Category Archives: New Zealand


Auckland on a budget: 8 Affordable ways to enjoy the city of sails

Auckland stole my heart from the moment I moved up there. Having come from the South Island, it was a whole new world of possibilities. Gorgeous beaches, interesting neighbourhoods and always something going on. But, I know as well as any tourists coming to visit, exploring Auckland on a budget can be quite the challenge.

Have you been dying to visit New Zealand? Perhaps you’ve got a trip all lined-up but people keep telling you how expensive it is? No need to freak out! While it’s true that Aotearoa can be a decidedly budget-hating tourist trap, there are plenty of ways to enjoy the treasures of this beautiful city without leaving a burning hole in your pocket.

To help you out, here’s 7 affordable ways to enjoy Auckland on a budget. Got your own tips? I’d love you to share them with me below!

Visiting Auckland: The City of Sails

Auckland truly is a beautiful city. It’s one of my favourite places in the world to live and the quality of life here is exceptionally high. There aren’t many places in the world where you can live in a vibrant and bustling city, yet be close to golden sand beaches, lush green forests and pristine mountains all at the same time. Diversity is the name of the game, and nature lovers will feel particularly at home.

The north island of New Zealand plays host to national parks, amazing beaches, wonderful hiking and secret waterfalls. There are national parks on volcanoes and vineyard carpeted islands to explore. Whether you’re looking for kayaking or glow worms, a funky city vibe or a snowboarding trip, Auckland is a pretty decent place to base yourself.

Auckland on a budget: Auckland is known as the "city of sails" with more boats per capita than anywhere else in the world. Thanks to Flo for the stunning photography.

Auckland is known as the “city of sails” with more boats per capita than anywhere else in the world. Thanks to Flo for the stunning photography.

What’s the secret to enjoying Auckland on a budget?

The first tip:  Don’t splurge on the typical tourist activities. Things like white water rafting, bungee jumping and skydiving are all awesome things to do while visiting, but they have sky-high prices! Try choosing just a few tourist activities, and supplement your days with some of Auckland’s other delights.

The second tip: Get away from the Viaduct! Downtown Auckland is a great place for hostels and a Saturday night out, but the CBD is often all anybody sees of the city. This is not the way to see Auckland! Take it from a local – to enjoy this incredible city you need to get out and away from the central tourist spot of the CBD and explore the outer suburbs and beaches.

Auckland on a budget: Auckland Facts 2

1. Take a stroll to Maungakiekie

Maungakiekie, or more well known as One Tree Hill park in Auckland is not far from the city, situated on the fringe of the  Onehunga and Greenland suburbs. This gorgeous park is home to an impressive volcano, and despite how dramatic it sounds, is great for relaxing strolls, picnics, jogging and enjoying a BBQ with friends. From the top of One Tree Hill you can enjoy breathtaking panoramic views across the entire city of Auckland across Auckland harbour, Manukau harbour, as well as right out to Mt Rangitoto Volcano perched out in the ocean. Transfer Car cover more information and history on this key peak of Auckland’s volcanic field in their article ‘Auckland’s One Tree Hill: A Volcano in Sheep’s Clothing’

Getting there: Onehunga suburb is on the fringes of central Auckland, so it’s not difficult to get to. Catch the train to Onehunga station, or the number 302 or 309 busses from the city.

Price: Exploring the park is free. Catching either the bus or the train will cost around $3-$4NZD each way.

Best day to go: Any day you like, but clear skies and some sunshine will make for a much nicer experience. The crowds are less during the week as many of the families and joggers will be at work, but even early evening before the sun goes down is a wonderful time to explore this great spot.

2 Get the ferry over to Devonport

Watch the city’s beautiful skyline from the water and take a day trip over to Devonport, one of the loveliest suburbs of Auckland’s North Shore. Watch sailors out exploring the waters and cruise past the New Zealand Naval Base before pulling into the rather picturesque Devonport. Once you’re there enjoy a stroll by the seaside, get yourself and ice cream, check out the museum, read a book under a tree or wander around browsing the cool trinket, clothing and chocolate shops.

