If you need an escape from New Zealand city life without going too far, head to the city’s oldest park, and its crown jewel the Auckland Domain Wintergardens.
Originally designed by William Gummer it was built in the early 1900s to provide winter garden viewing. Today, the Auckland Domain Wintergardens are a city treasure that is always free and open to the public.
Situated near the top of the domain, just to the west from the Auckland Museum, it’s often overlooked by both visitors and locals. This, I will never understand.
For me, it’s a place of peace and serenity, a place to breathe in nature, admire the architecture, stroll through the aromatic greenhouses, and relax. A public sanctuary in the centre of the city, it is a perfect add-on to a day in the park or a visit to the museum.
There are two barrel-vaulted Victorian-style greenhouses, a fernery, and an ornate courtyard filled with a pond and interesting artwork at the Domain Wintergardens.
The Auckland Domain Wintergardens are registered on the New Zealand Historic Places Trust (now Heritage Trust)
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Domain Wintergardens greenhouses
While architecturally quite similar, each greenhouse is distinctly different on the inside as one is heated to create a tropical environment, while the other is temperate. The plants in the temperate house change with the seasons.
Both contain a variety of colourful, fragrant, vibrant flowers and plants.
Amongst the most unusual is the tropical Titan Arum (the world’s largest flower, which blooms only once in seven years). An infrequent bloomer, when it does bloom it produces a massive and stinky flower, often referred to as a corpse flower.
In 2013 when we were in Washington DC, we thought we had such a unique opportunity to see a Corpse Flower blooming. Imagine our surprise to find this rare opportunity again in our own city. We didn’t run up to Auckland and wait in the queue, so by the time we visited the flower had somewhat retreated; but, at least it no longer smelt like rotting flesh.
Domain Wintergardens fernery
The fernery was built in the 1920s in the site of an old scoria quarry attached to the Wintergardens. It’s quite large, featuring a variety of New Zealand ferns.
Somehow, I didn’t notice the fernery on my first several visits to the Wintergardens, but it’s there with an entrance between the two greenhouses.
Domain Wintergardens courtyard
The two greenhouses face each other and are separated by a terraced courtyard. The sunken pool in the centre has lily pads and koi, but it is the neoclassical marble statues that capture my imagination.
More about the surrounding park
Like so many of the city’s green hills, the Auckland Domain is built around the cone of the extinct Pukekawa volcano. The 75-hectare park is Auckland’s oldest park.
In addition to the domain wintergardens, this Auckland park is home to:
- Forested bush trails
- Duck ponds
- Interesting sculptures
- Formal gardens
- Soccer fields
- The Auckland War Memorial Museum
- Wintergarden Cafe
- A band rotunda
- Plenty of open spots for picnic or sport.
Visiting Domain Wintergardens
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- Domain Wintergardens sits next to the Auckland Museum on the cone of an extinct volcano that is now the Auckland Domain. It’s the oldest park in New Zealand’s largest city.
- Wintergardens is stop number 11 on the blue tour of the Auckland Hop-on Hop-off bus. Check for discount prices for the Auckland Hop-on Hop-off bus
- Entry to the Wintergardens is free.
- The Wintergardens opens every day at 9 am, closing at 4.30 in winter and 5.30 in summer with Sunday being late night open until 7.30 (summer only). For more information or to check times, visit their official website.
- Bring a picnic and find a spot under one of the large mature canopy-like trees. Or, cross the road to the Wintergarden Café. Enjoy a delicious lunch, snack, or coffee, while overlooking the duck pond that was the first source of piped water for Auckland (1866).
- The Auckland Domain Wintergardens are one of the many free things to do in Auckland.
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What’s your favourite part of the Domain Wintergardens?
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