Where are the top 10 Parks in Auckland? Where is the largest park with a memorial site in Auckland? And which are the best parks surrounding the city?
For an Auckland inner-City suburb, Parnell has an excellent diversity of parkland ranging from the expansive Auckland Domain to inner city urban spaces such as Heard Park and Fraser Park where the view of the Sky Tower Auckland is one of a kind, as well as small green connected spaces linking the village to the residential areas.
If heritage trails interest you, there’s lots to choose from and scale your walk between 1.5km and 5kms, (see below). Or just visit the Parnell Rose Gardens and walk down to Judges Bay and Parnell Pools.
Either way, if you love the outdoors you must put Parnell on your ‘best things to do in Auckland’ list.
In need of the taste of the tropics? Visit Alberon Reserve. This South Pacific gem boasts possibly the country’s finest palm collections with boardwalks through bush and wetland, sub-tropical plantings, as well as some open grassed areas with views of the harbour and is one of the Auckland City Councils dog exercise areas..
With access from Alberon Street, Alberon Place, Stratford Street and St Georges Bay Road, this city park, located in Parnell, began as the property of the Cozens family. Planting of palms began at the site as long ago as 1907. The Palm and Cycad Society of New Zealand has also undertaken more palm plantings in the past 25 years.
Also known as The Domain, Auckland Domain is the city’s oldest park. It is spacious and diverse.
The Wintergardens are a feature of the Domain with the Auckland War Memorial Museum sitting at the highest point. There are formal gardens, duck ponds, large green open spaces edged by mature trees, bush walks and statuary.
The 75ha park has been developed around the cone of an extinct volcano. The ‘tuff rings’ created by volcanic activity thousands of years ago can be seen in the land contours and forms a natural amphitheatre with about 10 hectares developed as first-class sports fields.
Named after Sir Dove-Myer Robinson, the popular and longest-serving (18 years) mayor of Auckland, the park is home to the Parnell Rose Gardens and the Nancy Steen Gardens. It is a festival of colour and scent as some 5,000 rose bushes grow here plus several remarkable native trees, including the oldest manuka and largest pōhutukawa tree in Auckland.
Enjoy the views over the harbour and Judges Bay. There is a great network of paths and plenty of spots for a picnic and walks down to the Parnell Pools. Accessible toilets, changing rooms, car park, picnic tables, seating, drinking fountains and barbecues are inside the park.
Situated on a triangle of land between Parnell Rise and Parnell Road, Fraser Park is located at the entrance to Parnell when coming from the Auckland CBD.
The site has a lot of history, in the 1880’s the original location of Parnell District School. There is a large area for children to play or people to sit at lunch time with great views of the city and Sky Tower.
Fraser Park is also home to a beautiful Kauri tree that is a must see at night as it comes to life.
Providing a mini oasis in the centre of Parnell Town Centre is Heard Park.
An important part of Parnell’s history, the park was originally donated to the city in 1953 by the Heard family, the owners of Heards Candy (now called Heards Building).
The urban space provides an attractive outdoor focal point for the local community, a venue for events as well as a relaxing refuge for visitors to Parnell.
*Heard Park has a 24 hr alcohol ban as part of Parnell Town Centre.
One of the hidden treasures of Parnell, this reserve of native bush is tucked away between residential premises and goes between Scarborough Terrace and St Georges Bay Road.
It is a dog exercise park with a boardwalk and picnic table in a peaceful secluded environment.
Auckland Domain is Auckland’s oldest park and one of the largest. Developed on 75 hectares around the cone of an extinct volcano. The ‘tuff rings’ created by volcanic activity can be seen in the land contours and forms a natural amphitheatre.
Governor Robert Fitzroy set aside the 75ha park in 1843, and since then it has gone through many changes. During the Second World War Auckland Domain was used as a camp ground by American troops, and many exotic plants and birds were introduced by the Acclimatisation Society.
During the 1920s, the Wintergarden added Art Deco style and the Auckland War Memorial Museum became a permanent memorial to our fallen service men and women.
Still present in the Domain is a mighty totara tree, which represents the continued peace agreement between the Waikato tribes of Te Wherowhero, Ngati Whatua and Ngapuhi.
This Auckland Domain Heritage walk as per the accompanying map was developed by The Village Square (previously Parnell Trust) and is a 4km looping walk that covers much of this park, beginning and finishing at the north entrance of Auckland War Memorial Museum. The map shows the walk route and the highlights visited along the way or you can download the podcast below.
If you are an art lover, and spending a few days in Auckland, see if you can join a professionally guided art tour of Parnell by White Glove Experiences. Join them for an art tour of one of NZ’s most creative districts, Parnell. Home to a dizzying array of galleries, boutiques, restaurants and bars, the area is also famous for it’s heritage architecture.
The walk will begin on the front steps of Auckland Museum where you will explore sculptures scattered throughout Auckland Domain. Works by leading artists are the feature here, including Fred Graham, Christine Hellyar, Greer Twiss and Guy Ngan. Each tells a different story of this much-loved public park seeped in natural and human history.
From here, you’ll head up to Parnell Road exploring secret bush trails, a hidden gallery and some much needed refreshment on the way.
After morning tea, you’re in for more treats with visits to 3 Auckland galleries where you will meet leading dealers and visit private spaces off-limits to the general public.
This 3-hr small group tour is hosted by a professional local guide with a passion for Parnell and the creative personalities of NZ.
A ‘must do’ experience for art lovers! See when their next tour is on, booking required.
