Welcome to the ultimate backpacking Auckland travel guide!
When most backpackers think of New Zealand, images of hobbits, volcanoes, wild mountains, untamed beaches, and sheep farms usually come to mind. Whilst it is certainly true that New Zealand offers all of these things and more (though hobbits are debatable), the city of Auckland will likely be your first stop in the country.
The first time I landed in Auckland I had done very little research, and I had no idea what to expect. I half assumed Auckland was a small town, and the main activities consisted of drinking beer and hanging out at the beach.
I discovered right away that Auckland is indeed New Zealand’s largest city and a bustling metropolis full of awesome things to do.
Auckland is New Zealand’s main economic vein in addition to the country’s hotbed of diversity and culture. For backpackers just arriving into New Zealand, it is the perfect place to prepare for an extended New Zealand backpacking adventure.
This Auckland travel guide highlights the best travel tips and budget hacks to rock your Auckland travels without spending a fortune in the process. Learn how to enjoy Auckland on the cheap and like a local!
Get the inside information on Auckland’s accommodation for backpackers, suggested city itineraries, an Auckland daily budget, the best things to do in Auckland, awesome hikes, nightlife, the best islands around Auckland, and much, much more.
Knowing the real cost of backpacking New Zealand is crucial to planning your budget, especially if you’re going to stay in Auckland.
Auckland can be a very expensive city and if you’re not careful you easily find yourself spending way more cash than intended. Likewise, it is relatively simple to experience Auckland without spending a boat-load of money.
There are plenty of free things to do in Auckland, so unless you are staying at hotels, going to the bars every night, and eating out at fancy restaurants, you should find it easy to backpack Auckland on a budget.
That said, visiting New Zealand is not like backpacking in Nepal. If you want to visit Auckland on a total show-sting budget, it is possible to do so on $25- 40 USD/day (or less!), but to do so you’ll need to utilize budget hacks like Couchsurfing, cooking your own food, and walking everywhere. You must actively work to not spend money.
$40-80 USD/day is a reasonable budget to embrace. With this budget, you can get a hostel dorm bed, use public transportation, eat out, visit an island, and drink a beer or two at the end of the day.
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Average Daily Backpacking Costs in Auckland (prices are in USD):
Small basic room for two: $50-75
Entire AirBnB apartment: $50-100+
AT Hop Transport Day pass: $11.75
Bus from Auckland Airport — City Center: $11.75 one way
Ferry to Rangitoto Island: $21.50 return
Sky Tower entrance fee: $19
Porkpie (or veggie pie) from a bakery: $3-4
Dinner in a mid-range restaurant:$15-30 per person
Meal at a cafe: $8-15
6-pack of decent beer from the shop: $12-14
Flat white coffee from a cafe: $2-3
Beer at the bar: $5-7
Walk to Mission Bay: Free!
Backpacking Auckland Budget Tips
Whilst backpacking Auckland it is important to consciously stick to your intended budget. You need not be overly paranoid about it, but a couple of bad decisions regarding where you sleep or have dinner could shatter your budget faster than a stone smashing through a window.
Locals living in Auckland will tell you that the city has gotten ridiculously expensive in recent years. A small apartment in the Auckland CBD can cost upwards of one million bucks $NZ! Your accommodation costs will also depend on where you’re staying in Auckland. The more popular the neighborhood, the more expensive the place!
Luckily for backpackers, we are not looking to buy apartments. Staying at one of Auckland’s great hostels will be the most affordable option for you.
You are going to spend some money during your Auckland visit; there is no getting around that. The goal is for you to have an awesome time backpacking Auckland without leaving you penniless upon journey’s end.
Below I cover my best Auckland travel hacks to maximize your experience whilst keeping your backpacking costs as low as possible.
The GRAYL GEOPRESS water bottle is the ONLY all-in-one filter water bottle setup you'll need. Whether you need to purify the water from a hostel sink in Kathmandu or a stream trickle in the Andes, the Geopress has got you covered.
Backpacking Auckland Travel Hacks
- Eat at restaurants with lunch specials: Many restaurants in Auckland offer up some kind of deal for lunch. Dinner is always going to be more expensive anyway. If you do plan on going out for a meal, seek out a spot for lunch that has a promotion on offer.
