ideal place to explore. Easily reached by a short ferry ride from Auckland ferry terminal, the island is full of mountains, forest trails, vineyards, and beautiful beaches. And although it's quite close to the city, it feels like a very long way away.
If you'd like to explore this beautiful natural area without spending a lot of money, the Waiheke Backpackers Hostel might be for you. Located just steps from Onetangi Beach, this is the perfect place to encounter New Zealand's nature. There are ocean views from the hostel itself and from the wide lawn outside, where you'll find barbecue facilities overlooking the sea. There's also a fully-equipped kitchen for guest use so that you can make your own meals or dine at the restaurants you'll find in the area.
A room in a mixed dorm will cost as little as $25, even in the busy season, and you may even get an ocean view from your bunk. Alternatively, you could splurge on a private room with a double bed and its own bathroom for only $65. That makes this an exceptional bargain and a great choice if you want to get away from it all.
Cheap things to do in Auckland
There's no point in traveling to a place as interesting as Auckland and not being able to do anything when you get there. Some of the top attractions in Auckland can quickly get expensive, but at the same time, you don't want to miss out. Luckily, the city also offers some cheap things to do that are just as interesting and entertaining as the more expensive options. Take advantage of cheap or even free things to do in Auckland to make your vacation budget stretch further.
The oldest park in the city, and one of the largest, Auckland Domain is spread over the remnants of an extinct volcano. Close to the heart of the city, the volcano's rim offers a stunning view, and the crater of the volcano forms a natural amphitheater where musical concerts and performances are often held. There are also hiking trails through native forests to explore, a sculpture trail, and picnic and sporting facilities to enjoy.
Located within Auckland Domain, Auckland Museum explains the history of the city and the country and has a particularly strong collection of Maori and Pacific Islander artifacts. The museum also often hosts Maori cultural performances as well as exhibitions on the history of European settlement in New Zealand. Auckland Museum is free to visit for Auckland residents and can be visited by donation by people from elsewhere in New Zealand. International visitors have to pay, with an adult ticket costing NZ$28 or around $17 US. You can also buy a family ticket for two adults and two children for NZ$75, which is less than US$50 at the time of writing.
Pink Cycle Trail
As much an art installation as it is a bike path, this bright pink trail winds its way through the center of Auckland and is a great way to see more of the city. Rent a bike from a local business and get some exercise while you explore this iconic trail.
Cheap places to eat in Auckland
Auckland's food scene is as open-minded and cosmopolitan as everything else about the city. You'll find almost every cuisine on earth represented in this small city, so you can enjoy everything from fine dining to great — and affordable — fast food options, not to mention the best street food in Auckland. If you're looking to save money on your food budget, consider some of these excellent restaurants.
Located in the Mt Eden neighborhood, this Asian fusion restaurant is a popular place to come for casual dining. The portions here are generally large, and they have a great menu of shared plates, including Thai-style French fries, deep-fried snapper, and pork ribs. Noodle dishes usually go for little more than $20, and they are extremely filling as well as very tasty.
As you might expect from the name, this is an unpretentious place to eat. The menu here is unapologetically junk food, but it's guaranteed to satisfy. Fuel up on sandwiches and burgers for $15 each, or grab a bucket of chicken wings for $27 and enjoy some of Auckland's best junk food.
The elegant decor of this Italian restaurant might fool you into thinking it's expensive, but it's really not. The most expensive meals don't go above $22, and there are lots of cheaper options, so if you want a classy night out without spending a fortune, this is the perfect option.
Cheap bars in Auckland
More commonly known to locals as Shads, the student bar located at the University of Auckland is hands down one of the cheapest places to drink in the city. The bright industrial space is also a great place to hang out if you don't mind a younger crowd, and there is a great selection of vegan food on the menu.
This Irish pub has two locations in the city, and both are great places for cheap drinks. Keep an eye out for the daily specials that can help to keep your budget down while you have fun here.
Located right downtown, this bar and club keeps the party going late into the night. Four dollars shots help you to keep your budget under control as you enjoy the lively atmosphere here.
Bonus budget tips for Auckland
Eat at food courts: Auckland has a variety of food courts that offer inexpensive meals. Look for places like the Elliott Stables or the Atrium on Elliott.
Walk or bike: With tons of bike paths, including the Pink Cycle Trail, it's easy and quite efficient to explore Auckland on two wheels. Plus, bike rentals are fairly inexpensive, especially when compared to rental cars or taxis.
Shop at markets: Auckland has several markets, including the Otara Flea Market and the Auckland Night Markets, where you can find inexpensive souvenirs and food.
Auckland isn't a cheap city by any means, but it doesn't have to cost a fortune to have fun here. Drop off your bags and enjoy some of the best free things to do in the city, as well as some of these tips for saving on accommodation, food, and drinks, and you can have a great time in New Zealand's biggest city while sticking to your budget.