Albert Park, one of most central of Auckland’s parks sits on a ridge overlooking downtown. It sits between Auckland University’s city campus, the Auckland Art Gallery Toi O Tāmaki, and downtown. The park is adjacent to the Albert Park Volcano, which erupted 145,000 years ago. It was an area of Māori settlement with a pā on the northwest corner. This was abandoned in the mid-1700s following invasion by Ngāti Whātua from the north.
In the 1840s/50s, as Auckland developed, the Albert Barracks was located on the site. Part of the stone fortifications can be seen on the University grounds. In the 1880s the park was developed following a design competition. The layout is typical of the period. On the higher flat section, there is a statue of Queen Victoria, a bandstand and a large fountain, topped by Aphrodite, as the centrepiece. Formal flower gardens are maintained in front of the fountain.
There are several other statues and monuments including Andrea Carlo Lucchesi’s 1900 Love Breaking the Sword of Hate. Walking towards the Art Gallery, there is a large tilted “D” dating to the 1990s. It is called ‘Tilt’! Field guns that were part of the defences set up during the Russian Scare of the 1880s and a Boer War Memorial are north of the fountain.
Albert Park originally looked out over the city and harbour but this has long been obscured by office buildings, with their own sensibility. Today, a feature of the park is the large mature trees planted along the paths down the slope between the 1880s and WWI. These consist of natives, especially pōhutukawa, and exotics, including magnolia trees.
The park can be accessed from the adjacent streets but Princes Street on the ridge is easiest. It is a steep walk up from Wellesley Street East, Bowen Avenue and Kitchener Street.