- Drink cheap beer: If you must go to a bar, go during happy hour. Likewise, most hostels offer discounted beer at happy hour too, though I think it’s pretty lazy to buy beer from the hostel when you could buy it cheaper at the supermarket.
- Take the Bus/Public Transportation: When you can’t walk, buses are the best option for getting across the city. Buy a day pass instead of buying tickets individually.
- Hang out at the Beach: Hanging out at the beach is free!
- Walk: The CBD of Auckland can easily be explored on foot. Likewise, you can walk to many other cool neighborhoods from the CBD if you are motivated to do some urban hiking.
- Cook your own food: If you are staying at a hostel or an Airbnb that has a kitchen, try and cook at least one meal per day (or all 3). If you don’t feel like cooking, then go to the grocery store and arm yourself with sandwich fixings so you can make food easily. $10 spent on sandwich materials can feed several people multiple times.
- Couchsurf: If you can swing it, staying with a local for free is an obvious bonus to cutting down your biggest cost, accommodation.
- Pack a travel water bottle and save money every day!
- Free Breakfast
- Free Vegan Meals
In the event that a Couchsurf host isn’t available or you just want your own bed for a night, you are going to need to book a hostel. Because so many travelers have been backpacking Auckland over the years, there are plenty of kick-ass hostels to choose from.
Whilst prices of hostels in New Zealand are a far cry from what they are in Asia, they are still the cheapest accommodation for backpackers in town. Thankfully, hostels in Auckland are not as expensive as they are in Europe or the USA.
Best Hostel in Auckland – Fat Cat Travellers Community
There are many hostels in Auckland to choose from, but Fat Cat Travellers Community is at the top of the list because this isn’t your typical hostel.
Fat Cat is located about 30 minutes from the city center (which means it is not ultra-convenient), but a couple of nights here is bound to be an Auckland highlight… Why?
Well for starters, Fat Cat is a place where you can learn about sustainable living in a beautiful setting. Perhaps even better than its cool hippy vibe are the delicious meals. Not only do you get an awesome breakfast, but also a super tasty/healthy vegan dinner… for free!
There is always interesting stuff happening at the Fat Cat Travellers Community. If you’re keen, you can work a bit on the farm or catch a workshop or two. Social issues, peace, and the environment are usually on the workshop menu.
Really, you won’t find another place in Auckland with such a welcoming vibe. Be careful, you may find it hard to leave Fat Cat!
Best Party Hostel in Auckland – Hekerua Lodge Backpackers
The best party hostel in Auckland isn’t actually in the city either. For one of the best backpacker party spots around, head to Hekerua Lodge Backpackers on Waiheke Island. Enjoy stunning beaches, fishing, and a hike or two by day and a some cold NZ beer by night.
This hostel offers a pool, sauna, steam room, and plenty of social activities like yoga classes and pizza nights. If you manage to catch a fish, you can fry it up in the well-equipped kitchen.
Waiheke Island is a world away from Auckland city, but also close enough if you want to pop over for a day of urban exploring.
Best Hostel for Solo Travelers in Auckland – Queenstreet Backpackers
Finally a Auckland city hostel! If you are traveling solo to Auckland, Queenstreet Backpackers is a spot you should know about. They have reasonably priced single rooms where you can get some needed rest.
The free breakfast is a big plus since not many Auckland hostels offer free breakfast! Catch the happy hour special at the cool on-site bar and meet some new friends to explore the city with.
The two kitchens at Queenstreet ensure that you won’t be waiting for ages for your crack at the stove. Queenstreet Backpackers is clean, the staff are friendly, and it’s an all around good place to meet fellow travelers. Check it out!
Best Airbnb in Auckland: Central sunny modern townhouse, gym, pool & spa
Close to the CBD, this two-person home benefits from access to a shared swimming pool, spa, and gym. There’s a work desk in the townhouse and it has free Wi-Fi.
The kitchen has everything you need for a home-from-home stay, including a dishwasher and washing machine.
Unlike most cities in the world, the top things to do in Auckland don’t revolve around visiting historical sites dating back centuries. As a country, New Zealand is not very old, and definitely lacks in the antiquities department.
However, you can be sure that there are plenty of other fun activities to do in Auckland. In my opinion, you can see “the best” of Auckland in two or three days.
The series of islands located just off the coast of Auckland are not to be missed even if you only have three days to visit the city and its surroundings.
