Just a short walk from downtown New Plymouth is the entrance to the local botanic gardens, Pukekura Park. The main entrance to the park passes the cricket grounds that are circled on three sides by grass terraces with tall trees towering over the field above the terraces. A lake surrounded by lush native ferns emerges on the right where a trail leads around the lake into the park. The 52-hectare park flows up a valley past a second lake to join Brooklands Park, where the Bowl of Brooklands sits in a natural amphitheatre.
In the summer Pukekura Park is lit up during the Festival of Lights, when musicians fill the evening with sounds as dusk settles over the park. I am always surprised how busy it is during the festival as families fill the park with excited children enjoying the lights and music. Every night during January different artists and acts entertain visitors to the park – all the events are free, which everyone loves. The ice cream stand at the Tea House is busy with lines of people waiting for exotic flavoured ice creams and cappuccinos. Boats lit with coloured lights glide along the dark water of the lake as red and yellow reflections dance in the ripples. Quacking ducks hustle for bread or scraps dropped into the lake by generous people.