PotW – Lyall Bay Beach, Wellington

Lyall Parade, Wellington
In a southerly, this playground is not for the faint-hearted, located as it is right on the side of the beach, exposed to the wind. But on a sunny day with a light breeze, it’s a great spot to blast out the cobwebs.
The play equipment here is simple, with a pirate theme. A swing, a slide, something to climb on, and lovely views – including to watching planes come in and out of the airport.
On a good day, parking can be difficult, as it’s a popular walking, dog-walking, surfing and swimming beach, plus the famed Maranui café is only a couple of hundred meters down the road in one direction, with the Spruce Goose a similar distance the other way. Toilets are available in the Lifeguard building just west of the play area.
Looking at Google Street View, this playground has been upgraded since we last visited.


PotW – Kaitaki Ferry

Interisland Ferry (Kaitaki)

The Kaitaki is the biggest of the 5 or so ferries that cross Cook Strait between Wellington and Picton. If you’re ok with confined spaces below the waterline and travelling with kids, then it also has probably the best Play Space of any of the ferries.

While the BlueBridge ferries offer a free movie, the Kaitaki offers somewhere for the kids to actually burn off energy – particularly useful if you are driving straight off the ferry and down the coast for several hours, as we often do.

The play space is located on Level 2, which is below the vehicle decks. This does actively mean it is at or below the water line (depending how heavily laden the vessel is), and thus there is no natural light (which is good, as it helps you forget where you are). It has a multi-level climbing space, like most good indoor soft play offerings, and there’s even a bar and café upstairs for parents to get a drink or a coffee while they listen for their kids turn to scream.

Not a playground that’s a destination in itself, but a useful thing to know about if you’re planning an inter-island crossing with kids.

PotW – Botanic Gardens, Christchurch

Christchurch Botanic Gardens, Armagh Street
Nestled deep in the northern half of Hagley Park and the Botanic Gardens is an incredible play area. In summer, bask in the shade from the numerous mature trees, and paddle in the free pool. In winter, enjoy the peaceful escape from the city in a much quieter play area, and play hide and seek in the dropped leaves.

This is a fully-featured park. Swings, slides, climbing, swinging, bouncing. Swimming on a hot day. Shade for picnics, toilets nearby, and a good sized carpark just over the river. It can get busy, both in the playground and in the carpark, so be prepared to do a bit of hunting. You can also park out on the main road and enjoy a leisurely stroll through the gardens to the play area.

Our common attack is to park in the gardens and walk out to the CBD for lunch, but there is a café within sight of the play area that offers ice creams and similar light food, along with another more substantial one about half way back to the Museum.
Speaking of, make sure you visit the Museum on your way past. Its free (or Koha if you feel inclined), and is really interesting. On your wander into the city, you’ll also get to see a tram car, and the Rollickin’ Gelato shop. Forewarned is forearmed, because you wont escape a stop related to either.

It’s a solid walk for little legs, so if you still have a buggy or a carrier, we recommend taking it if you’re using this wonderful playground as a launch pad for exploring whats been redeveloped to date in Christchurch city.

Highlights: 2019

I’ve struggled with getting trips written up this year, often not tackling them till well after the fact and ending up having to back share them. Some trips, while awesome, are still not written up! So, I thought, lets at least do a summary of this year and some of the amazing and awesome adventures we have had (because we’ve had a lot).
Where there are posts, I’ll link them so you can read more. Where there aren’t yet posts, I’ll try to come back later and link them once written.

Starting the year in the Hawkes Bay heat, we abandoned our tent site at a managed campground a day early as we were just exhausted from how loud it was. Mr5 got to go on a 4wd adventure with my uncle and he loved it.
We then headed out to Castlepoint for a long weekend, which included swimming in the surf for the first time for Mr5.

We stayed close to home all month. A couple of daywalks for me, lots of trips to the bike park, and an attempt to watch some amazing planes at Wings over Wairarapa (the big plane we wanted to see had technical isssues so didn’t arrive).

Our first truly massive adventure – Mr5 and I flew over to join Mark in Melbourne for the better part of a week. We had an amazing time, did lots of touristy things, spent loads of money, and generally enjoyed ourselves. I actually really liked Melbourne this time, compared to when Mark and I did our honeymoon there and it just seemed like we were marking time there waiting to go on to Tasmania. We also had a weekend at the ski lodge.

Another big month – Mr6 did his first Great Walk, hiking two of the three main days of the Abel Tasman Coastal Track. We then sent him to Christchurch to go kayaking alongside the track for three days.
Later in the month we popped out to Castlepoint for a weekend.

