Nature naps – Auckland

Get outdoors with your little one this summer. Here are some great sanity-saving walks so your child can nap in nature and you can get some much-needed fresh air and exercise. It's a win-win!

At around 3 months old, my bonny, red-headed baby got sick for the first time. He stopped sleeping and embarked on a week of inconsolable gloom – ultimately for us both. We were staying with friends in Golden Bay and I felt there was little I could do to get us out of what was, looking back, a dark moment for me as a new mum. Luckily, on my third day, wanting to give my hosts a break, I discovered the buggy-friendly sanctuary of Te Waikoropupū Springs.

The gentle walk winds through native vegetation until reaching the treasured, untouchable springs – translucent and vibrant. As I strolled through this refreshing place, my son slept for, seemingly, the first time in days. I had found a remedy for us both and organised a walk every day for the rest of our stay.

Inspired by my experience in Golden Bay, I continued to combine naptime with walks wherever I could, taking my baby carrier when the buggy wasn’t an option. Even when I was tired and could see a billion things around me that I ought to be doing, I told myself that getting us both out of the house and into nature (even for 20 minutes) was without doubt my top priority.

As my boy grew older and heavier, I found the buggy quickly became my preferred choice for longer walks, allowing me the option to park up, curl up and soak up nature where possible.

An added bonus was the ability to walk with friends, de-stressing, offloading our parental horror stories (and joys of course) and actually managing to finish our sentences for once as our little ones dozed. Some swore by baby carriers or slings or buggies; all of us appreciated the importance and benefits of these walks in keeping us sane and invigorated.

buggy-friendly nature walks for summer breaks

Exercising in nature is increasingly being recognised as a tonic for body, mind and soul. Research is showing that alongside physical health benefits, outdoor activities in green spaces can raise self-esteem levels and leave people significantly less angry, depressed, confused and tense. Mums and dads are being encouraged to take advantage of these benefits and join buggy walking groups across the globe, including New Zealand.

And, with the summer break coming up, you needn’t let your travels hinder your walking routine. Below is a list of suggested Department of Conservation tracks for holidaying parents that are toddler and buggy friendly. Several include steps or steep slopes and require suitable off-road buggies, so please take care and check conditions before heading out.

Goldie Bush Walkway (Horsman Road entrance), Waitakere, West Auckland

Location: Goldie Bush Scenic Reserve, 1.6 km from the start of Horsman Road, Waitakere
Goldie Bush Scenic Reserve offers a variety of walks through coastal kauri forest, taking in the impressive Mokoroa Falls. Entering the walk from Horsman Road provides a well formed track that leads to the falls and Mokoroa Stream – a delightful, sunny, place to have a break, lunch, explore the falls. A welcoming, natural swimming pool under the falls beckons those brave enough to take a dip. This track is pushchair-friendly, although a note of warning: pushing the buggy back up the reasonable gradient to the car parking area will test those without a reasonable level of fitness. Walks with small children/toddlers/pushchairs from the Murawai (Constable Road) end is not recommended. Help stop kauri dieback: stay away from kauri tree roots, and clean your gear before and after visiting kauri forest.

Tiritiri Matangi, Hauraki Gulf

A relaxing 75 minute ferry ride heading north in the beautiful Hauraki Gulf delivers you to family-friendly Tiritiri Matangi Island. The island is internationally recognised as one of the most successful community conservation projects, with rare native birds and animals returned to restored habitats. Well-cut tracks and choices of short, medium and long walks are toddler, small child and pushchair friendly.

Motuihe Island, Hauraki Gulf

Just a 45 minute ferry ride over the sparkling Waitemata Harbour from downtown Auckland and you will be enjoying the crystal clear waters and white sandy beaches of pest-free Motuihe. From any point there are wide views of the Hauraki Gulf and nearby islands, and relics of the island’s WWI and WWII history. Family-friendly Motuihe Island is a haven for native species like tieke/saddleback, little spotted kiwi, kakariki (red-crowned parakeet), korimako/bellbird, many rare plants and the tuatara. There is a large variety of walks through the headland, forests or the beaches.

Rangitoto Island Scenic Reserve, Hauraki Gulf

In 20 short minutes you will have zipped over the sparkling waters of the Waitemata, passed North head and arrived at the most recognisable island on the Auckland landscape. Rangitoto was declared pest free in 2011 and bird life has swarmed back to live in the largest pohutukawa forest in the world. The shortest and most popular route to the summit begins at Rangitoto Wharf and climbs through lava fields and forest to the peak at 259 metres above sea level. The summit gives panoramic views of Auckland and the Hauraki Gulf. There are also shorter walks close to the wharf, taking in native forest and the historic baches. The island also boasts a tractor train for tired little legs.

Maungauika/North Head Historic Reserve, Devonport

Strategically located on the headland at the entrance to Auckland’s harbour, North Head (Maungauika) commands sweeping views over the Hauraki Gulf. Take a self-guided walk through tunnels and other features of the areas military history, and watch a short movie or two at the summit. Or take the Coastal Track around the base of the maunga/mountain. It is easy walking up and around the volcano and there are plenty of lovely cafes close by in the seaside village of Devonport. Access is via the road or a short ferry crossing from downtown Auckland, and it’s a pleasant walk along the promenade to the foot of the hill, where The New Zealand Navy Museum is also situated. Parks with swings and slides are also adjacent.

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