Here is my list of the 10 top things to do in Auckland to fire up your inspiration…
1. Hike up Mt. Eden
To get to grips with the city, one can make the easy climb up Mt. Eden (a volcano). You can actually walk to it from the CBD, but I recommend catching the bus to the beginning of the trail. There are stunning views of the city and harbor from the top of Mt. Eden, a fine sunset spot indeed.
2. Hit up the thrift shops
Thrift shops (or op-shops) are all over Auckland. You can score some truly good deals at low prices. If you plan on making a grand tour of New Zealand, then Auckland thrift shops are great for stocking up on essential bits and pieces you may be lacking. K Road has the best op-shops in town.
3. Go up the Sky Tower
For $19, a trip up the Sky Tower might seem expensive (and it is), but in my view it is well worth the dough. If you happen to have a little extra in your budget, you should seriously consider bungee jumping from the top.
4. Have a picnic in the Auckland Domain
The Auckland Domain is one of Auckland’s finest parks. Take a picnic and chill the F out in a very peaceful setting.
5. Drink a flat white at an Auckland cafe
Wellington may have the reputation for New Zealand’s best cafes, but Auckland’s cafe culture is not to be underestimated!
6. Visit the art galleries near Albert Park
Whilst cool the Auckland Museum is pretty expensive. Check out the Art Galleries around Albert Park… they are free and often showcase local artists.
7. Go to a rugby game
Rugby is New Zealand’s national sport and Kiwis are mad for it. Auckland is home to one of the county’s most impressive stadium. Tickets aren’t usually crazy expensive either.
Even if you don’t like sports (or don’t understand the rules of Rugby) going to a rugby match is a quintessential New Zealand experience.
8. Escape from zombies
No, that isn’t a typo. You and your mates can embark on the challenge of a lifetime: escaping from Zombies. The Zombie Survival Challenge takes you into the forests around west Auckland as part of a team building exercise.
You essentially work together to avoid being devoured by blood-thirsty zombies. It’s a pretty unique thing to do in Auckland… and it’s a whole lot of fun.
9. Take a walk at Piha Beach
With its dark tinged sand and sizable waves, Piha beach is a great introduction to New Zealand’s stunning coastline. Check out Lion Rock, an epic geological formation.
10. Visit as many islands as you can
Pick a few islands and explore until your heart is happy. Some of the famous islands like Waiheke offer wine tours and the like.
My personal favorite island close to Auckland is Rangitoto. Rangitoto is a beautiful volcanic island home to lava fields and native forest. A day hike on Rangitoto is absolutely worth the ferry price.
You have read the best things to do in Auckland. Now, here’s my Auckland itinerary for even more inspiration on what to do in Auckland for 3 days.
In order to have the best possible experience during your trip, be sure to pack your backpack accordingly. New Zealand can get quite cold during times of the year so you want to be prepared. Also, if you’re a nature lover, leave the sneakers at home and pack some hiking boots.
Note: This itinerary is based on the assumption that you will be staying in Auckland city for at least a couple of days.
Day 1 in Auckland: the CBD and surrounding neighborhoods
The entire area collectively known as Auckland is quite large, and contains a large volume of New Zealand’s population. The city center and adjacent neighborhoods, however, are rather concentrated and very walkable.
Start off your day’s journey in Britomart. You can get there on foot, though to save time and energy, you might want to consider taking the bus (depending on where you sleep). Britomart is easily accessed from the CBD.
In Britomart, there are endless hipster cafes, restaurants, and independently owned shops. It’s a good place to eat breakfast or lunch if you haven’t done so already.
Circling back towards the CBD, you can hit up the Sky Tower. If you want to change the vibe of your whole day (and maybe week) go bungee jumping from Sky Tower!
If your hostel offers a free walking tour, I recommend jumping on it! Free walking tours are usually quite interesting and provide plenty of background information that you would not have known otherwise.
Grab a bottle of wine and head up Mt. Eden for sunset. It can sometimes be chilly up there so bring a jacket.
More Day 1 options include:
- Auckland Museum
- Exploring K Road
- Maritime Museum
- Aoetea Square people watching and hanging out
- Lover’s Walk in Auckland Domain
- Rugby Game at Eden Stadium (if it’s the season)
Day 2 in Auckland: Markets, Parks, and Zombies?
