The 10 Best Free Things To Do In New Zealand: North Island

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The 10 Best Free Things To Do In New Zealand: North Island

There’s no getting around it, New Zealand is expensive. Hostels are expensive, food is expensive, petrol is expensive, hell, just breathing can seem expensive some days.

As budget travellers we are constantly on the lookout for cheap or even better, free things to do in each country. So when we spent two and a half months travelling New Zealand’s North and South Islands, we were constantly on the look out for free things to do. Thankfully we found some really awesome free things to do all over a country that wowed us with postcard worthy sights around every turn.

In this post we share with you our list of the best free things to do in New Zealand’s North Island and in the next post we focus on the South Island.

Best Free Things To Do In New Zealand: North Island

1) Go for a Soak at Hot Water Beach

Hot water beach Coromandel

One of the finest natural wonders to visit in the North Island has to be Hot Water Beach around Coromandel. When the tide is low, dig yourself a little tub in the sand and watch it fill up with hot underground spring water. Look out as water temps can get as high as 64C!

2) Spend Some Quality Time with Seals at the Cape Palliser Seal Colony

Seals Cape Palliser

One of our favourite experiences in all of New Zealand was our afternoon watching hundreds of seals frolicking in the surf at Cape Palliser, just a couple of hours from Wellington. What made it even more amazing was the fact that there were no other people in sight so we had this incredible wildlife experience all to ourselves.

3) Go Kiwi Spotting on Aroha Island

Kiwi Spotting New Zealand

What’s more iconic to New Zealand than the kiwi bird? In Northland on Aroha Island, a wildlife conservation area, campers have the opportunity to go on a night trek in search of the illustrious bird in the wild.

On our first night we heard a few kiwis but didn’t manage to spot any. The next night we waited patiently for four hours then decided to call it a night and head back to our van. On our way back we heard a female kiwi call out very loudly right by us so we waited. I stood there waiting and could hear it getting closer and closer and before I knew it, there she was staring right at me!

As long as you have your own torch with a red filter, this activity is completely free. If you don’t have a red light you will need to rent one for just a few dollars but it is essential as a regular torch will hurt the animals’ eyes. The Aroha Island Eco Centre is an excellent facility with awesome staff and facilities, check it out.

4) Trek to the Puntangirua Pinnacles

Puntangirua Pinnacles

Admittedly the reason we trekked to the Pinnacles was because this was one of the filming locations for The Lord of the Rings movies but once there we realized that it was one of the most unique and beautiful spots we had seen on the North Island. The trek takes about an hour to climb to the top to get this view of the jagged limestone pinnacles and then another hour or so to get to the base where one of the scenes for The Return of the King was filmed.

5) Take a Stroll Along Cathedral Cove

Cathedral Cove New Zealand

One of the most stunning and unique beaches in New Zealand. Another reason to visit the Coromandel region. At low tide the massive limestone archway pinnacles will take your breath away!

6) Enjoy the Warm Waters of Kerosene Creek

Rotorua is known for being one of the most thermally active spots in New Zealand with geysers spewing sulphuric gas at every corner. Of course there are the famous thermal spas to visit but if you are looking for something equally relaxing but more importantly free, get yourself to Kerosene Creek. This not so hidden gem is heated by natural hot springs, renowned for their healing properties. Grab a spot in the cooler lake near the entry road or walk a little further to the creek and relax near the small waterfall. There’s even a wee changing area and toilet.

7) Explore Wellington’s Cuba Street

Cuba Street Wellington

We absolutely fell in love with this culturally rich and bustling little street in Wellington. The area features world class cafes with incredible coffee, cool and quaint restaurants and unique shopping. Spend a couple hours pouring over the walls full of fabulous used titles at Pegasus Books, quite possibly the best used bookstore we’ve ever been to.

8) Slide Down the Te Paki Giant Sands Dunes

Te Paki Sand Dunes New Zealand

Who knew New Zealand had a full-on desert in the North but let’s face it, this country has everything! Up in the Northland, the Te Paki Sand Dunes seem to go on for miles. You can rent a crazy carpet or sled and rip down the steep sections, but a barefoot run can be just as fun!

9) Wine Tasting at Mission Estate Winery

Mission Estate Winery

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention wine tasting in a country so famous for it. You can find wine tasting in many parts of the country, but one of our favourites was the Mission Estate Winery in Napier. The estate, a restored Catholic seminary, offers picturesque views of Napier and annually hosts one of the biggest outdoor concerts in New Zealand.

I should also mention the staff are incredibly friendly and knowledgeable, even to a couple grubby backpackers like us. Of course, the wine was outstanding.

10) Drive Down Ninety Mile Beach

Drive Ninety Mile Beach

Our last entry comes once again from the Northland and the infamous Ninety Mile Beach. Most people don’t realize, that it’s an official public highway! So if you have a 4WD vehicle and are looking to escape the asphalt, why not zip down one of the most famous beaches in the world?

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Free Things To Do in New Zealand

Wrapping Up

Thank you for stopping by and checking out our recommendations. Make sure to take a look at our list of the best Free Things To Do In New Zealand’s South Island; its a magical place that truly needs to be seen to be believed.

Have you come across any other free attractions in the North Island? We would love to hear your ideas!


Ross & Alyse



Lover of travel, photography, nature, movies, and nachos. If you love Star Wars and Lord of the Rings we'll probably become best friends.

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