Pukekura Park is a world-renowned park located in the heart of New Plymouth city. Beginning its life as a barren and swampy valley, it has been shaped into one of the best inner-city parks in New Zealand and is the backdrop for the annual TSB Bank Festival of Lights - a free light and entertainment event held from mid-December to late January.
The park covers approximately 52ha and contains a diverse range of landscapes, including many plant collections, exotic specimen trees, formal gardens, lakes and walking trails through native bush.
To mark the opening of the park in 1876 an oak for Great Britain, a puriri for New Zealand, a Norfolk Island pine for the South Pacific islands, and a Monterey pine for America were planted on Cannon Hill.
The park includes the Fernery and Display Houses and is open 8.30 am–4 pm daily, except Christmas Day. The facility is recognised internationally by horticulturalists for its house design, propagation expertise, and consistently high-quality plant displays.
The garden estate area of Brooklands is the home to the acclaimed Bowl of Brooklands, one of the country’s foremost open-air venues. In February 1958 the natural outdoor amphitheater opened with the first Festival of the Pines event and has since been the venue for many iconic musicians including Paul Simon, Sting, Jack Johnson, Cat Stevens, and Elton John.
A highlight of a visit to the park is Brooklands Zoo, a free, family-focused zoo featuring a modern aviary with tropical manu/birds, a mini farmyard full of playful animals, a close-up view
of swimming and sunbathing otters, enclosures of cheeky monkeys whose antics will amuse, and other exotic animals. A children’s playground sits at the centre of the zoo, complete with a picnic area. The zoo is open 9am–5pm daily, except Christmas Day.
The park’s Sports Ground, which was a major location for the Tom Cruise movie The Last Samurai, regularly hosts matches between regional teams competing in cricket and football. The grassed terraces provide a bird’s-eye view of the ground. Cricket publishers, Wisden, named Pukekura Park one of the six best grounds in the world to watch cricket.
Relax by the Main Lake and Band Rotunda where you can enjoy refreshments with views of the iconic Wisteria Pergola at the recently refurbished Teahouse on the Lake, open 9am–4pm daily, except Christmas Day.
The use of water is a common theme throughout the park including Fountain Lake. The fountain was installed in 1954 to mark the visit of Queen Elizabeth II, the year before. It has 14 spray combinations with its main jet reaching 15 metres. Nearby is the man-made 10-metre high Waterfall. The popular Poet’s Bridge paid for by the generosity of Park Board member J.T. Davis from winnings on a horse called The Poet, crosses the Main Lake, and the upper lake can be crossed by the Boat Shed Bridge.
Two gardens were installed to celebrate the sister city relationships that the New Plymouth District Council has with Mishima (Japan) and Kunming (China). Kunming Garden is a traditional Chinese garden created by Chinese craftsmen and local landscapers, featuring a moongate entrance and pavilion connected by a meandering pathway. The Japanese Hillside, designed and planted to reflect a typical Japanese hillside forest, includes the Mishima Gate, a traditional red Japanese torii gate, officially opened by Mishima City Council Chairman Mr Hajime Shimura and Deputy Mayor Peter Tennent to mark the sister city’s 10th anniversary in 2001.
Pukekura Park is also home to The Gables – the oldest hospital still standing in New Zealand. Erected in 1848 on the current site of New Plymouth Girls’ High School, the hospital was built on the instructions of Governor Sir George Grey to provide integrated care for Māori and Europeans. In 1904, The Gables was purchased by Mary King, wife of Newton King, and relocated to its present site.
The 2000 Year Old Puriri Tree, the largest of its species in New Zealand, sits south of the park and is easy to find, as is the historic giant Ginkgo Tree tree located down in the valley, slightly northeast of the puriri.
Other popular attractions include Monument Hill, and the Chinese Plant Collection as well as the Rhododendron Dell, which is fringed by an impressive mixed grove of tōtara, rimu and kōwhai.
Physical Address10 Fillis Street, New Plymouth
Operating Hours:Open until 8pm during daylight savings