Strapped for cash these summer holidays?
The good news is there’s a wealth of free activities and attractions to enjoy around Aotearoa.
Whether you’re staying home or heading to a favourite holiday spot, the ideas on this list will help you make the most of the summer – without having to spend any extra.
Here are some fun things you can do for free.
1. Hit up a free event
Keep an eye on the event pages in your town or city – there’s always heaps happening at this time of year, and you can often enjoy a fun day (or night) out with the family for free.
Like catching a free concert in the Wellington Botanic Garden as part of the Gardens Magic Concert Series in January (Tuesday to Sunday, January 9 to 28), or wandering through the stunning light displays in New Plymouth’s Pukekura Park for the Festival of Lights (January 16 to 21).
2. Take a free tour
School might be out, but learning doesn’t have to take a break. Whether you’re visiting somewhere new or rediscovering your own city, why not take a tour – like Auckland Free Walking Tours (you’re encouraged to pay what you feel the tour was worth at the end) or a guided tour of Parliament in Wellington? If you’re in Nelson, you can book in for a free tour of Pic’s Peanut Butter World, which includes samples.
3. Check out a museum
Need a rainy day activity?
New Zealand has so many excellent local museums, many of which are free entry. Experience what it’s like to be in an earthquake inside the Quake House at Te Papa in Wellington, see the impressive aircraft on display at the Air Force Museum of New Zealand in Christchurch, and check out the Tiger Tea trolley bus at Toitū Otago Settlers Museum in Dunedin.
4. Pack a picnic
Christmas leftovers to get through? Don’t just make the journey from the fridge to the couch – why not enjoy a picnic in a scenic spot? For inspiration, check out this list of the most beautiful roadside rest stops.
5. Cool down in a swimming hole
Why pay for a pool when we have so many perfectly formed swimming holes in our backyard? For where to find some of the best in the country, check out this list.
6. Spend a day at the beach
It’s the quintessential free summer activity, but some of Aotearoa’s beaches offer added value – like Hot Water Beach on the Coromandel Peninsula, where you can dig your own spa pool (BYO spade), or Southland’s Gemstone Beach, where you can embark on a treasure hunt for semi-precious gems such as jasper, quartz and sapphire.
7. Seek out a slide
Thrills don’t come much cheaper than a slide formed by nature – the most iconic being the Rere Rockslide near Gisborne. Not keen on getting wet? Try sandboarding at the epic Te Paki Sand Dunes near Cape Reinga.
8. Gaze at some stars
You’ll have to stay up late because of the long summer nights, but the clear skies at this time of year are perfect for stargazing – particularly if you’re staying in one of our official dark sky sanctuaries.
9. Find your new favourite playground
If you’re passing through Paraparaumu on the Kāpiti Coast, pay a visit to the Lorna Irene Drive Reserve playground – it’s just been revamped and was named Playground of the Year. Other great playgrounds to check out include the Margaret Mahy Playground in Christchurch – the largest in the southern hemisphere – and Kōwhai Park in Whanganui.
10. Take the scenic route
There’s nothing like a summer road trip – instead of racing from A to B, take your time, stopping at small towns and discovering hidden gems along the way.
11. Get on your bike
Ok, so this one assumes you already own some wheels – but it’s an investment that pays off when you get to use New Zealand’s fantastic network of cycle trails for free. There are 23 official Great Rides spread throughout the country, with an experience to suit everyone.
12. Go for a day walk
Didn’t manage to book in a multi-day Great Walk this summer? Don’t worry – there are plenty of amazing walks you can tick off in a day, like the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, or the Pouakai Crossing in Taranaki. Just be sure to check the forecast.
13. Chill out in a garden
Bring a book and find the perfect shady spot to spend the day in one of our beautiful botanic gardens. Hamilton Gardens, with its many themed gardens inspired by different art styles, destinations and even eras, is pretty hard to beat – and it’s currently still free entry for all.
14. Wake up early
Getting up to see the sunrise is the best way to start a summer’s day. Hike up Mauao/Mt Maunganui for unforgettable views, or if you’re in Gisborne, you can say you’re among the first people in the world to see the dawn of a new day.
15. Visit a cemetery
It might sound like a bit of a grim thing to do on holiday, but New Zealand’s cemeteries are full of fascinating tales – and they’re also often built on prime property, offering great views. If in Wellington, head to Karori Cemetery. It’s the final resting place of six former prime ministers, but the star attraction is the grave of Harry McNeish, one of the heroes of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition – and the bronze statue of Mrs Chippy, the cat who accompanied him.