Sprawling over green hills and dormant volcanoes around a scenic bay, Auckland is packed with reserves, parks and playgrounds that are perfect for walking, picnicking or simply spending time in nature. And as Auckland is surrounded by water, many of these green spaces offer beautiful sea views.

No matter where you are in the city, you’ll have a green space or reserve close by, where you can escape the urban streets for a calm stroll or a picnic. Auckland's parks are generally safe, well-maintained, great for families and they're extremely popular with local residents.

Here is our pick of the most popular parks in Auckland, along with a couple of less-visited spots.

Auckland Domain

Best for downtown greenery

If you’re staying in the city center, the Auckland Domain is a convenient stop for a picnic, a stroll or a peaceful moment under a tree. Follow winding trails across green lawns, past lakes and through small pockets of bushland. Take time to explore the Wintergardens, where greenhouses filled with colorful flowers are set around a decorative, central courtyard. Don’t miss the Fernery, built in the 1920s on the site of an old scoria (volcanic rock) quarry.

The Domain is surprisingly large, and being screened from the city by New Zealand ferns is an unusual, tranquil experience. There is a café on-site if you don’t feel like bringing a picnic, but we recommend grabbing a snack from a downtown deli and enjoying it alfresco. The Domain is also home to the Auckland Museum, where you can learn about New Zealand history and see unique Māori and Pacific Island collections as well as natural history and military exhibits.

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Auckland Botanic Gardens

Best for horticulturalists

One of the city's loveliest green spaces is tucked away in South Auckland, off the radar of many visitors. The Auckland Botanic Gardens are a reasonable drive from the city, but you can easily spend the day here, wandering the various gardens. Highlights include the African garden, an edible garden, a native forest and an entertaining children’s garden, filled with interactive activities. If you bring a picnic, head to the new sustainable meadow and relax amidst colorful wildflowers.

The Huakaiwaka Visitor Centre is a work of art in itself, with columns resembling huge trees holding up the canopy. Both the visitor center and the gardens display a range of artworks by local sculptors – part of a mission to make sculpture accessible to everyone. Every second year, from November to March, a sculpture trail is set up into the gardens showcasing 20 different New Zealand artists.

One Tree Hill monument in Auckland, New Zealand
One Tree Hill offers beautiful views over downtown Auckland © PatrikStedrak / Getty Images

Cornwall Park

Best for city center views

This large, peaceful park is situated in Central Auckland and it's a popular escape for both locals and visitors to the city. There are two entrances – on the northern side, you’ll find a cafe, a restaurant and neatly manicured gardens, while the southern side is home to a large playground, the Stardome Observatory and lots of open space and trees. Sheep graze in the paddocks at the foot of the hill.

Spend some time relaxing under the trees on a sunny day, or walk up the road to One Tree Hill (Maungakiekie), a popular tourist destination in its own right. This was the site of the largest Māori (fortified village) in the area, and it's topped by a large stone obelisk and a bronze statue of a Māori warrior. Beneath the obelisk is the grave of John Logan Campbell, the "father of Auckland." It’s a steep climb to the top, but you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views across Auckland.

Waterview Reserve

Best for families

One of Auckland’s newer parks, Waterview Reserve is perfect if you’re traveling with children and want a place for them to blow off some steam. Kids of all ages can charge around a water play area, a playground, a bike track, a skate park and a basketball court. To peek at some local history, follow the walking trail towards the water and see the remnants of both Māori and early European settlements, including an old brickyard, a tannery, a flax mill and a flour mill. For a longer stroll, head east, cross over the small footbridge and connect to the Te Auaunga (Oakley Creek) Walkway, which dips through surprisingly thick bush and follows a creek to a nearby urban waterfall.

Otuataua Stonefields

Best for local history and avocados

Close to the airport, you’ll find Otuataua Stonefields, a historic site and natural reserve strewn with volcanic stones. The site is culturally significant for Māori people and you can see the remains of a number of pre-European and colonial-era structures. Māori farmers came up with the idea of creating walled gardens of volcanic stones to extend the growing season, and in later years, Europeans reused these stones to build dry stone walls to fence their farms.

It's a pleasant place to wander, exploring mounds and walls made from volcanic stones, and admiring the beautiful views of the harbor. It can get very hot here in summer, so remember to bring a hat and drinking water with you. If you visit between November and March, head to the Avocado Orchard to pick fresh avocados – you can take up to five per person for free.

View of the beach at Wenderholm Regional Park near Auckland
The lovely stretch of sand in front of Wenderholm Regional Park © Getty Images / Mark Meredith

Wenderholm Regional Park

Best for a peaceful beach escape

Located away from the center in northern Auckland, by the mouth of the Puhio River, Wenderholm Regional Park is perfect for a day trip out of the city. When you get there, you’ll find an open space dotted with large trees, and a long beach with fine sand. Sheltered by native trees and buzzing with birdlife, it’s a popular spot for a picnic or barbecue at the beach. You can also go for a bushwalk or climb to the top of Maungatauhoro hill, where you’ll find a lookout with stunning views of the Hauraki Gulf.

While you’re at Wenderholm, it’s worth visiting the historic Couldrey House, founded in 1857. The house is open most afternoons and you can explore restored rooms and beautiful gardens. If you want to stay longer, you can rent the small holiday house in the park through the Department of Conservation.

Ambury Farm

Best for animal encounters

Also located in South Auckland, Ambury Farm (also known as Ambury Regional Park) is a wonderful park for families. There’s a petting zoo on-site with a range of friendly farm animals and, if you visit from September to November, you can see lambs and other baby animals. Try to time your visit to coincide with one of the feeding sessions.

Surrounding the farm is a huge park with lots of trees and trails perfect for cycling and long walks. There are also lovely views of the harbor and a family-friendly campsite for overnight stays.

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