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 and are still growing on Cannon Hill.
The park includes the Fernery and Display Houses, a facility 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 TSB 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 the annual international music festival WOMAD and many iconic musicians including Lionel Richie, Paul Simon, Sting and Jack Johnson.
A highlight of a visit to the park is Brooklands Zoo, a free, family-focused zoo featuring a modern aviary with a chattering of tropical birds, a mini farmyard full of playful animals, a close-up view of swimming and sunbathing otters, and enclosures of cheeky monkeys whose antics will amuse. A children’s playground sits at the centre of the zoo, complete with a picnic area.
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 Tea House on the Lake.
The use of water is a common theme throughout the park including Fountain Lake, where the fountain was installed in 1955 to mark the visit of Queen Elizabeth II, the year before. The fountain 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.
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 Maori 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 located slightly north-east of the puriri. Other popular attractions include Monument Hill, Lily Lake & The Aotearoa Sculpture and the Chinese Plant Collection as well as the Rhododendron Dell, which is fringed by an impressive mixed grove of totara, rimu and kowhai.