Auckland on a budget: Devonport is home to beautiful works, charming villas and a great place to go eat fish & chips or icecream by the water. Thanks to Flo for the stunning photography.

Devonport is home to beautiful works, charming villas and a great place to go eat fish & chips or icecream by the water. Thanks to Flo for the stunning photography.

Getting there: You can get the bus to Devonport, but it’s quicker, easier and much more fun to take the Ferry. The ferry departs every half hour from downtown Auckland, with ferries running later into the night on Friday and Saturdays, and starting earlier in the morning during the week. You can find the full schedule here

Price: return trip on the ferry. museum: free. Icecream:

Best day to go: Any time you like. Weekends are busier, so depends on what kind of atmosphere you’d like!

3. Titirangi is where it’s at

OK, I admit it – I’m a little bias. Titirangi was the suburb I used to live in. But, in my opinion it’s one of the true gems of this city (and one that tourists rarely find their way to).

Nestled out amongst native bush, beaches and waterfalls, Titirangi is a perfect stopover on your way to the wild black sand beaches of the Waitakere ranges. Take the bus out to Titirangi and enjoy an excellent coffee in one of the amazing cafes, and then if you’re there on the right day visit the craft and farmers market. Afterwards take a picturesque walk down to one of the many secluded beaches and take a swim.

If you’re still around at night find a local to help you spy some of the mesmerising glow worms in the area. I absolutely recommend Hardware Cafe or Stripe Cafe, two of my favourite cafes in New Zealand.

Price: Bus around $5NZD then spending money for Cafes and the market

Getting there: Titirangi is best reached by the local bus from downtown Auckland. The number 195 and 154 are the most direct routes, and will take around 1 hour.

Best day to go: The last Sunday of each month is the Titirangi Village Market, so if you want the buzz of activity that comes along with it, then that’s the best time to hear there. Check out the Titirangi Village Market Facebook page here..

4. Mission Bay

Mission Bay is one of the closest beachfront suburbs to downtown Auckland, and an excellent place to have an ice cream, beer or lazy long lunch and watch the world go by. Public transport is abundant or it’s a cheap taxi or Uber ride from the CBD. If the weather’s fine and you feel like some exercise, you can take a rather scenic 7km stroll that should take somewhere between 1.5 and 2 hours. The beach is lovely and some of the nearby bays play host to stand up paddle boarding, kayaking and kite surfing. From here you can also rent a kayak and go out on a mission to Rangitoto Island.

Price: Whatever you want! There’s loads of cafes and restaurants if you’re up for a splurge, or pick up some fish & chips (or pack a picnic) and kick back on the beach.

Getting there: Mission bay is a pleasant 7km walk from downtown auckland. Otherwise there are frequent busses that head that way from britomart – take the 756, 767, 745, 756, or 769. A 1-way journey will cost around the $3 mark. Check out the AT website for journey planning, schedules and route maps.

Best day to go: It depends what you’re after – the buzz on a weekend, summer’s day is fantastic! But if you’re looking for a little less action, try during the week when everyone is at work/school.

5. Noodles & Dumplings galore on Dominion Road

Right on the doorstep of central Auckland lies Dominion road. This Chinatown-esque suburb packs a real punch when it comes to well-priced asian food and is a hive of activity especially on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Whether you’re after hand-pulled noodles or soft steamy dumplings, Dominion road is where the locals go when they are looking for a tasty and cheap meal out. The frontrunners for Dominion’s best dumplings are Barilla and New Flavour.. Although The Urban List has kindly put together Auckland’s Best Dumplings , 10 More of the Best Dumplings in Auckland and Oodles of Noodles! Where to find Auckland’s Best Noodles

Price: You can eat for under $20, throw in a few coins for the bus fare!

Getting there: Dominion road is an easy bus, taxi or uber ride away from the central city.  Check out the AT website for journey planning, bus + train schedules and route maps.

Best day to go: Any day is good, but some places are closed on Mondays or Tuesdays, so later in the week or weekend is your best bet.