After seeking out another delicious Flat White (or tea) from a cafe nearby, head to Albert Park and check out some of the art galleries. If art galleries are not your thing, then simply strolling through the park is quite nice.
If you happen to be in Auckland over the weekend, consider checking out a farmers market. Both the City Farmers Market and Hobsonville Point Farmers’ Market are worth a visit.
The Hobsonville Ferry Terminal is held on both Saturday and Sunday down at the Hobsonville Ferry Terminal. The baked goods are amazing!
For lunch, I recommend hitting up a supermarket for supplies and heading to Auckland Domain for an outdoor picnic in the grass.
A picnic in any city park is always a good idea, and the Auckland Domain is hands down the perfect place in Auckland proper to picnic. Afterwards you can take a stroll through the surrounding forest.
Time/motivation permitting, you can spend the afternoon surviving Zombies at the Zombie Survival Challenge. This activity is obviously more fun if you do it with your mates. If you are traveling solo in Auckland, put the word out in the hostel and see if anybody else is keen.
To settle your nerves (should you survive) head to Ponsonby for a happy hour beer. I’d try to limit yourself to a beer or two as after happy hour, the beer prices at the bar can be appalling.
Day 3 in Auckland: The Islands
Today is the day you venture out beyond the city! If you get an early enough start, I’d say you could easily visit multiple islands. You have several options. The first is to rent a kayak down by the waterfront and paddle out into the bay (or even to an island).
All of these islands are within kayaking distance from Auckland:
- Goat Island
- Motutapu Island
- Motuihe Island
- Kawau Island
- Tiritiri Matangi Island
- Moturoa Island
I realize that in poor weather, rough seas, or wintery conditions, kayaking is less than ideal. So, option number two is to take a ferry.
If you only plan to visit one island, shoot for Rangitoto Island. Here you can go for a hike on the Summit Track, hang out at the beach, and pop over to Motutapu Island for even more island adventures (time permitting).
Really, there are so many islands close to Auckland. You could spend the entire 3 days in Auckland just visiting islands. Waiheke Island is heavily trafficked by tourists, but it is a cool place. Going to Waiheke is best in the low-season (June-August).
If it’s not too late by the time you get back to the city, head to Parnell or Kingsland for a final taste of Auckland’s gritty and hipster (still expensive) neighborhoods.
Auckland off the Beaten Path
If you are in Auckland for a couple extra days (or months) there is plenty to keep you moving. Take a look at some off the beaten path adventures to be found in Auckland:
- Visit the lesser known islands: Here we are back on the subject of awesome islands! Auckland has its famous islands where the majority of people go. The further away from the city you go, the more likely you are to find a quiet spot. Tiri Tiri Matangi is a good place to start.
- Go Bowling in a Bar: If you have never tried it, you should. Dr Rudi’s Rooftop Brewing Company near Viaduct Harbor offers up free first-come first-serve bowling at their rooftop bar. This place is pretty legendary in Auckland, but still few backpackers have ever heard of it!
- Lake Wainamu: Getting to Lake Wainamu requires some effort, but the juice is well worth the squeeze. It takes between 45 minutes to 1 hour to get here, but it’s a great place to come for a swim and picnic in the summer.
- O’Neill Bay: Another 45 minute mission from the city, O’Neill Bay is a beautiful, wild stretch of coast that makes for an excellent off the beaten path day trip from Auckland.
- Awhitu Peninsula: An awesome beach area with plenty of cool hikes and photography opportunities.
Best Walks in Auckland
Between the city parks, beaches, volcanic islands, and small hills surrounding the city, there are no shortage of places to walk in Auckland. Here are some of my favorite hikes in and/or near Auckland:
- Hillary Trail: For an epic four day hike on the west coast near Auckland, the Hillary Trail is not to be missed. I did LOTS of hiking during the 15 months I spent in New Zealand, and I could never figure out why the Hillary Track doesn’t get more attention.
- Coast to Coast Hike: Ranked by several notable publications as one of the best urban hikes in the world, the Coast to Coast hike is something special indeed. The “trail” links Waitemata and Manukau harbours, giving you a varied taste of landscapes and things to do in between.
- Okura Bush Walk: Not far from Auckland is this beautiful 3 hour hike through the forest. It is easy to forget you are so close to the city when you here.