I had two quick weekends away – one for the Hawkes Bay Marathon weekend (I ran the half marathon in just over 3 hours) and the other to put in the bulk food at the ski lodge in preparation for winter.
We also enjoyed a kids night tour at Zealandia that was Mr6’s birthday present

A cold and damp month spent mostly at home. Mr6 was invested as a Kea, we went to Jumperama, and we watched the Matariki fireworks from Wadestown Hill.

School holidays meant more travel – this time a week at the lodge (wet and no snow, compared to 2018’s masses of snow), followed by a week in Rotorua. We did the luge, dinner at Stratosfare, the Redwoods Tree Walk, and made several visits to Kuirau Park.
Later in the month, Mr6 and I had a weekend at Castlepoint with my parents

After taking the tramping club families to Battle Hill for lunch cooked on a fire (an annual tradition), and enjoying an Adults-Only weekend at the ski lodge, we had our biennial trip to Queenstown for some southern skiing. Another amazing visit, with great snow conditions at Cardrona and pretty mint weather.

At the very end of the month, we returned to Queenstown and picked up a campervan to start a truly epic and amazing holiday.

The month opened in Milford Sound and only continued to shine. We road tripped via Lake Hauroko, across to Dunedin, up to Moeraki Boulders and back to Queenstown. We picked up friends there and hit up the Rakiura Track Great Walk on Stewart Island.
The month rounded out back at the ski lodge for the long weekend, where the snow had already largely departed the lower slopes.

I headed to Melbourne again for a girls weekend to celebrate a friends 40th birthday and had an AMAZING time. Holy wow, kid-free travel is good, but kid-and-husband-free is even better!

All quiet on the travel front until school finished. We celebrated the start of summer holidays by heading up to Castlepoint again for a long weekend, did a ride on E-Bikes out to Pencarrow Head one afternoon, and went up to New Plymouth to explore and camp.

PotW – Ben Burn Park, Wellington

Campbell Street, Karori
Ben Burn Park is mainly a sports field, focussed on athletics and cricket, but tucked away at the north end is a small playground. Featuring a couple of standard pieces of equipment (swings and a slide), it also has a wee wooden maze, which is quite unique and a lot of fun for younger kids.
Parking is along Campbell Street, toilets are down at Karori Mall (at the end of the road). While this is just a standard little play area, its still a great local park for residents and somewhere different to explore on days when Karori Park is busy. The reserve also features an annual local Lions Club fair in about February.

PotW – Kuirau Park, Rotorua

Ranolf Street, Rotorua
Kuirau Park is always our first stop when in Rotorua, regardless of what the weather is doing. This play area is directly adjacent to a large and active thermal area, which is its main attraction.
Back when I was a child, Kuirau Park was all about the thermal vents – the hot pools, mud pools and smelly steam – and the thermally heated warm water paddling pool.
Some time in the last few years, a childrens play area was installed alongside the paddling pool. Its got a great few features, including a massive climbing net that Mr6 is in love with.
The old paddling pool was out of action last time we visited – it developed a crack we believe. But don’t despair, there are now two smaller paddling pools tucked up a path the other side of the lagoon from the old pool. They’re just as warm and welcoming on a cold winters day.
Parking is pretty good, although it might get busy if Saturday morning sport is on the rugby fields opposite the playground, or if there is a craft fair or festival on the large plaza next to the play area.

What went well in 2019?

2019 followed the same pattern as 2018, with a lot of travel squeezed in. We started the year camping in Hastings and crashing at relatives in Napier, spending less than a week at home before heading out to Castlepoint for a long weekend. Mark led the way to Melbourne, before Mr5 and Amelia joined him for a long weekend. We had both family and Adult-Only adventures on the Abel Tasman in the April holidays, then spent the July holidays between Whakapapa and Rotorua.

Around those we managed a night walk at Zealandia, a half marathon in the Hawkes Bay, and several other local adventures. August saw us on our biennial trek to Queenstown for skiing, before we returned to Queenstown again for a campervan adventure, with friends joining us for a trip to Rakiura. In November, Mark and Mr6 went to Christchurch, and Amelia went back to Melbourne. Christmas was at home, and the year ended at a campground in New Plymouth.

We continued in the tradition of spending a lot of time utilising facilities that are familiar. Group holiday houses, the ski lodge, several trips to Castlepoint. When we went to Queenstown for skiing, we drove the extra distance to Cardrona rather than taking the shorter trip to Coronet Peak.