6. Visit the Famous Otara Flea Market

Hidden deep in South Auckland, Otara is somewhere that tourists almost never find. True, South Auckland doesn’t always have the best reputation for being full of nice neighborhoods, but the Otara flea market is an Auckland must-see . It’s the city’s largest street market & an excellent way to explore Auckland on a budget… even one of epically restrictive proportions.

Locals peddle everything from second hand goods out the back of their car to produce and tasty snacks. There is plenty of Pacific Island flavour here too so it’s a fantastic spot to try out some Samoan, Fijian and other Polynesian foods. They have an official website here and a facebook group here for more info, pictures and maps!

Price: Whatever you like! You don’t need to spend a cent – you can pick up treats to nibble on for a few gold coins or spend a month’s budget on bits and pieces, the choice is yours.

Getting there: The Otara market has stalls in the car park behind the Otara Town Centre on Watford and Newbury Streets and stalls inside Te Puke o Tara Community Centre hall. Take Take bus 472, 487 or 497 from Britomart, the trip will costs around $7 and takes just under an hour. If you want to get there super early then hit up Uber instead. Check out the AT website for journey planning, bus + train schedules and route maps.

Best day to go: Saturdays are the only day the flea market runs, and it’s all packed up by midday – so Saturday morning! Aim to get there early (6am) to score the early bird bargains!

7. Go to La Cigale, The French Market

Let’s first get this out in the open – no, Just like France itself, the French market isn’t cheap. It’s not the first thing that comes to mind when you say ‘Auckland on a budget’.. And it isn’t huge either – but it is free to browse and the atmosphere is delightful. Don’t forget – this is a market, you don’t actually have to buy anything. Enjoy the free entertainment and soak up the atmosphere without bursting the piggy-bank on one too many specialty saucisson.

Check out the official website to get an idea of stallholders as well as what delicious treats and specialty goods to expect.

Price: Just like the Otara market – window shopping is free! But if you start spending, prices here add up quickly, so splurge on a treat but restrict yourself to samples & ambiance if you’re on a budget.

Getting there: There are two locations for this iconic market: The Britomart market is found in Takutai Square, an easy walk from most downtown hostels and hotels. For the Parnell market head to 69 St Georges Bay Road, which you can easily get to by using the INN Inner Link bus circuit, or alternatively jump on the number 767, 635, 655, 703 busses or the STH(Papakura) rail line. Check out the AT website for journey planning, bus + train schedules and route maps. The journey will cost around $2 one-way and take between 15-20 minutes regardless of which transport method you choose.

Best day to go: The original La Cigale Market in Parnell runs every weekend except the weekend between Christmas and New Year, Saturdays 8am – 1.30pm and Sundays 9am – 1.30pm. The Britomart market runs Saturdays 8am – 12.30pm and Sundays 9am – 12.30pm

8. Ponsonby Village International Foodcourt.

Just a tiptoe away from downtown Auckland is Ponsonby – full of upmarket restaurants and overpriced trendy bars. However, fashion aside, nestled within the  hipster hub of ponsonby is the infamous (with the locals) Ponsonby foodcourt. Creep up the stairs to a vibrant food-hall full of different cuisines all at excellent prices. My advice? Try the beef rendang from the ‘Kuta Bali’ Indonesian stall, then sit back to enjoy the lively atmosphere.

Price: Cheap, cheerful & international is the theme and you can pick up something tasty for around the $10 mark.

Getting there: The foodcourt is located at 106 Ponsonby Road (cnr Ponsonby Rd and Pollen St). You can walk from the city center if you head up across K-Road, it will only take around 20 minutes.

You can also jump on the INN Inner link bus, 274, 020X, 030, 020 or 195. Check out the AT website for journey planning, bus + train schedules and route maps. The journey will cost around $2 one-way and will still take 20-30 minutes.

Best day to go: Any time you’re hungry! The food court is open 7 days a weeks from 11am – 10pm.

Auckland on a Budget: Auckland is a stunning place to visit, and there is so much more to it than the you might think. Thanks to Flo for the amazing photography.