- Auckland Historical Walk: The walk is exactly as it sounds. Contrary to popular belief, there are a handful of historical buildings worth checking out in Auckland. The whole walk probably takes a maximum of two hours.
- Rangitoto Summit Hike: If you haven’t gathered it by now, I am a big fan of this tiny volcanic island! Pop over on the ferry and tackle the easy one hour Rangitoto Summit hike.
- North Shore Coastal Walk: The entire walk (Long Bay Beach – Devonport) is roughly 23 km, but the track is easy and can be done in a day. You can easily catch a bus if you decide you’re done at some point along the way.
Best Time of Year to Visit Auckland
Since New Zealand is in the Southern Hemisphere, its seasons may be reversed from what you are used to (unless you happen to be from the So-Hem). The New Zealand summer is from early December – late February. This is the warmest and sunniest period to visit Auckland, andso the best time of the year to take advantage of the beaches, lakes, and rivers near Auckland.
Summer is also the busiest season for both Kiwis and visiting backpackers.
Auckland is located in the north of the North Island. This translates into relatively mild temperatures year round. March to May is arguably the best time to visit Auckland as it is less busy/crowded during the shoulder season.
Even in May, you can have days full of sun, which may tempt you to take a dip in the sea. Likewise, September to November is the 2nd best time to visit Auckland.
The first time I went to Auckland, I arrived January 2nd, and everything was closed for several days for the New Year holidays. Plus, there were boatloads of other backpackers everywhere I went (though this could be the case anytime of the year these days).
When I visited Auckland in April and again in October, things were much quieter (and open!).
Getting in and out of Auckland
For backpackers arriving into Auckland from overseas or by plane from another part of New Zealand, you will be flying into Auckland International Airport.
Auckland Airport is the main transportation hub for the country and the majority of backpackers will find themselves traveling through this airport at some point in time.
The easiest and cheapest way to get to the Auckland city center is by bus. Skybus operates shuttles 24 hours a day, 365 days a year! One way tickets to the Auckland CBD cost $19 NZ. The ride takes between 40-60 mins.
Taxis are available but should be avoided unless you are in danger of missing a flight or something. Fixed rate taxis to/from the CBD start at $65 NZ. There is a company called “Cheap Cabs” that charges $38 NZ (still double the price of the bus).
Go to the Intercity/Central Bus Terminal if you are busing into Auckland from another city or vice versa.
Uber is also gaining popularity in New Zealand. An Uber ride will almost certainly be cheaper than cab fare in the city, but still is far from cheap. Stick to the buses if you want to save money.
When you’re ready to travel to Auckland, forgo buying tickets at the station and book them online instead! You can now book transport in advance for most of Asia using 12Go and doing so can really save you some stress (and maybe money, too).
How to get around Auckland
There are many options for getting around Auckland. Often, walking is the best way to get around town. For longer distances or to maximize you time in the city, opt for public transit.
- NZ Bus: Within Auckland, they run the North Star, Metrolink, Go West, Waka Pacific, The Link, and the new Inner City Service buses. You can buy an all-day bus pass for $12 NZ, which is totally worth it if you plan on taking multiple trips across the city.
- AT HOP Card: The AT HOP card is the absolute way to go if you plan on taking buses, trains and ferries multiple times.
- Ferries: For access to the islands, it’s ferries all the way.
- Car Hire: You can book a rental car before you arrive so that it is waiting for you at the airport. Easy! Often, car rentals are actually cheaper when you pick up/drop off at the airport in Auckland. Also, make sure you purchase a RentalCover.com policy to cover your vehicle against any common damages such as tires, windscreens, theft, and more at a fraction of the price you would pay at the rental desk.
- Uber: Cheaper than taxis, but still pricey and not ideal for backpacking Auckland on a budget. Uber should be used for airport emergencies or late night drunken short distance rides only.
- Taxi: Does anyone actually use taxis anymore? I’m not sure. They are available, but expect to pay through the nose.
Long Distance Buses to/from Auckland
Apart from hitchhiking, bus travel within New Zealand is usually the cheapest option (when booked in advance). There are several companies operating long-distance bus services in New Zealand.
Inner City and Naked Bus are the two main bus companies. Each company has frequent daily departures/arrivals serving Auckland. I can’t emphasize how important it is to book your bus in advance! The earlier the book, the cheaper the fare will be, simple as that.
