Friday, 15 April 2011

Auckland Domain / Parnell Running Route

Length: 5.2 km (3.2 miles), terrain hilly with two 50-meter hills

Auckland running routes:
Auckland Devonport island run
Auckland Domain park and Parnell route

For more running routes, see Route List

NOTE: I neglected to take pictures inside the Domain, so I added some screenshots from Google Maps StreetView

Auckland, New Zealand is a very vertical city. It's almost impossible to avoid hills during a run, unless you stay next to the (mostly beautiful, but not everywhere) waterside the whole time. So, if you want to experience all the town's hidden treasures, you'll just have to embrace the idea of a few hard uphill slogs. That's just what this run will do.

But the scenery will make it all well worth it, believe me. This route winds from the hilltop Albert Park  downtown, down across the valley separating it from the huge hilltop Domain park (sits atop an old volcano rim), and then looping downhill through the hip main street of Parnell before going back up the hill to Albert Park again.
Banyan and bandstand in Albert Park
Let's start right in the middle of Albert Park, at the floral clock, a flower bed whose flowers make up the face and numbers for the giant clock hands rotating in the middle. Do a short loop through this pleasant park before we head out: run the few steps to the fountain, then turn left to run south the short way to the little bandstand. This end of the park is lined with gigantic banyan trees, always an impressive sight.

Turn left to exit the park on Princes Street. Across the street you'll see some of the University of Auckland buildings, which sprawl over the next few blocks. Go left a few steps to take the side street, Alfred Street, which becomes Grafton Road after just a block. Grafton Road goes downhill, going over a big expressway (Stanley Street) and ends at the bottom of the Domain.

Cross the intersection to the park and continue straight uphill through the park lawn, with the lawn-bowling club to your right, and the boulders to your left. This path leads up into a little woods. The most scenic way is to keep to your left side, within the ravine, where the path becomes a boardwalk going through jungle and blooming trees. You've just found paradise in the middle of a big city.

NOTE: If you prefer a graded asphalt surface, take a side trail to your left up to Lovers Lane, which runs parallel to the trail, and which is hardly less scenic.
Heading up Lovers Lane in the Domain, from Google StreetView
Both the trail and Lovers Lane come out together in the main Domain parkland at the duck ponds, which you'll see when you cross Domain Drive. Run along the left edge of the duck ponds and keep going straight uphill, and you'll see the rounded greenhouses of the Wintergarden up ahead. Run by (or, better yet, through!) the Wintergarden, and come out on the backside, with all the cricket fields ahead of you.
Domain Wintergarden, from Google StreetView
This area was once a swampy volcano crater, and the duck ponds are naturally fed from the crater watershed. Turn left here, on Wintergarden Road to head towards the massive War Memorial Museum on the crater rim ahead. You can't miss it. Running straight ahead brings you right by the front facade of the building, with the cenotaph memorial out front. From the front steps, you have a view over the Hauraki Gulf, with Rangitoto volcano, and the many other islands in the distance. This is the highest point of the run.

War Memorial Museum and Cenotaph in the Domain, from Google StreetView
Keep running past the museum, running down the steps and cross the street to keep going straight on the dirt path curving to the right. This puts you on Domain Drive again, heading southeast to exit the park.

You come out on Parnell Road, where you turn left and go straight for almost a kilometer. You will pass the Holy Trinity Anglican Cathedral on the right side. The older, wooden building is more interesting than the newer brick one that they built behind it.
Along Parnell Road
After the cathedral, the road starts going downhill, and Parnell's hip shopping district begins. Parnell is Auckland's oldest suburb, full of little wooden houses with tin roofs and tidy lawns. And Parnell Road is full of galleries, boutiques, good restaurants, homemade chocolate shops, etc. The best part begins after you cross Birdwood Crescent. On the left side for the next few blocks the restaurants and shops have beautiful gardens and courtyards out behind the main buildings, full of terraces for eating, browsing or just hanging out. Make sure you zig-zag through a few of them.
In a Parnell Courtyard
Back on Parnell Road, on the right side, at Denby Street, you'll see the little white Catholic church, and then, appropriately, Auckland's best Irish pub: The Bog. They have regular, entertaining live music sessions.
Another Parnell Courtyard
Continuing running downhill, Parnell Road becomes less scenic, and curves to the left to become Parnell Rise. There is a triangular park on the right side, Fraser Park. To avoid the loud streets ahead, take a turn off to the left just when Fraser Park ends, on the little side-street, Carlaw Park Avenue. It leads through a small tunnel under the train lines that separate Parnell from the Domain.

Carlaw comes out at Stanley Street, just 2 blocks north of where you first entered the Domain earlier. Cross Stanley and head up your last hill on Alten Road. Alten runs along the north side of the university, past some of its oldest buildings. You'll also pass beautiful St. Andrews Presbyterian Church on the left.

After half a kilometer, you'll come to the intersection of Princes Street. Turn left and run past the beautiful tower of the main university building to turn into Albert Park again on your right side. Might as well sit down somewhere here now and enjoy it!