How to Spend 3 Days in Auckland on a Budget

• Updated

Auckland is a city located in New Zealand's North Island. It belongs to the Auckland Region and is the most populous urban area in the country. It is situated between two harbours, making it the country’s transport hub.

Auckland is also famous for its remarkable skyline and scenic wonders that can be found in the city and around it. Beyond, it offers great food and wine that is considered to be the best in New Zealand.

Auckland also has little islands that can be easily reached from the city and explored with a tour or on your own. These islands showcase the best natural beauty and wildlife the country has to offer and are becoming popular tourist destinations.

It is easy to spend more than one week in New Zealand exploring the North Island (remember, Auckland is here!) or checking out places on the South Island and never get bored. Did you know one way to explore both islands is by relocating a rental car?

However, if you have limited time and money, it can be a challenge to figure out what sites to prioritize. For this reason, this itinerary aims to show you how to explore Auckland’s highlights in 3 days on a budget.

  • 3 day itinerary
  • Average of 4 stops per day

Auckland's Cultural Side

Ferry Terminal in Auckland
Ferry Terminal in Auckland by dave73y
Auckland War Memorial Museum
View of Queen St from the Sky Tower
View of Queen St from the Sky Tower by GaryC75

Auckland is a multicultural city where every culture is respected. The city's main attractions allow you to learn more about its traditional culture, history and see how other cultures have influenced Auckland’s architecture.

On your first day, you will roam around the famous Queen Street, visit a traditional art gallery and some Merchants' Houses, and get to know more about Auckland's war history at the Auckland War Memorial Museum. All destinations on this day are close to one another, so skip public transportation and just walk around.

Also, a free walking tour is offered around Queen Street at the Tourists Information Center. You might also be able to join one at your hotel/hostel, so do ask around once you arrive there.

Learn History at the Auckland War Memorial Museum

The Auckland War Memorial Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira, or simply the Auckland Museum, is one of the most important museums in New Zealand. It has massive collections of artefacts from New Zealand's historical, natural and military past. The museum also offers special traditional cultural packages so that visitors can gain more in-depth insight into New Zealand's culture.

Note, there is an admission fee for this museum.

Merchants' Houses on Princes Street

Princes Street is famous for its elegant and majestic Merchants’ Houses that are now a heritage site in New Zealand. Unfortunately, only a couple of houses have survived until today, and one of them has now been converted into a museum.

If you aren’t interested in learning about the story behind the Merchants' Houses, you can still take a relaxing stroll along the street and admire the historic houses from afar.

Visit the Auckland Art Gallery

The Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki is a famous gallery that has massive collections of international and New Zealand art. It was established in 1888 near Albert Park.

This gallery is the best place if you want to learn more about traditional New Zealand art and take a look at famous paintings by the country’s most recognized artists. There is an admission fee to go in.

Wander Around Queen Street

Queen St is the main street in central Auckland and has the most landmarks in the city. It is full of traditional houses, shops, various types of restaurants and business buildings.

It is a popular destination for inexpensive restaurants and multicultural bars. If you wish to know more about the street, you can find a free walking tour around the street and its bars.

Island Adventure Outside of Auckland

Waiheke Island, Auckland
Scenery of Waiheke Island, Auckland by pixelia
Oneroa Beach, Waiheke Island
Oneroa Beach, Waiheke Island by cernazu1
Rangitoto Island
Auckland at Night

Your second day covers an island adventure from Auckland. Early in the morning, take a ferry to Waiheke Island. It is only 35-40 minutes from Auckland to the Island.

Waiheke Island is known for its natural beauty, palm-lined sandy beaches and massive vineyards. It is the perfect place if you are looking for tranquillity, natural beauty, adventure and wish to stay within your budget.

You will be able to explore the Island, taste its wine and take a sunset sea kayaking adventure to another little Island - Rangitoto Island. For this sea kayaking experience (it can’t be missed when visiting Auckland!) you will have to take a guided tour, so bring extra cash.