The main bus terminal for long distance buses is conveniently located in the Auckland CBD.
Staying Safe whilst Backpacking Auckland
New Zealand is hands down the safest country I have every traveled in. You can hitchhike all over the whole damn country without fear of being cut up into tiny pieces. In many respects, Auckland too is very safe as far as big cities go.
That said, it is still a major city and has the associated annoyances/safety hazards. The CBD in particular has a large homeless population. Of course, homeless folks are NOT inherently dangerous/sketchy by any stretch of the imagination. Mental illness/addiction issues are usually at play in some capacity. So, point being, sometimes people with mental health/addiction issues can cause problems from time to time.
I am not hear to cast judgement nor do I want to. My point is, if you are out late, drunk and alone in the CBD, you make yourself vulnerable to problems. Street thieves (not necessarily homeless at all) might see you as an easy target late at night.
Whilst backpacking in Auckland, use common sense. Don’t get so hammered that you forget where you are staying and wind up lost in the wrong part of town.
Backpacking Auckland does not need to be a dangerous endeavor. Use the same street smarts that you would in any city in the world and you should be just fine.
Pick yourself up a backpacker security belt to keep your cash safe on the road, and check out Backpacker Safety 101 for tips and tricks to stay safe whilst backpacking Auckland Check out this post for plenty of ideas on ingenious ways to hide your money when traveling.
You should always have emergency cash hidden on you - pick up this awesome security belt with its hidden pocket before you travel, it's perfect for hiding money, a passport photocopy.
Get Insured Before Backpacking Auckland
A wise man once said that if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t really afford to travel – so do consider backpacker insurance sorted before you head off on an adventure! Traveling without insurance would be risky. I highly recommend World Nomads.
I have been using World Nomads for some time now and made a few claims over the years. They’re easy to use, offer the widest coverage, and are affordable. Also, this is the only company I know of that lets you buy travel insurance after leaving on a trip.
If there’s one insurance company I trust, it’s World Nomads. Find out why I recommend World Nomads, check out my World Nomads Insurance review.
Getting an estimate from World Nomads is simple – just click the button or image below, fill out the necessary info, and you’re on your way!
Auckland Budget Accommodation Hacks
As budget backpackers, we all want to save money and travel on the cheap. In a perfect world, Couchsurfing hosts would grow on bushes like kiwis and we would be able to pluck them off at our leisure.
I have found that scoring Couchsurfing hosts in big cities (in the west in particular) can be a real challenge as they get so many requests on a daily (or hourly) basis. There are thousands upon thousands of backpackers coming to Auckland and New Zealand every year. That adds up to a fuck ton of Couchsurfer requests.
Sometimes we just need to book a hostel and count our blessings that we are able to go traveling at all.
Couchsurf in Auckland: If you score a Couchsurfing host in Auckland, you will have successfully eliminated your biggest cost: accommodation.
When contacting a host, leave a very personal message short of selling your soul. Try to connect with the person on an personal level. Couchsurfing hosts are NOT free hostels! You are not entitled to their generosity.
I hosted a Couchsurfer (I won’t say from where) recently who watched as I bought the food, cooked, fed him, and cleaned up the dishes. He was an awesome dude, but he didn’t lift a finger to help out and to be honest it bothered me.
If somebody is kind enough to host you, show some respect and act like a responsible adult who gives a shit about what others are doing for you.
Both Work Away and WWOOF New Zealand offer excellent opportunities to backpackers who want to stay in Auckland long term whilst getting a free place to stay/meals in exchange for a few hours of work per day. My partner ended up working festivals in a pizza truck for a super cool Kiwi guy in exchange for a free place (and even some extra cash on the side).
Tap into your Backpacker Network
If you have done any sort of backpacking before, odds are you know someone who knows someone from Auckland. Many Kiwis travel a lot too!
Before you begin your Auckland backpacking trip, I suggest you present your plans to your network of friends to see if they know of someone whom you can crash with for a night or two.
This might sound crazy or stupid, but honestly, this has helped me out in multiple cities the world over. As it turns out, I have friends of friends of friends in more places I could ever have imagined, and they have come through when I needed them! Ah, sweet sweet backpacker karma.
