I haven't got a bad thing to say about Ivy Watson or Synergy Playgrounds at Kings Park, and together with Naturescape, they have to be some of the best playgrounds in Perth. But there is lesser-known playground in Kings Park, just off Thomas Road, which deserves a bit more attention.
Formerly known as the Ernst Wittwer playground, which was originally built in 1974, the playground on Saw Avenue was first refurbished in 2009, and exciting new elements added in 2014, prior to being re-opened as Variety Place. This is a fabulous area that has a combination of nature-based play, with more traditional elements. It also has the bonus of being wheelchair accessible in parts, and is supported by Variety WA, hence its name.
What do you need to know?
Access to the playground is via the Saw Ave entrance, which is off Thomas Street. There is parallel parking along the west-facing side of Saw Ave, or in the Kulbardi carpark off May Drive, which is the best access for prams and wheelchairs.
There are toilets (open 8am-4.30pm), several drinking fountains, electric BBQs, and picnic tables.
Throughout the playground, there are beautiful, hand-carved insects whittled directly into the wood by local artist Nic Compton. As well as adding a beautiful whimsy to the area, there are fabulous learning signs that encourage kids to search out each of the insects throughout the playground.
Get the kids to find all the bugs hidden in the playground
Equipment includes the new-and-improved, large bird's nest swing, big enough for half a dozen kids at any one time; climbing nets; a metal maze; and a prison-like fort set high on the hill, accessible only by ladder and with a great view over the area. There are also tunnels and bridges galore.
An old favourite from my childhood – the massive jarrah log, which used to have pride of place not far from the Anzac Memorial, was relocated here after the huge redevelopments to the eastern parts of Kings Park. The jarrah log was originally brought up from Dwellingup shortly after I was born, and was a firm favourite of all Perth kids growing up in the 1980s and 90s. Now it has a new home, and will be a favourite of a new generation of Perth kids.
While the playground itself isn't shaded, the grassy area that surrounds it is protected by Kings Park's famously beautiful trees, perfect for a picnic (and lunchtime nap).
The Variety Pavilian is a great place to hire for a party
Look, it's brilliant, beautiful, different, but if you are a nervous parent, like me, it is designed so kids get out of sight - bush mazes, tunnels with lots of exits... I know it is brilliant for kids but I have to be very brave.
Re cByrn response: It is not the nature play element that I find risky. I just wanted other parents to know that you CANNOT see your child a lot of the time at this playground. It consists of mazes and tunnels. I for one panic when I can't see my children when I know we are surrounded by a large bushland and in the centre of the city, and frankly who knows who else is watching our children. Just something parents might want to consider before they go. That is all.
Try to be brave Sinea and all other parents who are nervous about their children playing in what they perceive as risky places. With your support and encouragement to find their own feet and experience it their way you'll be doing them a great service as a parent rather than a disservice not allowing them!