Several hours need to be put aside to explore the expanse of Queens Park, the 81ha jewel in the centre of the city, recognised rightly as one of the most important parks in New Zealand.
Weddings and events
Once through the stately Feldwick Gates, the main entrance to the park off Gala Street, the rest of the world is shut out and relaxation is the key. The wide expansive path goes through a stunning walkway of English Beech and Silver Birch trees. Known as Coronation Avenue, it is the axis from which all parts of the park can be found and history and nature merge along the way. The avenue goes past the Band Rotunda, the central focal point of the park and then carries on to Herbert Street.
Queens Park is a popular venue for weddings and other events and musical and theatrical performances often feature in the park; bookings are essential.
Gardens and botanical attractions
The park is a mecca for those who enjoy the natural and the planned. Its numerous gardens and botanical attractions provide vibrant displays whatever the season.
Queens Park is a wonderland for children. There is plenty of space for running around; lots of places to explore and a popular playground; a waterpark; and a hydraulic swing which allows children with disabilities to experience the joy and freedom of a playground swing without leaving their wheelchair.
History and animals
The Park does not forget its history. Once a grazing block for cattle and the site of the Southland Agricultural and Pastoral Association’s shows in the 1880s, the park now contains an animal reserve, which provides both a recreational and educational role as a farmyard corner. Rabbits, guinea pigs, domestic fowl and guinea fowl thrive in their enclosures, and more exotic animals such as wallaby, alpaca and ostrich, attract much attention.
New Zealand’s unique birdlife can be observed at close quarters in the Queens Park aviary. The innovative municipal facility was opened in 1998.
Southland Museum and Art Gallery
The museum is located near the Feldwick Gates. The glass home of the tuataras is a popular spot for families trying to spot the only living relic of the dinosaur era. An experience not to be missed is the museum’s exhibition on the sub-Antarctic Islands: a rolling boat and a roaring seal give a unique sense of the rugged islands south of Stewart Island.
Statues and features
Many of the fine statues and features of the park have been made possible by generous bequests including Feldwick Gates, the Thomson Statuary in the playground, and the Band Rotunda.
The park has plenty to offer sportspeople and those keen on keeping fit. The 4km fitness trail which winds its way around the park, will test the energetic and encourage others to have some fun. Twenty exercise stations are signposted with directions for appropriate use.
The Queens Park Golf Club boasts an 18-hole course among mature trees and the Southland Cricket Club hosts first class matches throughout the season. Croquet and bowling clubs are found nestled among the trees; tennis courts are located near the museum.