8 Free (and 4 cheap) Things to Do in Auckland with a Toddler

by Adam Baker on 9 November 2009 3 comments
Photo: Kiwi Flickr

Sometimes getting out and exploring a city, especially when traveling overseas, can be difficult to do with young children. It's easy for us parents to make the "I have a toddler" excuse and thus become restricted in what we are able to see and do.

Also, when you are venturing through a new city finding fun things to do that don't bust your budget can be a drag.

Recently, Courtney and I have settled in Auckland, New Zealand for a short time, while backpacking overseas. We've created a list of free (and a couple cheap) events within Auckland that are easy to do even with a young child. These are all items that we've already done or that are on our to-do list for the coming weeks!

While this list may contain specific items in Auckland, even if you never plan on visiting New Zealand, you can use the list to brainstorm events that you may be overlooking in your own city.

If you haven't spent time looking into it, you'll be surprised at just how many free options you really have!

Inside Auckland's Central City (CBD)

Auckland Domain/War Memorial Museum

  • Location: Southwest section of CBD, bordered by AUT campus to the west and Parnell to the east
  • Transportation: You can take a pleasant walk through Grafton Cemetery and across the Grafton bridge. You can also catch the Link bus which cycles through the city's key destinations for $1.60
  • Admission: FREE (Museum is $5 donation)

The Auckland Domain is a Central Park with grassy malls open for rugby scrimmages. The walkways are decorated with arching trees, which feature exposed roots, thick trunks, and low hanging branches. There's a lovely duck pond with a water fountain, a WinterGarden observatory, and War Memorial Museum. The domain is a common hot spot for festivals, races, and free concerts.

Auckland Library

  • Location: Wellesley and Lorne Street
  • Transportation: 5-10 min walk
  • Admission: FREE

How many times do you see the library on a list of things to do in the city? I enjoy reading, but I never feels inspired when I see a library listed on an activities list. Please let Auckland Library change your thinking. They have interactive story telling, frequent guest speakers for kids, and the most decked-out children's play section we've ever seen.

Tepid Baths

  • Location: YMCA at the corner of Hobson Street and Customs Street
  • Transportation: 5 min walk
  • Admission: $5/person $0/under 2

This is a small gym/pool in the center of the city. You probably won't find this on too many lists of things to do, because the facility is rather small. However, there is a second pool tucked inside where they have open swim. They'll pull out noodles, balls, and water polo nets. We just splashed around in the water for hours. As a bonus, many downtown hotels provide free passes.

Albert Park

  • Location: One entrance at Lorne Street and Victoria Street (one block east of Queen Street)
  • Transportation: 5-10 min walk from Britomart
  • Admission: FREE

If you are looking for a quick escape from the city, wander over to Albert Park. Although it's not the largest park in the city, it has tree-covered walking paths, historical monuments, grassy patches, and a fountain surrounded by gorgeous flowers. The only downfall is the lack of playground.

Victoria Park

  • Location: Blocked in by Fanshawe Street and Victoria Street (one block west of Nelson Street)
  • Transportation: 15 min walk
  • Admission: FREE

There are always scrimmages or organized games of some sort at Victoria Park. This is also one of the few parks in the CBD with a playground. Make a stop at the Victoria Park Market, a new Auckland souvenir shopping hotspot.

Outside Auckland's Central City (CBD)

Auckland Zoo

  • Location: Western Springs
  • Transportation: 25 min bus ride on GoWest for $3.20 or 10 min by car
  • Admission: $19/adult $0/under 4

The Auckland Zoo highlights included seeing a NZ native Kiwi and walking through the "Walk-About" where you enter the arena of roaming kangaroos and wallabies. There are several play centers, outdoor slides, and grassy areas. You can hire a "pushcart" — a stroller — from the gift shop. There is also a tram that travels next to the zoo which is part of MOTAT, the Auckland Transportation Council.

Mission Bay

  • Location: East of Auckland and Orakei, along the Harbor
  • Transportation: 15 min by bus for $3.20, 10 min by car
  • Admission: FREE

Mission Bay is the more popular beach of the Eastern beaches. It has several seaside vendors and lots of room to spread out a blanket. Amazingly, this bit of paradise is only 15 minutes from the hustle and bustle of the city center.

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One Tree Hill

  • Location: Epsom, next to Cornwall Park
  • Transportation: 15 min train ride for $2.80 and a 15 min walk
  • Admission: FREE

One Tree Hill is a highlight for New Zealand pop culture and, unfortunately, the victim of several recent vandalism acts. The hill is treeless now, but there is talk to replant a new tree in place of the old. The walk is fun and grassy! Stop in Cornwall Park for a stroll and a picnic.

Ambury Farm Park

  • Location: 15km from Central City, Manukau Harbour
  • Transportation: 30 min drive on Southern Motorway, 1 hr by bus for $7.00
  • Admission: FREE

Ambury Farm is a living farm operated by the government. You can visit the farm, interact with the animals, and run wild. Spring is best when lambs are booming out. There's a drive, but it's worth the free visit. Just watch that you don't take any dung home with you.

Rainbow's End

  • Location: 20km South of Central City, Manukau
  • Transportation: 20 min drive on Southern Motorway, 50 min by bus for $6.50
  • Admission: Adults $44, Castle Pass (2-5yrs) $15, Spectator Pass $15

Rainbow's End is the only theme park in the Greater Auckland area. The Castle Pass is geared specifically to toddlers and offers a significantly discounted price. As an adult accompanying, you can buy a Spectator Pass for only $15. There are family pass deals as well. This could a great option to satisfy everyone!

Kelly Tarlton's

  • Location: Tamaki Drive in Orakei, northeast of Auckland along the harbor
  • Transportation: There's a free shuttle service that departs every hour from 172 Quay Street (along the wharf). 10 min by bus for $3.20
  • Admission: $31.50 /non-residents $0/under 3

Kelly Tarlton's is an "Antartic Encounter" and a "Underwater World." Though I have yet to visit this museum, I hear about it on a daily basis. Students are constantly talking about how they saw a stingray over the holidays. In their pre-school books, they always show a picture of them visiting Kelly Tarlton's. I mostly hear about how they have penguins and how you can "swim with fish if you pay extra."

Rangitoto Island

  • Location: 25 min ferry ride off the coast of Auckland
  • Transportation: Fueller's runs several ferries in the harbor. $25/adult roundtrip, $0/under 2 yrs, $59/family
  • Admission: The volcanic island is FREE

Grab that backpack carrier, granola bars, and a sun hat. There are different tour options for how in depth you want to explore the island. With Fullers, you can take the $25 trip over and walk around. There's also a Volcanic Explorer Tour that guides you through the island on a 4WD Train $55 (including ferry ride).

There it is! You've lost your "I have a toddler" excuse next time you are in Auckland (or anywhere for that matter). This is just one example from one city. Even if you won't be visiting Auckland or New Zealand anytime soon, hopefully you'll be able to brainstorm some free and cheap spots in your own city!

What free options are available in your own home city for families with young children?

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Guest's picture

Excellent article, i've bookmarked your blog for future referrence

Guest's picture

Very interesting blog, what template do you use ?

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devika

this website is very good i got alot of ideas of things to do :D