One of the best reasons to stray south from the city centre is to visit Pah Homestead, an Italianate residence perched on top of a small volcanic cone. When completed in 1879, it was the largest house in the Auckland region and an ideal place for its owner, businessman James Williamson, to throw lavish parties. Much of its wood panelling and elaborate ceiling bosses are original, despite spending much of its life as a novitiate home for the Sisters of Mercy, a boarding house and emergency housing.
The homestead overlooks the graceful, mature cedars and Moreton Bay fig trees of the surrounding Monte Cecilia Park and has great views of One Tree Hill.
Wallace Arts Centre
Though impressive by New Zealand standards, and extensively restored in 2010, Pah Homestead alone wouldn’t warrant a special trip. What does is what’s within: an array of pieces from the five thousand-work Wallace Arts Trust collection, created by Kiwi meat-processing magnate, James Wallace. In the mid-1960s Wallace began collecting works by emerging New Zealand artists and has continued to buy their best stuff (and commission more) as they’ve risen to become some of the country’s most eminent. The result is a wide-ranging collection particularly strong on artists such as Toss Woollaston, Philip Trusttum and Michael Parakowhai. What’s on show is constantly changing but always superb. The equally excellent on-site Pah Café spills out onto the veranda, overlooking the sculpture garden.