9 must see parks in Auckland

Published by: BouncePosted Updated

Nicknamed the City of Sails, Auckland is known to many for its access to the water and the magnificent number of yachts sailing the harbors. If you’re not fond of being on the water but love the great outdoors or want to do other things than sailing, the parks in Auckland are worth checking out.

Auckland, New Zealand’s second capital, is surrounded by natural playgrounds for thrill seekers and outdoor enthusiasts. A short drive from the city center, you’ll discover Auckland regional parks, like Hunua Ranges Regional Park and Shakespear Regional Park, offering hours of hiking and walking trails, spectacular views, beaches, and fantastic places to camp, not to mention the abundance of wildlife you could spot in their natural environment. And if you’re just looking to sit back and relax, you can easily spot serene Auckland parks for a picnic or a leisure walk alone, with friends, or with your furry pet.

From open wildlife sanctuaries to family-friendly green spaces and gardens, this guide lists some of the best parks in and near New Zealand’s largest city that appeal to both locals and tourists. Remember to pack light when venturing into nature, so take only what you need and leave the rest in our bounce storage locker in Auckland.

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Cornwall Park

Cornwall Park, along with the One Tree Hill Domain, forms the largest parkland area in central Auckland. It has a rich history, dating back more than 67,000 years. It takes pride in its farming heritage and has been a place of respite for the locals since its opening in 1903. It was a site of a war hospital for the American soldiers in World War II and then transformed into a women’s health pioneering hospital.

Today, Cornwall Park is your peaceful escape in the heart of the city, where you can discover history, meet farm animals, watch birds, play, and picnic. For many, it serves as a living history museum, with heritage sites you can tour, like the Rongo stone, Sir John statue and fountain, the Sunken Garden, stone walls, the hospital and golf sites, and more. Pay a visit to the historic Huia Lodge Discovery Hub to learn more bout the park.

Follow the tree trail to find gigantic trees providing shade in the hot summer. You can picnic under the tree or play sports and games on the lush lawns. You can also create your very own trail or follow one of the walking paths and marvel at its monuments and offerings.

Auckland Botanic Gardens

If you’re looking for the best free things to do in the city, visit Auckland Botanic Gardens. It’s only 20 minutes from Auckland Airport and the city center, offering a lush sanctuary with over 10,000 plants from around the world. It’s set on Hill Road, Manurewa, spanning 156 acres of green space, including 24.7 acres of native forest. It opened to the public in 1982 and now welcomes over one million annual visitors.

This large South Pacific botanical garden is a paradise for horticulture enthusiasts, with gardens and plant displays easily accessible from a network of paths. The Native Forest is a must-visit spot to discover native New Zealand plants, tree fern groves, tall, ancient podocarps, and regionally rare trees, like kaikomako. You will need about two hours to complete the entire 4-kilometer loop at a leisurely pace.

If you visit with kids, take them to Potter Children’s Garden, and let them get lost in the magical maze, tour the misty forest, and participate in fun activities. Dedicate an entire day to make the most of your nature adventure, as an array of other themed gardens are waiting for you, including the Perennials Garden, Palm Garden, the Orchard, and Rose Garden.

Otamariki Park

Looking for a local playground near the vibrant Ōtara town center in South Auckland? Go with your little ones for free fun outdoors at Otamariki Park, a large neighborhood park with plenty of open recreational space. The giant slide is a common favorite for youngsters, while older kids can challenge another team to shoot some hoops on the basketball court. There are also monkey bars, basket swings, and a crow’s nest climbing tower to keep them busy for hours while guardians relax on the bench.

This South Auckland park is also the start of a walking and cycling trail that follows the route of Ōtara Creek. The winding gravel path is mostly flat, but always wear your comfy shoes as you tackle the 8-kilometer Ōtara Path. It’s an easy walking and biking trail that even children can enjoy, and if they need a break, there are several park benches to rest on along the way.

Tawharanui Regional Park

This is one of the picturesque regional parks in Auckland, nestled on the eastern end of the Tāwharanui Peninsula. This open sanctuary features wetlands, pearly-white beaches, magnificent coastal cliffs, native bushes, heritage sites, and sprawling green areas. So if you’re serious about exploring the great outdoors and discovering Mother Nature’s endless offerings, this regional park should be included in your itinerary.

A trip to Tawharanui Regional Park will get you closer to nature than ever before as you embark on a journey to the wilderness. Four white sandy beaches await you along three kilometers of the north coast. The main beach, Anchor Bay, offers approximately 360 meters of white sand and is ideal for surfing and swimming. Just above Anchor Bay are grassy areas with Pohutukawa trees providing shades for relaxation and picnics. There are also several trails for all levels, including a walking path where you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of the peninsula on top.

Half or even a whole day may not be enough, so why not pitch a tent at the camping site for an extra day of nature thrills? Reserve a spot, especially in the holiday months. It can be a part of your multi-day tour or a one-day escape from the city’s noise.