Eating and Drinking in Auckland
Now onto one of the best parts about traveling: eating and drinking! Auckland is home to an excellent food scene. Though expensive, eating out in Auckland is something you should do—if only for a couple of meals.
Auckland is one of the most diverse cities in New Zealand and home to a fair number of immigrants. In addition to finding standard western food, like pizza, burgers, salads, and fish and chips, there is much more on offer, like decent Chinese, Indian, Mexican, Thai, and Vietnamese restaurants. Whatever type of food you seek, you can probably find it in Auckland!
Below is a quick run down of the different types of places to eat and drink in Auckland.
Place to Eat in Auckland
Cafe/Bakery ($-$$): Cafes and Bakeries in New Zealand are firm budget institutions. You can score a sandwich, scone, savory pie (my favorite), or quiche for a couple of bucks paired with a tasty coffee.
Food Trucks ($): I love food trucks. Luckily for us backpackers, Auckland is beginning to have them in abundance. Hurray! Food trucks are great for finding cheap, tasty food on the go. Often they are much cheaper than any sit down place. Check out this article to learn more about Auckland’s best food trucks.
Fast Food ($): New Zealand is famous for its fish and chips (pronounced fush and chups). Oddly enough, many fish and chips places are also Chinese take-away places. Sometimes they are tasty and cheap, and other times they are down right dreadful. If a place doesn’t look clean and there are no other customers, it is probably best to stay away (and save yourself a day of sitting on the toilet).
Restaurant ($$-$$$): The whole gauntlet of restaurants can be found in Auckland. If you love food, try to budget for at least once at a mid-range spot of your choosing.
Bar/Pub ($-$$$): As hipster masses and gentrification gain a firmer and firmer hold over Auckland, the cool gastropubs just keep popping up. There are some seriously great pubs in Auckland, though if you’re not careful, you can easily spend $30+ in an hour.
Club ($$$): Clubs are exclusive and kinda weird. I would certainly never eat in one unless I had just gone two weeks without eating any food. If you do go out clubbing, eat beforehand and certainly pre-game as much as possible.
Best Bars in Auckland
There are no shortage of fine establishments to wet your whistle in Auckland. Below are the five best bars in Auckland: Warning: If you go to all of these bars you will probably spend entirely too much money. Pick one or two and enjoy…
- Swashbucklers: An Auckland classic down by the waterfront. Oddly enough they have a sting ray in the bar.
- The Jefferson – Auckland’s best whiskey bar! Seriously, if you love (expensive) tasty whiskey, pop into Jeffersons for a drink or two.
- Mea Cupla – Famous for having beautiful, tasty, hand-crafted cocktails that few other bars can match. Expect to pay for the pleasure.
- Flight 605– A proper down-to-earth bar serving tasty craft brew pints and free popcorn.
- Cassette 9 – A fun bar with live music and “backpacker” nights. Maybe you will win a skydive or bungee night!
Nightlife in Auckland
Auckland has plenty of fun night life to get into. Being the intelligent budget backpackers that we are, we know that partying all night is a good way to blow your budget.
There are many things you can do though to have a big night without breaking the bank.
It is generally a good idea to go to the supermarket for your booze shopping instead of buying drink after drink at the bar. New Zealand is a wine producing country. You can get a bottle of decent wine for as little as $5 USD. Beer tends to be more expensive, but is significantly cheaper when purchased at a supermarket.
Pub crawls are typically good value and many hostels promote them. With a pub crawl, you can get 3-4 drinks at different bars for one flat rate (as low as $10 USD).
Younger backpackers tend to go for pub crawls, and if you have never been on one, Auckland might just be the place for you to give a pub crawl a try. In my opinion though, one or two pub crawls in your life is all you need to feel satisfied with the experience.
Apart from pre-gaming and pub-crawling, another option is simply not to drink (or drink very little). As time went on I finally figured out where the hell all of my money went whilst traveling: I drank it.
Now when I travel on a tight budget, I tend to not really drink at all (unless the occasion calls for it). This might sound like backpacker blasphemy, but cutting down on drinking is 1. Good for you and 2. saves you a ton of money.
One can still go out on the town and not drink. When you wake up in the morning and feel amazing, you can thank me.