Explore a lesser-known part of charming Parnell and peaceful Ayr Reserve.
On this loop path, (map and route courtesy Auckland Council), you’ll be walking on footpaths and bush tracks. There are some steep sections and stairs to climb – great for older kids, but this may be hard work for little legs.
Start on the intersection of Parnell Road and Cathedral Place (served by both the Inner and Outer Link buses). Across from Cathedral Place, check out the impressive St Mary’s Church and Holy Trinity Cathedral. If you walk a little further down Parnell Road to the corner with St Stephens Avenue, you’ll see the public artwork ‘Mountain Fountain’, created in 1981 by Terry Stringer.
Head down Ayr Street, home to several historic buildings. At 2 Ayr Street is Kinder House (built in 1857), the last and only Gothic Revival designed colonial property of the 1850s. The house was designed by Frederick Thatcher, the architect for many Anglican buildings in Auckland.
At 14 Ayr Street (on the upper road) is Ewelme Cottage (built in 1863-64). The kauri constructed cottage has a link with the Anglican community in Auckland, and was designed and built by the Reverend Vicesimus Lush and his wife Blanche. It’s open to view on Sundays.
Continue down Ayr Street, and follow the steps which lead down to Ayr Reserve. Follow the path through Ayr Reserve through the bush. At the end of the Ayr Reserve track, head back up Cathedral Place to Parnell Road.
If you’re walking with your dog, take a quick detour to the dog exercise area in Ayr Reserve (at the end of Laurie Avenue). This area of the park has great views to Ōhinerau/Mount Hobson.
This stunning path combines the beauty of the Parnell Rose Gardens with extensive views of the Waitematā Harbour.
Admire the variety of colourful roses, the Nancy Steen Garden, the Historic St Stephens Church and learn about the growth of this waterfront suburb.
Start the loop at the archway entrance on the corner of Gladstone Road and Judges Bay Road, following the edge of the driveway. Almost immediately you enter the vast array of roses for which this Dove Meyer Robinson Reserve is most famous. There are a large variety of species and colours to enjoy.
Across the driveway, the walkway takes you past many grand pōhutukawa trees and towards the harbour where you can enjoy wonderful views. There are plenty of seats throughout the walk to rest and relax on.
Heading downhill (some of it quite steep with a few stairs) you are greeted by Judges Bay, a small tidal inlet suitable for swimming. At the Eastern end of the bay, the historic Parnell Baths (pool) are located, open in the summer months.
The walkway passes through the pool complex where you can enjoy the creative crushed glass mural and learn more about early Auckland history.
Continue to the modern waterfront pedestrian bridge and turn right to head up the stairs to St. Stephens Ave, the street of former Prime Minister, Sir John Key. Ensure you pause to take in the views of the sparkling Waitematā Harbour.
Turn right into Judges Street and into the green space at the end where you will find the historic St Stephens Church, with its fascinating early settler graveyard and lovely views.
Once you have taken some time to explore, head back towards Judges Bay Rd and uphill back towards the Rose Gardens.
A climb back up towards the starting point will lead you to the Nancy Steen (1898-1986) Garden, planted to honour her dedication to understanding roses brought out by early NZ settlers. There is a lovely spot with a fountain where you can sit and relax.
Enjoy a short bushwalk and you arrive back at the start!
This route (developed by Auckland Council) has good pathways but is hilly, so requires moderate fitness and stability. There are stairs along the walk so the full loop is not suitable for wheelchairs or buggies, although most of the Parnell Rose Gardens are fine.back
A slightly different version of the route above was developed by the Parnell Trust, with the accompanying podcast below.
Ever considered doing a circuit of Parnell on foot? We highly recommend it! Park your car in Ayr St and strike out across Parnell Rd and up Domain Drive. This oak-lined entrance to The Domain is enchanting and seems somehow much older than it is.
With the museum on the crest of the hill to the left, veer right and enter the wooded area that skirts The Domain and the railway line. A few minutes along this path you’ll find the railway underpass for Parnell Station.
Go through the underpass, keep to the left of the green area alongside the empty site and go up the steps of Ngahere Tce, along Gibraltar Crescent and across Parnell Rd. You can trot down Denby Street beside St John The Baptist, the oldest Catholic church in Auckland, and turn right into Scarborough Lane. Look for the entrance between no 18 and 24 and enter the tiny, almost unknown, Scarborough Reserve. Crossing here and exiting via the walkway at the southern corner, you’ll reach St Georges Bay Rd and turn right then walk uphill and turn left into Alberon Reserve. This is one of Auckland’s most lovely small parks. Always uncrowded, and if you take the exit at the northeasterly corner, you walk through the most beautiful fernery.
Up Alberon St, take a left for 100m or so down Gladstone Rd. Before the Newton Gully motorway link was built this was the main road from the wharves and heavily laden trucks ground their way up and down it day and night.
Past Rosie Café on the left, cross the road and enter the Parnell Rose Gardens, which, officially, goes by the name of Dove-Myer Robinson Park, after a former mayor of the city. Taking the path that winds down the hill to the right you’ll walk under gigantic cypresses and reach the sunny hillside above Judges Bay.
From there, you can hit the shady pavement of St Stephens Ave, take a left down Brighton Rd, into Kenderdine Lane and enter Ayr Reserve along the walkway through the trees. Up the hill across the grass in Laurie Ave, you’ll pass Ewelme Cottage and Kinderhouse on your left and find yourself back at your parked car, just in time for coffee at the Domain Ayr Cafe on Parnell Rd.