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Source: Auckland Council

With so many great destinations, free summer events and public transport options on offer, urban adventures in Auckland don’t need to break the bank.

To prove it, we sent three different groups on low-budget missions around the city.

Ant Sang and family took up the challenge and decided to hit the city centre, Catalina Bay Farmers Market, the Maritime Museum and Parnell Baths.

Our mission started with a bus from our house in Te Atatū Peninsula into the city on Saturday morning. And from there it was a quick stroll to Pier 4, where we boarded the ferry and headed to Hobsonville Point.

Taking advantage of Auckland Transport’s free weekend fares for children 16 and under, our daughters Henrietta, 15, and Frederica, 13, tagged on with their AT HOP cards and travelled for free on both the bus and ferry. For the adults, the ferry was $7.60 each way.

The 30-minute ferry ride was great – the Auckland summer weather was in top form so it was the perfect day to be on the harbour amongst the yachts, boats and kayaks.

The Catalina Bay Farmers Market was just a few minutes’ walk from the pier. The stallholders were really passionate about their products; we had fascinating conversations with Clare, who left the corporate food world to create her toasted cereal range and the team who left engineering to pursue their dreams of creating aromatic terpene soda drinks (no, I’d never heard of terpenes either). There’s a nice array of stalls – candles, honey, aromatic teas, chorizo, pottery and a lot more.

We didn’t intend to spend much, but there were just so many tempting products on offer. We blew our budget and bought earrings, snacks from the bakery (Eccles cakes, Portuguese tarts and cinnamon buns), ice-cold sodas and freshly made real fruit ice cream. We finished with a short walk around the waterfront, spotting the birdlife and the local kids doing bombs off the boat ramp.

We caught the ferry back to the city and walked to the Maritime Museum at Viaduct Harbour. Like the Auckland War Memorial Museum and the Auckland Art Gallery, entry is free to Auckland residents. They have informative displays and interactive activities to entertain the whole family. The exhibition exploring the experiences of early immigrants to Auckland was great, especially seeing a painting of Lyttleton Harbour, where my wife Delia’s ancestors arrived in New Zealand many generations ago.

Another highlight was the America’s Cup interactive sailing simulation, where up to six people (each with a different task) can work together to ‘sail’ a yacht. Standing under NZL 32 (the yacht that won the 1995 America’s Cup and hangs from the ceiling), our family of four were disqualified twice from the simulated race. On our third attempt, a couple of lovely tourists joined in to help, with only slightly better results. We then took the bus along the waterfront to right across the road from Auckland’s iconic Parnell Baths on Judges Bay Road.

It was refreshing to get into the water on a scorching afternoon. These historic salt-water pools were built way back in 1914; not that you can tell – they are in great condition. Again, my daughters got in free as they’re under 16.

We had a great family day out. It was a good way to spend one of the last days of the school holidays. I can recommend exploring Auckland’s attractions by public transport: it’s surprisingly cheap and good fun to play tourist in our own city. 

Your summer, sorted

With hundreds of events and activities taking place across Tāmaki Makaurau, your summer’s sorted with Auckland Council.

Visit our summer website and get inspired for your next day out.