Once the site of an active volcano, Auckland Domain is now home to a wealth of exotic plantlife, sculpture and a wide-ranging museum.
Referred to locally as The Domain, this 75-hectare space has been a public garden since 1860. Before this time, it had functioned as a Maori pa – a fortified settlement given over to the cultivation of crops and food storage – and, well before that, had been the site of an active volcano. Even in its current incarnation, the park is still benefitting from its volcanic past, with the rich, fertile soil encouraging the growth of exotic plantlife, and the natural amphitheatre creating a perfect space for sports.
As you wander through the park, you may stumble across the designated sculpture walk. This consists of eight permanent sculptures by New Zealand artists. The Wintergarden section of the park is home to a collection of marble sculptures donated by a local businessman in the 20s, plus a newer work by Chinese-New Zealand artist Guy Ngan.
Step indoors for a while with a visit to the Auckland War Memorial Museum. This Greco-Roman style building houses numerous military exhibits, as the name suggests, but also deals with the area's natural history, the history of the Maori inhabitants, settlers and local crafts.
Follow this with a stroll over to the garden's beautiful glasshouse, which dates right back to the 1920s, for a look at the tropical and temperate plant displays, before settling down in the café by the pond for a leisurely lunch. This lake was originally formed by natural springs and used to provide water for the city. Nowadays, it provides a home for a large population of local ducks.
Autumn is a good time of year to visit the park, as this sees Auckland Domain host its annual arts festival, with performances in the areas of art, theatre, dance and music. Easily accessible by LINK and Explorer bus services, there is plenty of parking available near The Domain too.