Are the kids driving you crazy yet?
One of the easiest, and cheapest, ways to keep them entertained in the school holidays is to head to the nearest playground.
The Weekend Sun asked Tauranga City Council and Western Bay of Plenty District Council for their top five picks of playgrounds in their respective areas.
Located on The Strand, this is definitely one of the most high profile playgrounds in the city with all the usual playground fare – slides, swings, and climbing frames – as well as a sandpit with ride-on digger, a water sprinkler feature that children run through with peals of delight, and the famous Hairy Maclary bronze statues. There is plenty of seating for mums and dads to sit and chat, public toilets and safe rubber matting to take the brunt of the inevitable falls. You can also venture into the harbour for a paddle off the tidal stairs or, for the older children, jump off the pier.
Memorial Park, Eleventh Ave
Famous for its almost 60-year-old Humpty Dumpty, Memorial Park on Eleventh Ave is sprawled across 11 hectares and includes two playgrounds, a water fountain, a half pipe skate ramp, free barbecues, a miniature railway, mini golf, the Memorial Pools and two large fields. It's a great spot for a picnic, with picnic tables and large, shady trees to sit under. Again, you can also venture into the harbour for a paddle or, if the tide's out, search for sea creatures. Public toilets and a water fountain are also available here.
Yatton Park, Fraser Street, Parkvale
This is a new playground, which if you're not looking closely, you won't spot on a drive-by. In keeping with the park's unique collection of exotic and native tree species, it is tucked under some large trees which are suitable for climbing and are part of the playground itself. No brightly coloured play equipment here. Everything blends in with its natural environment, including wooden balancing beams, rope climbing frames and quaint, child-sized mushroom picnic table and stools. There is also a mini trampoline discreetly tucked into a green mound and ‘talk tubes' like the tin can phones of old that allow kids to experiment with sound.
The Lakes Playground, Caslani Place, Pyes Pa
Another relatively new playground can be found at The Lakes featuring a flying fox, horizontal rope swing, monkey bars, swings, slide, stand-up see-saw, and toddlers' play area with mini trampoline, tunnels and a rocking horse. Next to the playground is Lake Taurikura which has many walkways/cycleways around the lake and vicinity. Across the road is The Lakes Shopping Village where you can get coffee or grab something to eat at the various food outlets. There is bench seating dotted about and public toilets are among future plans.
Mount Drury Reserve, Marine Parade, Mount Maunganui
Located across the road from Mount Maunganui beach, this is a popular park all-year-round with swings, a roundabout, seesaw, climbing equipment and a disability swing. There is also a super speedy metal slide. Stand clear of the exit! The reserve also features large, shady trees – great for a picnic – and plenty of bench seating. There are also public toilets and a water fountain.
Jubilee Park, Te Puke
Billed as a ‘destination' playground, the modern Jubilee Park playground, next to New World in Te Puke, features a six-metre-high eagle's nest, a carousel, two flying saucer basket swings, and a fitness cube to get fit while you play, as well as the usual swings, seesaws and slides. It also features a skate park, basketball hoop and a large sandpit with various utensils to cater for all ages and stages. There is plenty of bench seating and a water fountain.
Fairhaven Park, Boucher Ave, Te Puke
Recently refurbished, this playground is set off the road and has plenty of green space for the kids to run around in and play ball games, as well as all the usual play equipment such as slides, swings (four plus a flying saucer basket swing), a fire pole, spinning seats and more. There is a barbecue, picnic table and toilets and plenty of large, shady trees to sit under. Parking is limited so you might have to walk in from the main road if you visit at a busy time.
Maketu Park Road, Maketu
Set on the seafront, this a delightful little ‘sand play' playground features modern play equipment, including a rope pirate ship with eagle's nest, climbing frames, swings, slides, a conical-shaped roundabout, sand play equipment and ride-on diggers, and a surfboard spring plank. There are numerous bench seats, picnic tables and a barbecue and the toilet block features a shorebirds mural made by the children from Te Kura o Maketu and Paengaroa Primary.
Maramarua Park, Pukehina
You would be hard-pressed to find a playground with this sort of sea view anywhere in the country. With the stunning Pukehina Beach as a backdrop, the piece de resistance in this coastal playground is the double flying fox, allowing kids to race each other towards the sea. There is also a slide, roundabout and flying saucer basket swing. Other than that it's fairly simple, but there's a few picnic tables on the grassy area and you can duck back and forth to the beach if you don't fancy sitting on the sand.
While WBOPDC admits this playground has very old play equipment and is in need of a major refurbishment, it is still hugely popular with families, especially in the summer as it is right on the water with a cafe, restaurant and dairy nearby. One of the most popular play items is the ‘lullaby' swing, a large swinging seesaw. There is also an old red tractor which is great for imaginative play. There are plenty of pohutukawa trees for shade, picnic tables, public toilets and a free barbecue at the northern end of the domain.