Together the expansive lawns, lakes, groves, and woodlands of these connected parks make up a tranquil, 128-acre urban oasis. From mid-December through January during the Festival of Lights, and again in March during the WOMAD Festival, Pukekura Park is beautifully illuminated at night. Special lighting effects transform the gardens and giant trees into a visual delight. At any time of year, visitors can 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, they include giant copper beeches, pines, walnuts, and
oaks. 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 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.