Here’s why you should add this garden of national significance to your bucket list.
Pukekura Park is something quite surprising indeed. For many reasons, but among them, the location. This world-famous garden is located in what is the otherwise often overlooked city of New Plymouth. A city that is often left off of the bucket lists of tourists who visit New Zealand.
However, New Plymouth is a city rich in culture, activities, and especially nature. Just recently I wrote about Tupare Gardens, another famous garden located within the city. Pukekura Park, however, is a far larger and more famous attraction. If you are visiting New Plymouth, make sure to check out both locations.
Pukekura Park owes its fame to a few different events throughout the year – WOMAD, The Festival of Lights, Christmas at the Bowl, and more. Oh, and the fact that it is an amazing garden with lakes, themed gardens, and a LOT of summertime entertainment. The park is easily one of (if not) the most, visited places in the city. Without further ado, let’s get into why that is.
Entry Into The Park
Being so large, entering the park is really quite easy. Further, it is free. There will occasionally be pay-to-enter events happening, but the park itself is always open and always free. There is an extremely useful map (mobile version) which contains all the information you may need.
The map is a fantastic resource and I recommend it to anyone interested in visiting. From showing the parks many entrances to car parks, the map has everything. It also contains the names and locations of all of the paths, and it will be sure to give you a painless experience navigating the park.
Boats can be hired to explore the main lake of Pukekura Park. While a bit pricey, it is a fun experience and one of the best ways to view the Festival of Lights.
However, if you do happen to get lost, there are also information areas available. The paths are labelled with signs, and maps are placed around the park. Being New Plymouth’s premier tourist attraction (minus the Coastal Walkway), it is very well equipped.
Brooklands is located on the far end of Pukekura Park and contains a zoo and some other attractions which are also free to enter. While quite a small zoo, Brooklands is great for the price (it’s free!) and is a nice place to visit, especially with children.
If you are interested in visiting Pukekura Park, make sure to check out the accommodation options nearby. Some places are located on the edge of the park and it really is an ideal location to stay. Not only do you have the park right outside your door, but it is also very central within New Plymouth.
About The Park
Pukekura Park first came into existence in the late 1870s. Originally a treeless swampy area, it was transformed with the assistance of Robert Clinton Hughes into its current splendour. Many attractions, many of which have symbolic meanings, have been added over the years. Some of these include the drinking fountain which was added to mark the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria. The water wheel was also added in 1976 to market the centenary of Pukekura. The park itself has an incredibly rich history and is continually being added to.
The Bowl of Brooklands is one of the most beautiful stages you can find. With performances throughout the year, it’s always worth checking what is one. Read on to learn more about the performances below!
In 1934 Brooklands was added to the park. Originally a family estate, Brooklands also has a long history before being added to Pukekura. The Gables, an old colonial hospital, still stands in Brooklands and the original house (at least what remains of it) still stands. Although being burned down during the Land Wars, the chimney still remains. Brooklands now also contains the Bowl of Brooklands, a large stage for performances. During WOMAD, this becomes the primary stage. It is also one of New Plymouth’s most popular band locations. Brooklands is also home to Brooklands zoo, a small zoo with free entry.
Pukekura Park and Brooklands combined take up 49ha (hectares) of land, and are situated right in the heart of New Plymouth. While Pukekura Park is more of a large garden with many trees and bushwalks, Brooklands is more akin to a well-maintained backyard. With many picnic areas and flat places to play games, Brooklands is great for outings also. Brooklands is also home to a 2000-year-old Puriri Tree, one of the oldest trees in the world. You can learn more about the park here.
Throughout the year Pukekura Park and Brooklands (although they are essentially different parts of the same park) hold many events. WOMAD, the biggest of these events, attracts thousands of visitors every year.
A view from the Pukekura Park lookout.
World of Music and Dance is by far the biggest yearly attraction (at least in visitors per day – the Festival of Lights is also very famous). It is a festival that runs for three days (Friday-Sunday) in March. WOMAD attracts many foreign artists ranging from Tibetan monks to French Gotan Project, every year, and it is an incredibly culture-rich event featuring cultures and traditions you may have never known about. It is a fun-filled weekend of shopping, eating, dancing, and late nights. If you visit in March then it is well worth checking WOMAD out.
Although the tickets can be quite expensive, it is well worth it. Three days isn’t essential, so if you would prefer to just buy a one-day ticket then that is usually just as good. Make sure to check the schedule before you go so that you can pick the day of your most preferred performances!