Auckland is a stunning place to visit, and there is so much more to it than the you might think. Thanks to Flo for the amazing photography.

Auckland is a vibrant and diverse city – there is much more to it than the sky tower and viaduct! It has become my mission to introduce people to the version of Auckland that I know and love. Escaping the tourist traps allows you visit Auckland on a budget & see the real city.

Have you been to Auckland? What’s your favourite thing to do? Let me know in the comments!

Ultimate Guide to Camping, Trekking & Exploring New Zealand’s South Island | The Freelance Explorer image 1

Ultimate Guide to Camping, Trekking & Exploring New Zealand’s South Island

New Zealand’s South Island is one of the most beautiful and easy-going places in the world for a road trip. Simply pack up the car and head off ..with a spot of pre-planning, of course!

On the way out of Christchurch we decided to take the overland route up the South Island. We visited Waipara, Marble Hill, Lewis Pass, Daniels Lake, Kaiteriteri, Nelson, Queen Charlotte Sounds and Blenheim before hopping on the ferry bound for the North Island.

We made tracks through my beautiful homeland in February, on the outer edge of summer. The roads were laden with roadside peach vendors and apple stores outside the orchards, sunny golden beaches and green leafy campsites. Every season brings its own charm to the region with snowy & steaming hot pools in the winter, abundant blossoms in the spring and richly coloured orange and red grapevines in the autumn.


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Monkeying About & Sketching the Seals - Learning to Draw at the Zoo | The Freelance Explorer image 10

Monkeying About & Sketching the Seals – Learning to Draw at the Zoo

Spring time has finally arrived in Auckland City, and the time has come for some new hobbies other than huddling around in front of the fire, committed to a steady diet of red wine, cheese and crackers. Not, of course, that there is anything wrong with a nice brie – but it was time to get outside and enjoy the sunshine & freshly blooming flowers. Drawing is a hobby I have dabbled in throughout my whole life, having an artist for a mother; my partner on the other hand comes from a background of spending much of his life believing creativity didn’t run through his veins – not in an artistic sense. We have since been on a mission to prove it wrong, and to spend quality time together developing our drawing, sketching & doodling skills; with the aid of a special book  this has become an enjoyable and refreshing break from sitting at our laptops working on our business plans together.

Getting to know the animals in ways I hadn't known before was a real highlight - from the swinging spider monkey to the knobbly kneed flamingo.

Getting to know the animals in ways I hadn’t known before was a real highlight – from the swinging spider monkey to the knobbly kneed flamingo.

The Drawing Book

(Drawing Lab for Mixed-Media Artists: 52 Creative Exercises to Make Drawing Fun (Lab Series))

This little treasure chest of ideas removes the complications of drawing – no longer is it technical or about perfection, now it is entertaining, fun and enjoyable in a free & childlike sense. Working through the chapters it feels like a game, however without even realise it, the fundamentals of drawing are being taught, and skills are being developed. Beginning with animals – moving into people, places and beyond ; this book focuses on mixed media, and is a fantastic introduction to artistic styles, different tools, and interesting techniques you may not have thought of. A friend is a very talented mixed media artist – her studio is full of fascinating art books, and every visit to house ends in myself, child like daze, flicking through the pages of all her wonderous books, mesmorised at all the exciting new possibilities of art & creativity. This is exactly the position I was in when the ‘drawing lab’ first caught my eye.  I felt like I was in a candy store – page after page of eye catching illustrations,  I couldn’t get enough. I became obsessed – I must have this book! Fortunately, my very perceptive partner in life & crime picked up on my latest fascination and I received this book as a thoughtful birthday present. Ever since, we have been working through the exercises together; Him learning the joy that art & creativity can bring, and myself remembering a long lost hobby.

Sketching at the zoo

Watching the movement of the creatures as you capture it with quick sketches is excellent drawing practice.

