15 July, 2019
Last updated on 10 February, 2022
Posted by Spaceships Crew
We have so many beautiful and fun things to do and see here that sometimes we forget, and just plain miss out on, the weird and free things to do in New Zealand. You can admire a lot of crazy ‘art’ dotted along our country roads, that can be combined with hiking, road trips, or campervan adventures. These are great photo-ops with bragging rights, no charge. Here are ten free things to do in New Zealand.
Free things to do on North Island
There are lots of free things to do and see in New Zealand. Let's start with the North Island. No matter your next destination, the free things to do can be found all over the North Island. Check it out!
Hundertwasser Toilets (Kawakawa)
A Kiwi international work of art is a public toilet located in Kawakawa. Conceived by the world-renowned Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser this is his only project in the Southern Hemisphere, and his last.
The fully functional colourful toilet is a quirky, not-to-be-missed legend. Sitting in a town where a railway track runs through the middle of town, it has won the world-famous Golden Plunger Award.
Recycled materials, bottles for walls, no straight lines, ceramic tiles, mosaic tiling, copper work, a sloped floor, a grass roof, and a tree are all merged with modern convenience, producing the world’s most architecturally important public bathroom.
Go for an artsy toilet break by visiting the Hundertwasser Toilets in Kawakawa
Giant Lemon & Paeroa Bottle (Paeroa)
In Paeroa, the hometown of NZ’s famous homegrown soft drink Lemon & Paeroa or L&P, sits the 7m high replica of the famous L&P soft drink bottle. The legendary bottle takes pride of place on the eastern side of Main Street, atop a stone pedestal in the park.
A hub at the base of The Coromandel, Paeroa is the perfect mid-journey break along the Hauraki Rail Trail for quick photo-ops, an L&P café lunch, and a bottle of the thirst quencher, to go.
Toothbrush Fence (near Te Pahu)
The beautiful rolling landscape of Hamilton, near Te Pahu, is suddenly interrupted by miles and miles of wire fence with thousands of toothbrushes hanging off it.
The self-appointed Laird of Hamilton started the phenom by hanging his old, used up toothbrushes on the fence. It took off from there and is now an invitation to hang your own toothbrush along with the tourists’, locals’, road trippers,’ and several celebrities including a Prime Minister.
A must see for Flight of the Conchords fans, make a quick photo-op stop and join in the fun.
Probably one of the weirdest stops on your road trip: toothbrush fence | photo: Mark Gunn (Flickr CC BY 2.0)
The Big Carrot (Ohakune)
You may have heard about the Big Carrot, but you’ve got to see it to believe it. At the entrance to Ohakune, sits a huge, 7.5m, fibreglass, bright orange carrot.
As a symbol of pride for the rural town known as New Zealand’s Carrot Capital, it was originally used as a prop in a television commercial for Anz Bank.
The very cool attraction and public activities park remains free to the public because local companies buy advertising plaques which are embedded in the concrete of the walking trail.
A healthy road trip stop: big carrot in Ohakune | photo: Yortw (Flickr CC BY-NC 2.0).
Longest Place Name in the World (near Porangahau)
Holding the first place in the Guinness World Book of Records as the longest place name in the world, near Porangahau, you can’t miss the low and long sign declaring the 85-letter Māori name of the hill it sits on.
Translated it means, “The place where Tamatea, the man with the big knees, who slid, climbed and swallowed mountains, known as 'land eater,’ played his flute to his loved one." For pronunciation and brevity, the locals call it Taumata Hill. To impress your friends, here’s how to pronounce it:
Try to pronounce the longest place name in the world
South Island: free things to do and see
Arriving on the South Island by ferry in Picton or by plane in Christchurch to pick up your campervan, you'll be close to the first free thing to do on our list. It doesn't matter where your South Island road trip will start. Check out the list below.
Pic’s Peanut Butter World (Nelson)
Nelson is home to the gigantic jar of Pic’s Peanut Butter, and another location of free things to do in New Zealand. While Nelson offers a multitude of things to do, the highlight will be your photo on top of the world’s biggest jar of peanut butter, and a tour of Pics Peanut Butter World.
On the newest and quirkiest factory tour, you will visit Roasting Matilda, and get a first-hand view of the conveyor trip each jar of Pic’s goes through before reaching your home.
Big Doughnut (Springfield)
At the foot of the Southern Alps, Springfield is a hub for skiing, rock climbing, walking, hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, jet boating, golf, the Tranz Alpine Train, and home to a ginormous, pink doughnut!
The shiny pink frosted doughnut, complete with sprinkles, was used to promote the premiere of The Simpson’s Movie, shot in Springfield. The concrete replica, identical to Homer’s favourite snack, is actually the third version. The original was made of plastic and set on fire by an arsonist. The second was the town’s gigantic tire, painted pink, and named Baby Donut. Geocaching fans, take a good look to see if you can find a cache there.
This final concrete replica is complete with a set of metal steps behind it for great photo-ops. Remember, according to Homer, “Donuts…is there anything they can’t do?”
Tasty road trip stop: Giant Pink Doughnut in Springfield | photo: Mattinbgn (Wikimedia CC BY 3.0)
Famous Lone Tree (Wanaka)
At the foothills of Mount Aspiring National Park, sits the Lone Tree of Lake Wanaka. The lake sits in a u-shaped valley formed during the last ice-age and gives off magnificent views just before sunset. One of the most photographed trees in all New Zealand, at high water, the beautiful view includes a backdrop of the majestic Southern Alps with a stunning reflection of the Lone Tree shining in the lake waters.
Having started life as a fence post over 70 years ago, the popular tree has its own hashtag, #thatwanakatree. However, the crack willow tree is vulnerable to human impact, so enjoy the walk to it and relish its beauty with a photo to remember.
The famous Wanaka tree is a must-visit for many travellers | photo: Jerry Skinner (Flickr CC BY NC 2.0)
Weird Trees (Slope Point)
Located just south of Waikawa, Slope Point is home to a gigantic mound of weird, side growing, mangled and warped trees. A beautiful place to explore and see the wild nakedness of nature.
The outcrop of trees, planted by farmers as a shelter for grazing sheep, is permanently bent and twisted because of the constant pounding winds that travel 2,000 uninterrupted miles from the Antarctic Ocean.
Another free thing to do in New Zealand: weird trees of Slope Point
Tunnel Beach (Dunedin)
Walk through a 140-year old tunnel to arrive at this most unique beach, surrounded by boulders, sea-carved sandstone cliffs, caves, and rock arches. Along the path to the tunnel, you will see breathtaking views of the ocean, the rocky coast and a huge limestone arch jutting out into the deep, blue waters.
A romantic and stunning location at the base of the cliffs, the tunnel still wears the marks of the rough-hewn, hand-crafted work that created it. At the end, the tunnel opens up to a beautiful sheltered and secluded beach, perfect for a picnic.