Mountains, forrests, lakes and sea make up New Zealand’s unique landscape. Known as the adventure capital of the world, the country offers a wide range of activities. Everything here is designed to get you outside and do something amazing – hiking, skydiving, caving, bungy jumping, skiing. As we understand sometimes you need to stick to a budget, we have compiled a list of some of the best and cheapest things to do in the North Island.

When is the cheapest time to visit New Zealand?

If you want to visit New Zealand at the most affordable price, avoid visiting during summer (December to February). During this time, most tourists visit. It is therefore more costly to fly, take tours, and rent a car. You can enjoy warmer weather and more affordable travel deals when visiting during the shoulder seasons, which are March through May and September through November. Winter is from June-August and is a great time to visit if you like snow sports. In June and July, the Central Plateau is the North Island’s winter playground!

What is our most affordable rental car?

In terms of affordability, the Toyota Yaris and Holden Spark are our two most affordable economy rental cars depending on how many people and how much luggage you are travelling with. If you would like a bit more space, we also offer Toyota Corollas, a compact budget-friendly model.

What activities can you do on a budget?

To help balance the travel budget, there are plenty of free things to do in New Zealand’s North Island. There are many free trails that lead to some of the country’s most popular natural attractions.

Visit Cape Reinga in the far north

The Far North and Cape Reinga are a worthwhile road trip destination on the North Island. Walk to the Cape Reinga Lighthouse and watch the Pacific Ocean and Tasman Sea tides collide.

Take a walk through a Kauri forest among giants

It is the kauri tree that we refer to as one of the “giants” in New Zealand. In Northland the Waipoua Forest, Tane Mahuta (God of the Forest) is the biggest.

Take a trip to Whangarei Falls

The mighty Whangarei Falls are another free natural attraction to admire. You can take picture-perfect photos from various viewpoints along the short waterfall walk.

Enjoy Mt Manaia’s Views

The Mt Manaia Walk will provide you with spectacular coastal views of the Whangarei Heads as well as kauri forests, rocky outcrops and scenery that stretches for miles in every direction. Taking this walk is just another way to enjoy the North Island’s spectacular scenery that is free of charge.

Discover a gannet colony

Drive out to Muriwai Beach on Aucklands West coast to see huge colonies of majestic seabirds nesting. It is possible to enjoy close-up views of gannets at this colony due to the excellent walking track access.

Take a look inside a lighthouse

One of only a few lighthouses in New Zealand you can climb to the top of is the restored Manukau Heads Lighthouse. You can walk around and up the lighthouse, then sit and enjoy the spectacular views. A small donation (koha) is appreciated but admission is free.

Karangahake Gorge Mining Tunnels

As part of New Zealand’s pioneering history, gold mining played an important role. Various tunnels, historic bridges, old mining bins, railway lines, and other remnants of these days can still be seen along the riverbanks of Karangahake Gorge.

Explore Hamilton Gardens

Free to explore, Hamilton Gardens is more like an outdoor art exhibit than a typical public garden. There are gardens around the world with different themes.

Enjoy Cathedral Cove’s sandy shores

One of the most iconic images of the North Island is Cathedral Cove, with its white cliffs, archway, and sandy shores. It’s easy to walk there either from the Cathedral Cove car park during off-season or from Hahei Beach during peak season.

Make Your Own Hot Pool

A hot spring seeps through the sand at Hot Water Beach in the Coromandel, allowing low tide seawater to create a hot pool.

Te Waihou Walkway’s Clear Pools

The Te Waihou Walkway features vividly clear spring water flowing down a stream. Just outside of Putaruru, you can find this hidden gem that is worth discovering.

Huka Falls

It is no surprise that Huka Falls is the most-visited natural attraction in the country, since it is a free attraction that is open to the public. You will witness tumultuous rapids as the Waikato River squeezes down a narrow canyon until it eventually reaches a waterfall as it descends the canyon.

Ascend “The Mount”

Located in Tauranga, Mount Maunganui offers a wide range of eateries, shops and beach activities, in addition to amazing views from The Mount (Mauao)! This extinct volcano is steep, but well worth the climb.

Geothermal park with bubbling springs and mud

Enjoy a walk through this informal public park next to Rotorua’s city centre and discover the steaming, hissing and bubbling geothermal activity. Geothermal activity can be seen along numerous walking trails.

Tongariro National Park walks and hikes

There are many walks suitable for most visitors in and around Tongariro National Park. However, if you cannot or don’t want to do the Crossing, there are heaps of other excellent walks and tracks available. They’re also great alternatives for those who’ve already done the Crossing or have a few days to spare before or after.

Egmont National Park walks and hikes

Taranaki’s Egmont National Park attracts hikers from all over the world. A majestic mountain in the middle of a lush forest can’t help but attract your attention. There are a number of short walks and day walks into the forest that run around Mt Taranaki where you can drive to the national park boundary or hike up the mountain.

Take a tour of Te Papa Museum

Te Papa is New Zealand’s national museum, and it’s free to visit! The displays of flora and fauna, settlers’ stories, and exhibitions both inside and outside offer so much to discover.