Learning to Draw at the Zoo

One of these particular drawing book exercises is titled ‘a day at the zoo’, and as the name suggests involved spending a very pleasant afternoon wandering around Auckland Zoo.  We packed out bags full of sketch books and mechanical pencils – nothing complicated or difficult to come by, and made a beeline for the zoo cafe to begin our exploration with a latte and game plan. This is a very quick & effective way to get good at sketching, understanding form, movement and practice blind contouring. All of the animals have such different shapes – begin with the semi circles of the tortise – the shapes patterned on its shell, the lines its wrinkles form .. an easy place to start and a wonderful ‘still life’ model, the tortoise isn’t going anywhere in a hurry. For the experts – the spider monkeys. Watch them dangle, weave, play and fight their way around ropes, trees and toys. They use their tails like little hands, and see if you can capture the pendulum motion as they swing across the ropes course, a series of many quick sketches will help you to understand movements in your drawings. There are many other animals to sketch of course, and they all bring their own shapes, lines, movements and challenges. My favourite thing to draw was the flamingo – I fell in love with these unusual birds and their chaotic honking, their graceful stilt-like balance, how they wobbled on their long knobbly knees and their  ballerina like movements. Their arched necks, fluffy pink feathers and scoop-like, curvy beaks were a delight to draw. I enjoyed how they would ‘pose for me’, holding positions long enough for me to capture their form, but moving often enough to keep things interesting. I pulled up a stool and watched the flamingos with my sketch pad in my lap; it only took 15 minutes of sketching for my abilities to noticeably  increase. Spending time to observe these odd creatures, listen to their sounds & watch their interaction gave me an insight into their personalities – all elements of my drawing that I wouldn’t have gained from a still photograph alone.

Tools you need The beauty of this exercise is that it’s entirely up to you, make it your own! You don’t need many things, and they are open to interpretation:

  1.  Something to draw on. I used a sketch book. I like ring bound ones sized A5 – convenient to carry around. It makes no difference though – draw on what YOU feel like – maybe you have an art journal, a sketch book, index cards or loose pieces of paper. Some people like to draw on card, others on watercolour paper. Be creative if you like: draw over old book pages, on napkins, on pieces of plaster board. This exercise is only limited by your own imagination!
  2. Something to draw with. I used a mechanical pencil for some drawings, and softer artists pencils for others. I captured movement in charcoal, but you can use whatever you want! What you draw WITH can be just as inventive as what you draw ON. Of course a pen or pencil is the most convenient thing to carry around, but don’t let that stop you: pens, crayons, pastels, felts, ink, paints, chalk – this is mixed media, and it’s all about YOU, use whatever you feel drawn 
  3. Something to draw. The zoo is a wonderful place to find a great selection of moving and playing animals. If you don’t have a xoo or the spare cash to visit one, try having a closer look at your local neighborhood. The duck pond at the park is full of bird-life, or maybe you have a friend you could visit who has a few different, interesting pets.

Other things to consider: Snacks or a picnic, plenty of water to drink, umbrella, sunscreen, portable chair/stool, camera & notepad for other interesting things you find.

Even more reasons to draw at the zoo

  • It’s a date! Going with your significant other, potential love interest, friend or even children is a lovely day out, full of fresh air &  interesting conversation
  • See the animals in a whole new light: drawing animals allows you to see them in an entirely new light, and appreciate them for it. How often do we really look at animals? I would say, for most people, not often enough. When you are drawing your subject, you feel like you really get to know it – the way the creature moves, how it eats, whether it likes lounging in the sun or darting through the bushes with its playmate, you will gain a new understanding with this fascinating little creature that you have chosen to sketch.
  • Get some exercise: Our day trip to the zoo ended up spanning around 3-4 hours, and may have lasted longer if they didn’t close in the evenings! We spent a small amount of that time sitting, and a majority of it on the move – strolling around, looking at animals, pulling out our sketchbooks when we saw something of interest. Not quite high intensity cardio, but it certainly counts as good exercise & time outdoors getting much needed sunlight & oxygen.

Going to draw at the zoo? Already done it? I would love to include some photos, stories and blog links to other people who have done this – so if you fit the description, send me an email or a tweet .