Going on family bike rides and walks when you have children of varying ages is not always an easy undertaking. While some want to ride their bikes, others bring their scooters or walk, and with still others needing to be in prams, finding a happy medium for everyone can be tricky. Thankfully, there are loads of family-friendly walks in South Auckland, and in particular, we love the picturesque Wattle Downs walkway.
Wattle Downs Walkway (access from Wattle Farm Rd, Manurewa, Auckland)
The walkway spans 10km of almost-level paths suitable for varying fitness levels and mobility. Those with older children, or children who can ride longer distances, could undertake to do the whole thing; others could do just a section as there are plenty of exit/entry points. We join the loop from the bottom of Frangipani Crescent, but you can access it from various points along Carnoustie Drive or Wattle Farm Road. The beauty of it is that it is a purpose-built walkway, so it’s completely away from the road with no need to worry about cars or busy intersections. Some days, we’ll all walk together with the toddler in the pram; other days we’ll take a combination of bikes and scooters, with the toddler on the back of mum’s bike. Highlights along the way include: three playgrounds, wildlife pond, stream, golf course, wetlands, and picnic areas; there’s even a mansion or two to admire! We love watching the geese complete their daily walk across the road – they stop the traffic in both directions for a good five minutes. We drop by the local bakery on the way and beg for some old bread to feed the ducks, eels, swans and pukekos in the wildlife pond. The locals are very friendly and the kids have sharpened up their manners and conversational skills by meeting people along the way.
Allenby Park (Great South Rd, Papatoetoe, Auckland)
Whilst there are three playgrounds en route, we like to head to the playground at Allenby Park in Papatoetoe. The playground was refurbished about a year ago and now boasts its own interactive sand and water play area, including hand pumps so come prepared for the kids to get wet! For the older children, there’s also a skate park (my kids take their scooters down the ramps) and an enormous climbing tower with a covered 10m slide (you can get some real speed up on this slide!). There are also numerous different play structures, swing sets and roundabouts to suit different age groups, so everyone is covered. There’s also plenty of green space for the little explorers to roam around in. However, the playground is not fenced so active supervision is a must.
Columbus Cafe (Mitre 10 Mega, Takanini, Auckland)
After a busy couple of hours in the fresh air, it’s time for a coffee stop. While it may seem strange to some to visit a hardware store for a coffee fix, we love the Columbus Café in the Mitre 10 Mega store in Takanini. The café is in the garden area so you can sip your delicious coffee surrounded by plants and trees, even if it’s raining outside. Best of all, there is a fenced playground area complete with bouncy castle for the littlies (suits approximately 6 years and under), so the adults can enjoy their coffees while they’re still hot. Fluffies are $1.50 and come with a marshmallow fish, the portions of fries are always very generous, and the service is efficient and friendly. It has become a hot-spot for mums and kids; most mornings they are the main clientele here.
South Auckland gets a bad rap but the walkways, playgrounds and great coffee are just some of the reasons why we love living here!
Corina Eldershaw is a mum to four children (Giselle, 9, Lucas, 8, Jonah, 5 & Ezra, 2) who lives in Manurewa, Auckland. Corina works part-time for a local company making bliss balls. She loves to bake, eat said baking and then go to boot camp. Correcting terrible grammar is one of her favourite pastimes, followed closely by watching her children sleep.
Image: Playground People