The best of New Zealand – for free!

Whether you’ve blown your budget on the plane ticket or are trying to make your cash stretch as long as possible, the great many attractions and activities that can be done in New Zealand without spending a single dollar make this one of the most attractive countries on the planet. Here are some free New Zealand tourist activities and attractions that you don’t want to miss.

Free New Zealand Tourist Activities and Attractions

Hike to Franz Josef glacier

Adventure seekers will delight in donning their crampons in preparation for a hike across the crevasses of Franz Josef’s mighty glacier.  But with prices for a heli ice climb soaring above $500, thrilling or not, it’s outside many a tourist budget.  Instead, take a hike along the valley floor to admire the blackened, cracked surface of New Zealand’s most famous river of ice.  The trail winds its way along a valley floor littered with scree and rock falls, running alongside the Waiho River.  The closer you get to the glacier’s snout, the more incredible the scenery gets, but best of all, enjoying it is totally free.

The trail towards Franz Josef Glacier. Free New Zealand
The trail towards Franz Josef Glacier

Wine tasting

The Marlborough region is world-renowned for its wine growing, in particular, famed for fruity Pinot Noirs and delicious Sauvignon Blancs.  The rich alluvial soils are perfect for growing grapes, making this an increasingly important player on the New Zealand wine scene.  Many of the area’s vineyards open their cellar doors for free New Zealand wine tastings.  One such vineyard is Seaview, the largest privately owned vineyard in the country and run by the Yealands family.  Located in the Awatere Valley, visitors can enjoy a drive along the 7.5km self-guided tour through the vineyard.  The road winds upwards to Lookout Point which affords stunning views of Cook Strait and, on a clear day, Wellington.

Autumn in the Awatere Valley, Marlborough. Free New Zealand
Autumn in the Awatere Valley, Marlborough: Photo on Flickr by Phillip Capper / CC BY 2.0


Some of New Zealand’s very best scenery is along its long and varied coastline.  In a country packed with stand-out spots, the Moeraki Boulders shine like a beacon.  Found half an hour’s drive from Oamaru, these almost perfectly spherical rocks can measure two metres or more in diameter.  Once buried in the muddy shallows of the seabed, wave action has lifted these massive boulders and deposited them onshore. But don’t focus solely on these geological marvels: keep your eyes peeled out to see and you might spot some of the seals and dolphins that populate the waters in these parts, saving yourself the cost of a wildlife watching boat trip into the bargain.

Moeraki Boulders sunset. free New Zealand
Moeraki Boulders sunset. Flickr: Chris Gin / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


There are a number of museums scattered across New Zealand which don’t charge for admission, but by far, the best is Wellington’s Te Papa.  Covering both Maori and European settler history, all the major events and eras are covered, giving you the context to help you make sense of what it is to be a New Zealander.  Its hands-on approach makes it a firm favourite with families; kids will love stepping into a dinosaur footprint, inspecting insects through a microscope and hunting for fossils.  They’ll also love having a go at weaving, stilt-walking and swinging poi.

Maori girl dancing with a swinging Poi. Free New Zealand
Maori girl dancing with a swinging Poi. Flickr: Stewart Baird / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

About JuliaHammond


Julia Hammond is a Geography teacher turned travel writer with a passion for places. Winning Mail Travel's Deep South competition was the catalyst to write for a diverse range of publications including Bradt's Bus Pass Britain Rides Again. She’s written Kindle guides to Cape Town, Peru and London for Unanchor and advice on Savannah for Wanderlust. When not travelling, she can be found at home in Essex planning her next trip, her two golden retrievers curled up at her feet.

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One Response

  1. Franz Josef Glacier Three Ways | Go 4 Travel Blog

    […] sloped sharply away.  Ice creased into deep crevasses as it slid slowly down the mountain to the Waiho River around twelve kilometres below.  The weak winter sun acted like a photographer’s soft focus […]


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