Auckland Parks in Focus: Albert Park – Our most central park

Albert Park is the most central park that you will find in Auckland. Accessible from the city centre, through to the university, it is a popular lunchtime spot amongst city-dwellers. Albert Park also plays host to many activities and events from music festivals, to university events, picnics, games and political action.

Not far from the Auckland Domain (Auckland’s largest urban park), Albert Park is an inner-city icon.

Albert Park: The Heart of Auckland City

Albert Park is located right in the heart of the Auckland City Centre, and it is so easy to access, with entrances on all sides. Right at the centre of the park is a fountain, which people tend to gather around. Other points of interest include the rotunda, the caretaker’s cottage, and the Auckland Art Gallery, right beside the park

In the middle of summer, people can spend hours on the grass, sheltering under the trees from the sun. At the beginning of the university year, Albert Park fills up with students relaxing between classes and eating picnic lunches. One of the best things about Albert Park in springtime, is when all of the colourful flowers bloom in the gardens, marking the end of the winter, and bringing in warmer days. One of these gardens forms the well-known floral clock.

A Site Rich in History

Albert Park is the site of hundreds of years of New Zealand history.

Originally, it was the location of Te Horotiu , in which about 160 people lived.

After colonization, the land was used by Pākehā (Europeans) as an army base, before it eventually became a park. The barracks at the army base were called Albert Barracks, which led to the naming of Albert Park.

The history of the park has brought up some controversies in how New Zealand’s history is memorialized, especially in recent events in which a controversial statue of a previous governor was defaced in protest of the history of colonization it represents.

Albert Park’s history is filled with many significant events – not all of which are good – however, it is important to learn and understand our history, allowing us to figure out a way forward.

Exploring New Zealand’s Past

Much of the history of Auckland City can also be observed in Albert Park – from historic artifacts to art pieces. One such historical artifact is the still-in-use Victorian gas lamp which shines on the Kitchener Street stairs.

On the far side of the park lays an empty Gothic-style cottage, which used to be a caretaker’s home, used as a museum, and now after renovations being done, is available for use by community groups.

Another significant part of the park’s history is the platform for political action it provided. In the 1960s, people gathered on “Jumping Sundays” to hear speeches and watch performances, usually advocating for free speech. The “free speech podium” still exists and is located close to the floral clock.

The Sunday events included performances in the rotunda, and then became a venue in which stages were set up for concerts. Although bands have been performing in this location since the early 1900s, it was in the 60s that it became a popular place for rock concerts.

Albert Park’s Modern-Day Events

Nowadays, there are many events that occur in Albert Park, and upcoming events can be found here.

One of the most famous events held in the park every summer is St Jerome’s Laneway Festival.

This festival originated in Melbourne, and now operates every summer in multiple cities across Australia, New Zealand and Asia. The festival has held every year in Auckland since 2010. The most recent Laneway Festival (2020) was held on Auckland Anniversary Weekend in January, attracting huge crowds. With headlining acts including Charli XCX and The 1975, among many other celebrated musicians from New Zealand and beyond, it is always a popular event!

Nearby Attractions

The Auckland Art Gallery

Right beside Albert Park lies the Auckland Art Gallery. This is easily accessible with stairs leading from the park down to the entrance of the gallery. Once you have finished your time in the park (or if you need to seek shelter during a typical Auckland downpour), the museum, and the adjoining Mojo cafe, is right there for you.

You can explore multiple exhibition rooms, with some permanent exhibitions, and some rotating ones that change every few months.

Current Exhibits

Currently on display is an exhibition by Sorawit Songsataya called The Interior, featuring endangered and extinct New Zealand bird species.

You will also find Richard Lewer’s exhibition Collective Memory, featuring historic disasters that have occurred in New Zealand, and how they changed this country, which will be there until September 2020.

Finally, there is a display by Susan, Philipsz called War Damaged Musical Instruments, which is an audio experience played on instruments that were used during the war. She collected the instruments from museums in the UK and Germany, and created pieces of music. These are only a few of the many different artists represented in the Auckland Art Gallery showcasing painting, sculpture, photography and music.

Pay the Auckland Art Gallery a Visit

The gallery is open every day from 10-5 pm, and open late on Friday nights until 9 pm.

These nights are great for those who prefer to spend their Friday evenings appreciating exquisite art, food and beverages. It’s also worth noting that they have happy hour in the cafe from 4-6 pm!

On a normal visit to the gallery, you can expect to spend about an hour to get through it all. Every day there are tours of the gallery at 11:30 am and 1:30 pm.

As you can see, Albert Park offers much more than it may appear at first glance. From its history to its natural beauty, prime location for great events and proximity to icons such as the Auckland Art Gallery, it surely is one of the top spots to check out in the city centre.

So next time you’ve got a bit of spare time in the city centre, why not have a picnic and lunch in the sun? Then continue on to check out the displays at the Art Gallery?

It’s the perfect way to spend a relaxed afternoon in inner-city Auckland.

Photo credit: JontyNZ

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