5 Fun and Free things to do in New Zealand

Road by Lake Wanaka

You’ve planned your trip to New Zealand, you’ve booked your flight, and you’ve packed your bag. Now you are wondering how to absolutely maximize your time in Middle Earth? Below are the things we did (or wish we had done) that cost nothing and made the trip really special.


5 Fun and Free things to do in New Zealand

I firmly believe that driving is the best way to see New Zealand, so several of these are driving specific.

Pick up a hitchhiker!

I probably wouldn’t give this advice to someone traveling in the US, but the hitchhikers in New Zealand are usually other travelers, saving some money as they tramp around New Zealand. Especially on the South Island, we saw many people with their thumbs out, and it was a great way to meet new, interesting people from around the world.

Road by Lake Wanaka

Take a nap in a park!

Again, probably not something I would do in the US! but when the afternoon sun started making us sleepy, we would pull off at a public park, lay out a blanket, and enjoy a short power nap in the sun. As someone who loves stretching out in the sun, this was such a pleasant break on a long drive. New Zealand has some really beautiful parks too, and in November (Spring!) everything was blooming and green.

Lake Moeraki is a great free stop in New Zealand

Walk around some neighborhoods!

Chris and I like to check out the real estate everywhere we go, it is a fun way to compare and contrast daily living in different countries. Plus if we decide to immigrate we’ll have a head start on house hunting! Especially in the early morning when jet lag has you up, but nothing is open,  The bonus was that the particular neighborhoods we chose, were all covered with meticulously tended gardens full of blooms.

German house in New Zealand

Bonus points for houses decorated to reflect their home country!

Visit the Welcome Center

Many towns will have Welcome Centers and in our experience, they are well worth the visit. The representatives are knowledgeable and very committed to answering your questions and pointing you in the right direction. I guess it’s that famous British (colony) hospitality. If you are coming from the UK or Canada this may not impress you as much, but we were blown away by how cheerful and helpful everyone was. They’ll also be able to let you know what free community events may be happening during your stay.

Hobbiton Mill

This isn’t the Matamata Welcome Center, but the actual Center is also Hobbit-themed!

Community Events

This is not something we were able to fit in during our visit, but if we go back I will definitely be carving time to check out local farmers markets, arts and crafts festivals, and local celebrations. A couple options would be the Rotorua Tulip Festival in October, the Saturday market in Matamata, the Japanese Film Festival in Christchurch, or Queenstown’s LUMA Southern Lights Project in June.


5 Fun and free things to do in New Zealand


If you’re interested in everything we did in New Zealand check out our full 2-week itinerary!

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