Auckland Domain Pukekawa

Auckland Domain Pukekawa

Auckland Domain Pukekawa (commonly “the Domain”) sits on the east side of Grafton Gully and downtown Auckland. It is one of the largest parks in central Auckland at 75 hectares and the oldest, established in the 1840s. It is based around the large Pukekaroa explosive volcanic cone. This is 100,000 years old and the edge is most clearly marked by the circular ridge around the playing fields. A second crater is now effectively disguised by the duck pond and surrounding development. Auckland War Memorial Museum is on the northeast side of the ridge. 

The derivation of the Māori name, Pukekawa, is a bit unclear. It means ”bitter hill” which may refer to poor kumara growth conditions, or to pre-European battles fought between Ngāpuhi and Ngāti Whatua. There is a sacred tōtara tree on the north ridge that signifies the loss and subsequent peace between the iwi.

The park is an eclectic mix of influences. The location was chosen because it had one of the few remaining stands of trees on the isthmus when Europeans settled in Auckland. This forested area runs around the northern edge of the park and has several easy walking tracks. Subsequent Victorian-era planting focussed on exotics. Today, mature oak trees line the south-southwest park border and there is a scattering of big exotics throughout the park. On the west side, there is a cherry grove running down into Grafton Gully.

Over time, architectural features have included the neo-Greek Museum, the Arts and Crafts-style cafe next to the duck ponds and the art deco entrance to the Wintergarden. The Wintergarden also has a colourful range of flowering plants while the next-door fernery shows off a wide range of native ferns.

There are several Greek-style marble sculptures next to the Wintergarden and on the north side of Domain Drive, more or less opposite the duck pond. These were donated in the 1930s by William Elliot, an Auckland businessman who also helped fund the Wintergarden completion. More recent modernist statues include the giant metal kererū on the east side of the crater rim.

The main access to the Domain is from Domain Drive, Lower Domain Drive and Carlton Gore Road. It is one of the best places for an easy wander and a picnic in the city. The views from the ridge near the Museum and the front of the Museum are also excellent.

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