We love living in the family-friendly city of Upper Hutt. Nestled in between the bush-clad hills of the Upper Hutt Valley and just 30 minutes’ drive north of Wellington city, it’s a mecca for outdoor activities to suit all ages. This is a little outing we like to do on a sunny weekend to fill in a good two to three hours, depending on how long we spend at each spot. It can be adapted to suit a range of age groups and abilities, from those chilling in the stroller, to older and more intrepid explorers. The location is very central and is only a short walk from the Upper Hutt train station, or if you’re driving, there’s plenty of parking at either the sports grounds or at Mitre 10.
Maidstone Bush (Park Street, Upper Hutt)
Tucked in behind the sports grounds next to the Maidstone Max playground is Maidstone Bush. There are a range of tracks that wind up the hill, which provides a pretty backdrop to the Maidstone complex. The walks do differ in length and gradient, but the lower loop track takes about 30 minutes and is a good option for families. Those up for a challenge and with more time to spare are well-rewarded with Instagram-worthy views over Upper Hutt. The terrain can be steep and bumpy in places, so avoid the walks themselves if you have a stroller. Instead, there’s a lovely open green space at the entrance to the bush that has gentle, meandering paths circling the edges (some under construction) and ample room for toddler legs to run. You might even be lucky enough to spot some painted rocks squirrelled away thanks to the recent rock-hunting craze. Bring the gumboots if it’s been raining though, as it can be a bit wet and muddy underfoot.
Maidstone Max (Park Street, Upper Hutt)
A short stroll from Maidstone Bush is the impressive Maidstone Max playground (pictured at top). Complete with zoom slides, “space-net”, mountainous mound, flying fox and skate park, it’s perfect for high-adrenaline play time. There is an area with play equipment for younger children too, and plenty of swings to keep the littler folk happy. While this is located towards the back of the playground, it pays to be vigilant if you’ve got a runner on your hands, as the park is bordered by only a low fence and is adjacent to a busy road.
Espresso Garden (Mitre 10 Mega, Park Street, Upper Hutt)
When the tummies start rumbling you can head across the road to Espresso Garden cafe inside Mitre 10’s garden centre. There’s plenty of room to either park the stroller or manoeuvre it around inside, and highchairs available if needed to contain your mini-me. They have a generous-sized menu for big people, as well as a tempting range of counter food and sweet treats. The “Little People’s” menu is indeed quite little, but the usual suspects are there such as cheerios, french toast and fluffies. There aren’t any toys or children’s areas within the cafe, but when the kiddos get a bit wriggly you can send them (and your better half, so you can enjoy the rest of your coffee in peace) out to the fenced indoor play area. Best of all, when it’s time to head home, you can take multi-tasking to the next level and pick up some plants for the garden or DIY supplies from Mitre 10. And in the unlikely event that you’re still hungry, you can even fill up on a fundraiser sausage sizzle while supporting a local cause. Tick, tick!
Deborah Montague is a full-time stay at home mum to her three children (Oscar, 5, Isaac, 2 and Olive, 2) and lives in Upper Hutt with her husband Sam. Deborah spends the hours between school runs playing at her local Playcentre and doing laundry. She’s also trying to finish off her business degree, but can usually be found procrastibaking or watching property shows on the Living Channel.
Image: Maidstone Bush/Deborah Montague