The Scenic Oneroa Beach

Oneroa Beach is the most famous beach on Waiheke Island. It is known for its central location, white sand and beautiful scenery. The beach has several rock pools where you can swim and many cafes and restaurants that offer great food and drinks.

If you don’t like swimming and don’t fancy sitting somewhere indoors, take a stroll along the coast and adore the beautiful rocks and palm trees.

Relaxing Afternoon at Cable Bay Vineyards

Cable Bay Vineyards is a lovely winery and restaurant where one of the best wines in New Zealand is produced. The first vineyard was opened in 1998 and became popular among the locals and tourists later on. The vineyard offers a massive range of handcrafted wines and cellar tours amongst a beautiful backdrop. Contact the owners before your visit if you wish to have a cellar tour.

Kayak to Rangitoto Island

Kayak tours to Rangitoto Island can be found on Waiheke Island, or can be pre-booked online. As it is a popular activity, I would recommend you arrange your kayak tour in advance. The guide will lead you to Rangitoto Island and back.

Rangitoto Island is a beautiful volcanic island where you can find fascinating natural beauty, mountains, rock swimming pools and endless walking trails.

Evening Out in Britomart

When you return from the kayak tour, take a ferry from Waiheke Island back to Auckland. If you still have some energy left, explore the glorious Britomart.

Britomart is located near the ferry piers, so you won’t have to walk for long to reach this trendy place. The area is filled with chic cafes, busy bars and restaurants. The streets of Britomart come alive only at night and will leave you with an unforgettable experience.

Highlights of Auckland

Lion Rock, Piha, Auckland
Cornwall Park
Sky Tower

The last day is going to include several of Auckland's main attractions that you should visit before you depart for your next adventure.

On this day, you are going to pass through Waitakere Ranges Regional Park to reach Piha, which is where you will have a chance to see Kitekite Falls (said to be the most beautiful natural falls near Auckland) and walk along the coast and the famous Piha sandy beach where you will see the Lion Rock. After that, you will come back to Auckland City centre and visit Cornwall Park and Sky Tower.

For this day, you can use public transportation for destinations inside and outside of Auckland.

The Magnificent Kitekite Falls

Kitekite Falls is a 3-tiered waterfall whose falls drop 40 meters into a natural pool. This waterfall is one of the things you can’t miss when visiting Auckland!

It’s less than an hour ride from Auckland and located close to Waitakere Ranges Regional Park and Piha Beach. It is very easy and straightforward to get to this waterfall. You will only have to walk a maximum of 45 minutes from the nearest parking space/bus stop to reach this site.

Piha Beach and Lion Rock

Piha Beach is the most famous surf beach in Auckland. It is full of surf rental shops and surf academies/schools. It is also a popular spot for swimming, however, the black iron-sand beach isn’t the best for sunbathing.

Piha Beach is also a famous location for coastal walks and viewing the Lion Rock – an iconic landmark for climbing. Spend your day walking along the coast and adoring the Lion Rock.

Tranquil Cornwall Park

When you are back in Auckland City, visit Cornwall Park. It is a massive park that is listed as the country’s heritage site. The park is filled with footpaths, sports grounds, trees and a working farm where everyone can learn more about New Zealand’s farming culture.

It is the most popular location among the locals for relaxing and evening walks around the park.

Sky Tower Observation Deck

The last stop for the day is the Sky Tower Observation Deck. The tower is an iconic landmark in Auckland and is 328 meters high. The observation deck is located 220 meters high above street level. It offers a majestic 360-degree view over the city and its surrounding places. From the observation deck, you can spot the city’s famous locations, mountains and volcanos.


Written by Agne Civilyte

031226hug WRITER I am a Lithuanian living in the UK and trying to travel all around the world. I love visiting places that are still not well-known to tourists. My favourite part of the world is Southeast Asia as I can find beautiful mountains and temples there. My absolute favourite country is South Korea as I feel at home there.


Stay informed

Get excited about travel by subscribing for the latest articles and announcements.