The Queen meets the locals at Masterton Park, which was later renamed Queen Elizabeth Park in her honour. Photo/Wairarapa Archives
To mark the Queen’s Birthday weekend, Peter Dragicevich explores some of the Kiwi parks and attractions named after our longtime Head of State.
There are Queen Streets, Queen’s Parks and Queen’s Gardens the length and breadth of New Zealand, but most date from the Victorian era. Although she never visited the farthest of her estates, Queen Victoria had an entire town named after her (Queenstown) – as did her husband (Albert Town, near Wānaka) and daughter-in-law (Alexandra) . The early settlers threw their queen’s name willy-nilly, even slapping it on the maunga of Auckland and Wellington which already had very good names.
Mentalities have changed, and the naming of places after Elizabeth II has been much more judicious. You might even say it’s surprising there aren’t more things named after her, considering she was our head of state for over a third of the nation’s existence. modern.
And the list has actually shrunk in recent years, but not due to a Republican push. QEII Park fell victim to the Christchurch earthquakes and QEII Square in Auckland disappeared under the new Commercial Bay development. Among the surviving places dedicated to the current ruler, here are a few worth visiting.
Crown Jewel of the Kāpiti Coast
Stretching between Paekākāriki and Raumati on the Kāpiti Coast, the 638ha Queen Elizabeth Park was opened by its namesake during her first royal visit in the summer of 1953/54, just months after her coronation.
This vast expanse of beach, dunes, wetlands and farmland has a large holiday park at its southern end, an ancient pā site near its center and a visitor center at the entrance to MacKays Crossing with an angular architecture that references both wharenui and the tents of the US Marines stationed here during World War II.
Our famous horse-loving queen would no doubt be delighted if horseback riding was one of the park’s main attractions, with treks and pony rides offered by the park-based Kāpiti stables. Nearby, the Wellington Tramway Museum preserves and displays cars that traversed the streets of the capital in the 1920s and 1930s. At weekends, you can take a ride on a historic tram along a 2km track ending at the beach.
Of course, the beach itself is the biggest draw card – a long stretch of sand looking out over Kāpiti Island. There are also six significant hiking trails, most of which are shared with bicycles and horses. All are stroller friendly and one – the fully sealed Te Ara o Whareroa, which runs through the center of the park – is also accessible to wheelchair users.
Majesty at Masterton
As if to create a Tararua-filled Queen Elizabeth Park sandwich, the residents of Masterton ended up with a park of the same name on that same royal tour. However, this was a rebrand rather than a renewal.
Masterton’s Queen Elizabeth Park was founded during the reign of Victoria, with its well-known cricket ground laid out in 1881. It is now one of the best and most child-friendly city parks in Aotearoa, with a castle-like playground, flying fox, hip skate park, BMX track, miniature steam train and pedal boat rides on the lake in the summer. There is also a fenced-in deer enclosure, accessed by a swing bridge over the Waipoua River.
The excellent Aratoi Wairarapa Museum of Art and History and the Sheep and Wool Shearing Museum, both located across the road, add further incentive to visit.
Honor Holder of Tauranga
The Memorial Park occupies 11 ha of the Tauranga waterfront, filled with playgrounds, a skate park, a miniature railway, a swimming pool, a cenotaph, a statue of Humpty Dumpty and an impressive illuminated fountain.
Added to the ensemble in 1967, the Queen Elizabeth Youth Center is more practical than pretty. With a capacity of 2,580 people, including 850 in the stands, it is a major venue for indoor sports (basketball, volleyball, badminton, netball and even roller derby), as well as live music and theater performances .
Christchurch Splash Palace
Queen Elizabeth II Park – affectionately known as QEII Park – was built to host the 1974 Commonwealth Games. Unfortunately, its stadium and pool complex were damaged beyond repair in the February 2011 earthquake and dismantled the following year. Next year.
Built in 2018, the Taiora QEII Sports and Recreation Center includes a gym, cafe, and meeting rooms, but the big draw is its sizable aquatic center, especially its large blue slide. For the little ones, there’s also a play pool with a less scary slide and an oversized bucket that periodically splashes water over squeaky heads. More experienced swimmers can do lengths in the 25m pool, then recover in the spa, sauna and hammam.
Incidentally, if you’re traveling here from the west, chances are you’re driving along Queen Elizabeth II Drive. This is the main road linking Northcote to Burwood.
For more travel inspiration, visit newzealand.com/nz.
Check traffic light settings and Department of Health advice before traveling at covid19.govt.nz