Suburb spotlight: Why you should visit Parnell

There’s so much more to a city than its centre. The best way to uncover a destination’s hidden gems is to hit the suburbs.

In this recent article by Stuff writer, Caryn Wilkinson she shines a spotlight on Parnell, looking at where the locals eat, drink, and play.

Auckland’s oldest suburb of Parnell is the perfect place to explore buildings with heritage status and Auckland War Memorial Museum before admiring the 5000 roses blazing colour through Parnell Rose Gardens.

But it’s just as popular for its galleries and quaint cafes, the iconic salt water Parnell Baths and Auckland Domain, home to The Winter Garden, brimming with exotic plants.

How to get there: It’s a three-minute drive from town, or you can catch the INN bus.

Best known for: The museum. Auckland War Memorial Museum tells the story of New Zealand, its place in the Pacific and its people. Founded in 1852, the Auckland Domain building is renowned for its collection of Māori and Pacific treasures, natural and military history displays.

Local landmark: The Holy Trinity Cathedral in St Stephens Ave. A must-see for art and architecture lovers, this beautiful cathedral opened its doors in 1973. It’s worth viewing the stained-glass windows, memorial garden and labyrinth.

Gracing the forecourt and lit at night is Terry Stringer’s sculpture Mountain Fountain. This well-known work stood in Auckland’s Aotea Square for nearly 30 years before being moved to the Parnell site.

Behind the Cathedral is Bishop Selwyn Chapel, designed by Auckland architect Fearon Hay. Topping the modern chapel is an Italian gold-leaf ceiling. The glass walls overlook Trinity Gardens and Selwyn Oaks with views across to the volcanic cone of Maungakiekie (One Tree Hill).

What to do: Wander around La Cigale French Market on St Georges Bay Rd for fresh produce and hot pastries. Inspired by Parisian delicacies, this weekend market offers everything from French cheeses to tasty pates alongside its bistro, wine cellar and designer homeware store.

You can explore the biking trails winding through 75 hectares of the Auckland Domain, the oldest park in the city.

Take a dip in the 60-metre saltwater lane pool or the family spa pool at Parnell Baths, an integral part of Parnell’s history since 1914. Preschoolers will delight in the interactive aqua playground, toddlers pool and heated lido pool.

Keep an eye out for: When it comes to buildings with heritage status, you’re spoiled for choice. Look out for Ewelme Cottage, Kinder House, St Stephens Chapel, and St John the Baptist Church.

Where to eat:  Sweet treats abound at the Chocolate Boutique on Parnell Rd. You can choose from more than 100 varieties of chocolates, pralines and truffles. Relax at the cafe with a hot chocolate and slice of cake or sample the sundaes.

Where to drink: Pop into Barulho, Boxer or Pineapple on Parnell – these are hotspots for discerning drinkers. The elusive Pineapple on Parnell is hidden behind a wooden door bearing a pineapple door knocker. Guests are encouraged to dress up for the 80s-inspired cocktail lounge.

Top shops: If you’re looking for New Zealand gifts, head to Parnell Village’s boutique stores Black Door Gallery, The Fantail House and Kiwa Art. You’ll find authentic, locally made products.

Parnell is also known for its high-end fashion – designers Trelise Cooper, Zambesi, Jane Daniels and Working Style all have shops here.

Insider secret: Judges Bay is a secluded urban hideaway with a pontoon and jetty for diving. If you don’t feel like a swim, you can take a stroll through the reserve. Sitting below the Parnell Rose Gardens, Judges Bay is named after three magistrates of the early colony who built their houses there.

Events: Stock up on fresh produce at the Parnell Farmers’ Market every Saturday.

The Parnell Rose Gardens, also known as Dove Myer Robinson Park, is the site of the annual Parnell Festival of Roses. Held in November when the roses are in full bloom, the event features live performances, music and children’s activities.


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