When travelling with littlies, you want be up with the play with playgrounds. A happy family excursion is when the parents get to sightsee, eat and shop AND the kids are entertained for free. If you base your accommodation in Auckland's CBD near one of these parks, it's a guaranteed win-win situation.
The sea-themed sandpit playground features sea urchin roundabouts, a giant metal shell and kelp-leaf shades. There's a basketball court and a splashpool underneath iconic Auckland sculpture 'Wind Tree', made from 22m long and 5m high stainless steel trusses. The Gantry (with lift) is a fantastic platform to view the sea, silos and park. On Sundays, Workshops on the Wharf hosts free activities such as hula hooping, fort making and juggling (11am – 2pm).
Also at Wynyard Quarter a couple of minutes' walk from Silo Park are the Daldy St tanks. The 7.6m-high water tank features pipes and structures for waterplay and across the road a 7.5m-high play 'tank' supports two slides with ladders inside. The Auckland Fish Market is on the same street so an affordable feed and clean toilets are not far away.
Myers Park Myers Park is a little jewel of green that connects the funky vibe of uptown Karangahape Rd (K Rd) to Queen St, Auckland's central street. Only a few minutes' walk from the Town Hall and Aotea Square, Myers Park playground was transformed for Auckland's centenary in 2015. Kids will love clambering over the giant caterpillar, snail and fantail under the bright-coloured flower canopies – the park has an Alice in Wonderland feel and the large basket swing is hard to resist for kids and adults alike. The surrounding grassy knolls are great for picnics, and for playing roly poly, of course. Myers Park is fine during the day but would not advise visiting at night, even adults.
Victoria Park Victoria Park is right across the road from Victoria Park Markets, so you can grab your coffee or souvenirs there then head over for the kids to play. All the regular equipment is there, plus a popular see-saw platform and a low-level swing for the little ones and a climbing net and frame for older kids. On the other side of the park is the city's most central skatepark with multiple bowls, ledges and stairs. The sportsground is used for cricket and touch. New World supermarket is just across the road too. Where: Victoria St, off Queen St, just down the road from the Sky Tower
Victoria Park playground: funky platform see-saw ... and a frog
Western Park Just outside of the CBD is Ponsonby's Western Park, a large sloped park with mature trees that has a challenging fitness trail. At the bottom of the park is a small playground, but it contains no less than seven slides to entertain the kid in all of us. There's a free tennis court there too. Where: Beresford St W entrance, Ponsonby
Grey Lynn Park This inner-city suburb has a huge multi-purpose park, which hosts the annual Grey Lynn Festival in November. The playground has standard modules and there's also a flying fox and skate ramp. But the piece de la resistance is the paddling pool, open during summer from 11am to 6pm. It has shade sails, water toys, shower and toilets and a lifeguard at all times. The deepest end is less than one metre. Where: Grosvenor St, off Williamson Ave, Grey Lynn