Our plans to have friends kids with us on our adventures fell through – in April due to a stingy boss cancelling my friends leave, in August due to tight finances and a lack of leave, and in October because their child just was not ready for that level of exertion (but the parents still came, which still made a lot of difference).

Three years in a row we’ve done something dramatically different to previous experiences. This year we hired a campervan for 10 days. We looked into this last year for our time in the Coromandel, but that area is not overly receptive to freedom camping, so we skipped it. This year, we were heading for Fiordland and Southland, and there were a number of places we wanted to visit that were infeasible any other way.

A lot of our other adventures were much like things we’ve done before – visits to the ski lodge and Castlepoint, Skiing out of Queenstown, tramping and camping – albeit some with minor twists, like Mr6 climbing Castle Rock for the first time, and tramping in new locations.

We managed a couple of Adult-Only adventures. Mark got a week in Melbourne to attend a conference, then we flew Mr6 to Christchurch for a week so we could go kayaking in the Abel Tasman together. Last minute spaces came up on an AO weekend at the ski lodge, so we grabbed those, and Amelia hit up Melbourne for a friends 40th on her own.

Mr 6 took a record 10 flights (2 international) and 4 ferry sailings (one set across Cook Strait, the other across Foveaux) this year. We were grateful to hit no major issues – even being at the airport at 4:30am went smoothly.

Our year opened in a campground and finished a different campground. Our travel was more extensive than was really feasible and the latter part of the year only still saw travel because we had made promises to do it. 2020 will be a significantly quieter year, with a focus on low-cost and local adventures.

We avoided significant dramas this year. Despite the challenges we faced in managing the volume of travel this year, we wouldn’t change it. A couple of big years was a little bit too far, and we all feel that, so cutting back for 2020/2021 shouldn’t be a big ask for anyone. We’ll probably still try and keep the tradition of an October adventure though. Not sure where yet.

Our only plans for 2020 at this stage are a long weekend in Queenstown to celebrate our 10th anniversary (because we’ve fallen in love with the scenery), and an adventure departing Christchurch after Christmas. As someone who loves exploring and adventures, this is slightly terrifying, and only palatable because plans are coming together for our big 2022 Round-the-World adventure.

PotW – Marine Gardens, Raumati

Garden Road, Raumati
It’s a bit of a haul from our place to Raumati for this destination playground, but it is 100% worth it every time we go.
In the summer, there is a generously sized water play area, with fountains and buckets. Loads of squealing and heaps of fun.
Year-round, there are a range of play equipment, spread over a generous area, including a good flying fox, a long slide (that’s not quite steep enough to actually slide all the way down) and an adult-sized stationary vehicle. There are shaded seats, flat areas for a blanket picnic, and picnic tables.
The best part, according to Mr6, is the miniature trains. With three loops, several bridges, a couple of level crossings, and a busy, multi-track platform, the trains operate every Sunday (weather dependent), along with two twilight sessions per year. Tickets get cheaper the more you buy at a time.
There are a couple of toilet blocks in the wider playground area, and across the road (and down a bit) from the entrance by the trains is a dairy that sells ice creams. The sad shell of the old Raumati Pool still hangs around at the beach side carpark, where you can get on to the beach easily. Parking can be tight on a sunny day, despite the multiple parking areas around the playground.

PotW – Graslees Reserve, Tawa

Luckie Street, Tawa
This is one of those rare fully-featured playgrounds. Several parking areas immediately at the playground, a small toilet block, a variety of play equipment – plus a large paved area for bike riding or ball games – there is also a local council swimming pool at one corner, and across the stream are some open spaces to run around in.
It can get busy on a sunny day when the weather has been bad for a while, or around weekend swimming lessons, but the range of equipment and available space should allow you to distract your kids on to something else if what they want is occupied.
There’s not a lot of seating within the playground itself, and this is probably its only downfall from being near perfect.

PotW – Lakefront, Queenstown

Earl Street, Queenstown Central

This site has had a makeover and extension since we were last here, and is pretty awesome. The slide is steep and long, there are multiple climbing options, the swings have sadly been moved further away from the lake edge.
The ding-dong bridge is addictive, even for an adult.
As an added bonus, there is a café basically IN the playground, and a set of public toilets only 100m walk away.
Parking is a bit tougher, best spot is up the hill in Park St, as the loop through the central area is slow and it’s rare to find a park.
We’ll be here every time we’re in Queenstown till Mr6 decides he’s too big for a playground anymore.