26 December 2013

Auckland walks: The Domain

Auckland Domain is the city's oldest park (established in 1845) and one of my favourite places. Its 80-odd hectares are where I walk most days and they are never boring. The atmosphere of the grounds changes with the weather – it can be quite eerie under a layer of fog in the winter and it can be swelteringly hot for a game of cricket in the summer.

The grandstand was built in 1898 and is still well used today.

It actually sits right on top of one of Auckland’s older volcanoes – the Auckland War Memorial Museum is built on one side of the crater rim, Auckland Hospital is on the opposite side. The duck ponds are one of the products of the volcano – they are natural freshwater springs, from groundwater that pools in the lava fractures and the scoria that fills the ancient crater. More information about the geology of the area can be found in Auckland University Press’s publication Volcanoes of Auckland.

Maori named the scoria cone of the volcano Pukekaroro or Pukekaroa (‘hill of the black-backed gull’) and the remnants of a former Maori pa can be seen on its flanks. It is topped by a totara tree planted by Princess Te Puea Herangi, which is surrounded by a manuka palisade with traditional Maori carvings. The remains of an early scoria quarry on the north side of the cone are now a lush fernery garden, behind the massive glasshouses of the Wintergardens.

Pukekaroro (or Pukekaroa) hill

But enough from me … you can read more about the diverse facilities of the Domain on the Auckland City Council website or, even better, explore the extensive grounds for yourself. Take a stroll along the bush walks and lanes or enjoy one of the many festivals held in the natural amphi-theatre of the volcanic crater (like ‘Christmas in the Park’), take advantage of the high location to fly a kite or relax to the sounds of a jazz band in the band rotunda on a summer Sunday afternoon, be delighted by the splendid displays of the colourful garden beds or take tea in the Kiosk alongside the duck ponds. 

During my many wanderings, I have photographed some of the places marked on this map from one of the park’s signboards. I hope they tempt you to enjoy the Domain for yourself.

#1 this athletic-looking bronze, by New Zealand sculptor Richard Goss, adorns
one of the Elliot Memorial entrance gates to the Auckland Domain 

#2 the fernery in the old scoria quarry
#4 the cool glasshouse at the Wintergardens
Left, #5 the flock of geese who live in the duck ponds and, right, #7 the band rotunda
#8 the Auckland War Memorial Museum beneath this morning's stormy skies
#9 the Cenotaph sits in an area of consecrated ground in front of the museum
#11 the formal gardens are colourful year round, with permanent beds and seasonal plantings
#15 the totara grove
Left, #16 the Valkyrie Fountain and, right, #17 the Robert Burns Memorial
#19 the Cain and Abel statue
#20 the three bronze figures representing wisdom, fertility and strength

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