Christmas at the Bowl
Christmas at the Bowl is a yearly event held usually a week before Christmas. Featuring live bands, fireworks, and hundreds of candles, this is another great event held at the park. Christmas at the Bowl is a gold coin donation (gold coins are either $1 or $2) making it close enough to free. This night also marks the start of the…
Festival of Lights
In the summer months most of the park becomes lit with beautiful lights.
Probably the most famous event at Pukekura Park is a light festival that is held every summer, spanning from Christmas at the Bowl to the beginning of February. The Festival of Lights always attracts thousands of visitors and takes place in the evenings before 11 pm (when it ends). A large part of the park is lit up with coloured lights, and many attractions are placed around the park.
On top of these festivals and events, there are also many other seasonal and annual events. Cricket is held regularly at the cricket pitch, concerts are held throughout the year, and the multi-ethnic extravaganza is held at Pukekura. All in all, there is a lot to do at Pukekura Park. It can be hard to keep track of all of the events that are held there, however, some helpful resources are the New Plymouth NZ website and Eventfinda.
As I mentioned above, Pukekura is split into a few main areas. Brooklands, Pukekura Raceway, and Pukekura Park itself. Brooklands is home to places such as the zoo and the Bowl of Brooklands (the parks primary stage for performances and such).
The Bowl of Brooklands is a stunning stage located in the middle of a lake at the bottom of a steep incline. Throughout the year, both free and paid performances are held here, and they run throughout the year. If you are visiting for a concert, make sure you prepare for the elements, as New Zealand weather can be quite harsh at times!
The rest of Brooklands is a well-maintained garden with numerous open areas. It’s a fantastic place for a picnic, or for a game of soccer with your family. The area is dotted with places of historical significance, such as the old hospital The Gables. These locations add a unique character to the park that makes it truly unique.
Poet’s Bridge crosses the Main Lake in Pukekura Park.
Pukekura Raceway is a horse-racing track, that holds events throughout the year. While horse-racing isn’t for everyone, it can make for a great day out. If you are interested in visiting then event times can be found here.
That brings me to Pukekura Park itself – a rather beautiful park located in a great location. It’s hard to describe all of Pukekura Park, however, I can list the main attractions here! The park itself is most famous for being a park surrounding multiple lakes within. These lakes are crossed by bridges which provide stunning views. The park is also home to many different species of plants and trees, as well as some themed gardens.
Pukekura Park Fern House
Pukekura Park contains a fern house which is widely regarded as being well worth visiting. I’ve always liked it myself, but I didn’t realise how well-loved it was until reading some reviews online. The house is a multi-storied greenhouse with many beautiful flowers and other kinds of flora. Tunnels bring you into the fern house, and it’s almost like entering another world.
Lakes of Pukekura
Inside the fern house (left). The lawn outside the fern house (right) is one of the many stage areas within the park.
The park is most famous for its three lakes, and the views that they afford. The main lake is crossed by Poet’s Bridge and is one of the most famous landscapes in Taranaki. The lake is surrounded by other attractions such as the cafe and pavilion on the northern end, the waterfall on the north-west, and the nice walks which walk lakeside to the south.
Heading north from the main lake will take you to another, smaller lake. This lake has a fountain in the centre which lights up at times of the year and many nice viewing platforms. Between the lakes is a stage (one of the many located within the park) that is often being used for performances.
In the far north-western corner of the park is a fantastic, and large, playground as well as a waterwheel. This is a great place to visit and spend time if you have children. The playground is large enough that it can entertain nearly every child – with everything from climbing nets to a flying fox, to a large down-hill slide.
Is Pukekura Park Worth Visiting?
Pukekura Park is definitely a place that you should visit if you happen to be in Taranaki. If you weren’t planning on visiting Taranaki already, it is well worth a visit. With the stunning beaches, amazing coffee, and nice weather (in summer), it should be on everybody’s bucket list.
Pukekura Park itself is one of New Zealand’s premier gardens. If you haven’t planned a trip yet, then aim to visit in the summer. This means that you will get to experience the stunning Festival of Lights, and the weather will usually be sunny and clear. If you have already planned a trip to New Zealand, then Pukekura Park is worth visiting no matter what the season. There are events running through the whole year, and the park is mostly evergreen – meaning most of the trees aren’t seasonal. Whatever the time, Pukekura Park is worth a visit.