Together the expansive lawns, lakes, groves, and woodlands of these connected parks make up a tranquil, 121-acre heart of the city. From December through mid-February, and in March during the annual WOMAD Festival, Pukekura Park comes to life at night with the stunning summer Festival of Lights. Special lighting effects transform the gardens and giant trees into a children's (and big children's) delight. Pukekura has water running throughout; hire a rowboat (from near the lakeside café) and explore the small islands and nooks and crannies of the main lake. The park also has a fernery—caverns carved out of the hillside that connect through fern-cloaked tunnels—and botanical display houses.
On Brooklands Road, Brooklands Park was once a great estate, laid out in 1843 around the house of Captain Henry King, New Plymouth's first magistrate. Today, Brooklands is best known for its amazing variety of trees, mostly planted in the second half of the 19th century. Giant
copper beeches, pines, walnuts, and oaks, and the Monterey pine, magnolia soulangeana, ginkgo, and native karaka and kohekohe are all the largest of their kind in New Zealand. Take a walk along the outskirts of the park on trails leading through native subtropical bush. This area has been relatively untouched for the last few thousand years, and 1,500-year-old trees are not uncommon. A puriri tree near the Somerset Street entrance—one of 20 in the park—is believed to be more than 2,000 years old. Brooklands also has a rhododendron dell and the extremely popular Bowl of Brooklands, a stage and natural amphitheater used for a variety of concerts and events. Brooklands Zoo has frogs, fish, meerkats, monkeys, and a bird aviary. For a reminder of colonial days, visit the Gables, a former hospital built in 1847 that is now an art gallery.