Shakespear Regional Park

Another nature park in North Auckland is Shakespear Regional Park, located at the tip of the Whangaparaoa Peninsula. It’s an accessible and highly visited park, especially in summer, with plenty of hiking, swimming, and sightseeing opportunities.

There are countless things to do at Shakespear Regional Park, so dedicate a day of exploration outdoors. This open sanctuary is a haven for native wildlife and plants and a beloved gathering spot for tourists and locals. It has three primary beaches: Te Haruhi, also referred to as Shakespear Beach due to its popularity and a perfect beach for kayaking and swimming; Okoromai Beach, a tidal beach for kite surfing; and Army Bay, where you’ll want to be for boat lunch, swimming, and the beautiful sunset.

If it’s too cold to swim, Shakespear Park has numerous walking and hiking trails, including the heritage trail that winds through wetlands, regenerating bushes, farmland, and historic sites. No matter which route you take, you’ll likely encounter native birds and animals you won’t see anywhere else.

Albert Park

Centrally located in the heart of the Central Business District, Albert Park is one of the most important parks in Auckland. It’s only a short walk from Queen Street, one of the iconic streets in Auckland City Centre, so travelers staying in central Auckland or exploring the CBD will likely find their way to the park at some point. If you visit during term time, the park is crowded with university students and locals.

With its unique character and long history, this central city park has become a famous resting spot among Aucklanders. They would stop by to rest, meet, and socialize. There are benches to sit on, but the newly mown lawn is just as irresistible. A Victorian water feature stands proud in the middle, offering photo ops for travelers. The biggest draw of Albert Park is its ideal location close to several hotels and attractions, including the majestic 328-meter-high Sky Tower, which has been the city’s focal point for over 25 years.

Auckland Domain

Not far from Albert Park, the University of Auckland, and the CBD is the oldest and one of the largest parks in Auckland. Auckland Domain is unique for being built around the cone of the ancient Pukekawa volcano. The large crater with a small scoria cone in the middle forms a natural amphitheater for large open-air events in the park.

Besides its intriguing past, Auckland Domain attracts eventgoers, history buffs, nature lovers, and sports enthusiasts. This city park is lined with gardens, forests, and open fields for picnics and sports. The crater’s rim also offers panoramic views of the city and is an excellent place for kite flying.

One of the park’s crown jewels is the Wintergarden Complex, a protected Heritage Site constructed after the First World War. The Wintergardens consist of two glass house displays containing tropical plants and temperate plants, a fernery, and a courtyard with a pond. These grand Victorian glasshouses underwent renovations to strengthen them with additional cleats and steel ties. Auckland Domain is also home to Auckland War Memorial Museum, featuring the treasures from our natural world, the Maori, and the peoples of New Zealand and Oceania.

Chelsea Estate Heritage Park

Native and exotic vegetation, a wide range of bird life, and numerous trails await you at Chelsea Estate Heritage Park. It’s located in the heart of the historic suburb of Birkenhead on the north shore of Auckland’s Waitematā Harbour. It represents the largest coastal park in Auckland and supports diverse flora and fauna, native forest, wetlands, and grassy promenades.

Chelsea Heritage Park is perfect for trampers and walkers, with numerous tracks surrounded by lush greenery. Every day, you’ll see them making their way through the winding trails, most of which will take them to the bush valley. There are also short excursions for beginners, leading to some secluded bays like Kendall Bay. Walkers can take their dogs out for a run, though they must be kept on a leash, especially if other people or dogs are walking in the area.

Whether you’re strolling or just sitting around the pond, always keep an eye out for native New Zealand animals and bird species, like grey warblers, fantails, tuis, and pukeko. The pond is also home to a variety of fish, such as long- and short-finned eels, goldfish, perch, and more.

Wenderholm Regional Park

Nestled between Waiwera and Puhoi Rivers on Auckland’s North Shore, Wenderholm Regional Park is another large regional park known for its beauty. Wenderholm has attracted people for hundreds of years, so it’s no surprise that it was an early Maori settlement due to its strategic position and rich natural resources. It became Auckland’s first regional park in 1965 and was the beginning of an intricate network of parks that now covers over 38,000 hectares across the region.

Today, Wenderholm Regional Park offers endless activities to locals and foreign visitors. You can launch your boat or paddle to Puhoi, follow one of the trails and fall in love with nature’s beauty away from the crowded city, or stay overnight at the campsite. If you’re here in summer, cool off at the family-friendly beach or remain under the shade of Pohutukawa trees at the picnic areas. Other park features include barbeque facilities, picnic tables, changing rooms, and a boat ramp.

The best green oases in New Zealand’s North Island

These are just a few of the many natural attractions and parks in Auckland, so if you’ve explored these places during your travels, you’ll find many more green oases throughout the country’s biggest city. Each offers exciting experiences, whether you’re looking for parks with access to the beach, mountains, breathtaking views, bush, or pastoral lands.

Still looking for more places to discover and satisfy your wanderlust? Read our guide on the best beaches near Auckland so you know where to go for sun, sand, and surf on your next summer vacation. For travel hacks to save money if you're vacationing in Auckland, take a look here.

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