Books to Read on Auckland
Below are some of my favorite books set in New Zealand and Auckland…
The Backpacker Bible – Get it for free! Learn how to ditch your desk and travel the world on just $10 a day whilst building a life of long-term travel with an online income. To inspire and help the next generation of Broke Backpackers, you can now grab ‘How to Travel the World on $10 a Day’ for free! Get your copy here.
The Penguin History of New Zealand – I read this entire book in one week whilst working as a hut warden in Nelson Lakes National Park. This is the best book out there to learn about New Zealand’s rich history, culture, and socio-economic situation. Highly recommended!
The Luminaries – Richly evoking a mid-nineteenth-century world of shipping, banking, and gold rush boom and bust, The Luminaries is at once a fiendishly clever ghost story, a gripping page-turner, and a thrilling novelistic achievement.
A Good Keen Man – This autobiography is the quintessence of male rural New Zealand life. Bloody hilarious.
Pounamu Pounamu – A very important work by one of the best Maori author’s of his generation.
High Adventure: The True Story of the First Ascent of Everest – At a terminal altitude of 29,028 feet, they stood triumphant atop the highest peak in the world. With nimble words and a straightforward style, New Zealand mountaineering legend Hillary recollects the bravery, frustration, agony, and glory that marked his Everest odyssey.
Lonely Planet North Island NZ – Lonely Planet guides are always good to have on hand. Full of useful, practical information that I can’t be bothered researching.
Make Money Online Whilst Backpacking Auckland
Traveling in Auckland or the New Zealand long-term? Keen to make some cash when you are not exploring? Don’t want to pick fruit in North Land?
Teaching English online is a great way to earn a consistent income—from anywhere in the world with a good internet connection. Depending on your qualifications (or your motivation to obtain qualifications like a TEFL certificate) you can teach English remotely from your laptop, save some cash for your next adventure, and make a positive impact on the world by improving another person’s language skills!
It’s a win-win! Check out this detailed article for everything you need to know to start teaching English online.
In addition to giving you the qualifications to teach English online, TEFL courses open up a huge range of opportunities and you can find teaching work all over the world. To find out more about TEFL courses and how you can teach English around the world, read my in-depth report on teaching English abroad.
Broke Backpacker readers get a 35% discount on TEFL courses with MyTEFL (simply enter the code BACKPKR), to find out more, please read my in-depth report on teaching English abroad.
Whether you are keen to teach English online or looking to take your teaching game a step further by finding a job teaching English in a foreign country, getting your TEFL certificate is absolutely a step in the right direction.
Being a Responsible Backpacker in Auckland
Reduce your plastic footprint: Perhaps the best thing you can do for our planet is to make sure you do NOT add to the plastic problem all over the world. Don’t buy one-use water bottles, the plastic ends up in landfill or in the ocean. Instead, pack a tough travel water bottle.
Go and watch A Plastic Ocean on Netflix – it’ll change how you view the plastic problem in the world; you need to understand what we are up against. If you think it doesn’t matter, get off my fucking site.
Don’t pick up single use plastic bags, you’re a backpacker – take your daypack if you need to go to the shop or run errands.
Bear in mind, that many animal products in countries you travel through will not be ethically farmed and won’t be of the highest quality. I’m a carnivore but when I’m on the road, I only eat chicken. Mass-farming of cows etc leads to the rainforest being cut down – which is obviously a huge problem.
Recently, my gear-venture, Active Roots has started to sell water bottles. For every Active Roots water bottle sold, we donate 10% to PlasticOceans.org – an awesome initiative aimed at educating people on the risk of single use plastic and helping to clean up our oceans. Help save the planet, whether you take an Active Roots bottle or not – TAKE RESPONSIBILITY for your plastic footprint, don’t be a dick.
Need more guidance? – Check out our post on how to be a responsible backpacker.
Backpacking in Auckland will bring you ample opportunities to participate in debauchery, and it is very important to have fun, let loose, and get a bit wild at times.
Most of my backpacking trips across the world have included at least a few mornings where I wake up knowing I went too far. There is never a shortage of other backpackers who will join the party in New Zealand.
There are some things that will put you in the category of a straight up jackass if you do them. Being super loud and obnoxious in a tiny hostel at 3 AM is a classic rookie backpacker mistake. Everyone in the hostel will hate you when you wake them up. Show your fellow travelers respect whilst backpacking in Auckland and anywhere else for that matter!
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