I love school holidays. They evoke images of sleep-ins, playgrounds, bike rides, movies and time … time to just enjoy each other. The kids and I always sit down a week or two before the end of term and research holiday activities.
As a family with a low combined income, we search out inexpensive things to do. We usually decide on one “expensive” activity, and the rest are either free or just the cost of petrol. The last few holidays, we have been absolutely blown away by all the free things on offer in Auckland. Some of our highlights have been:
1. Ports of Auckland boat tour (Ferry Terminal, Waterfront)
This is an hour-long tour on a small ferry that weaves in and out of the busy commercial wharves to give you a close-up look at the big ships, cranes and other machinery at work, accompanied by a detailed commentary. The kids were excited to watch the hustle and bustle from a seaside perspective. The container cranes were particularly fascinating, and seeing the harbour bridge from underneath impressed the children. (NB: Adults are $5 per ticket but children under 16 are free. Bookings essential)
2. Guided glow worm walk through Totara Park (90 Wairere Road, Auckland)
What an adventure this was! We met in the carpark, after sunset, all rugged up, which was enough atmosphere all by itself. After the de-briefing (“no talking; follow closely behind the person in front of you; glow sticks indicate hazards; don’t fall into the stream!”), there was a beautiful, silent, moonlit walk along the Bridle Track to the bush. Once in the bush, we walked blindly along a gravel path, over bridges and next to a stream, with fern fronds occasionally startling us as they brushed against us. The glow worms were on magnificent display; it was such an amazing experience to be able to see them up close. Back in the carpark, the children were allowed to take some glow sticks home. I only took my older two (nine and eight years old) as I thought the younger ones would have trouble staying quiet and might be afraid of the dark. It was a wise decision, but I can’t wait for my younger ones to be old enough to go as well.
This was organised by Out & About Auckland, who also organise Kite Days, Amazing Races and Park Sports Days all around Auckland. Check out what’s on in your area at on their Facebook page.
3. Auckland Libraries
Aren’t libraries fabulous places? Every school holidays, our local library chooses a different theme and puts on a related crafty activity every (week) day. They are free, structured, indoors, and you don’t even have to register! The crafts are appropriate for a wide range of ages, with the younger ones requiring some hands-on help. During the last school holidays, the children made a lighthouse with a working light. The children use them for night lights and still talk about how awesome they are. It’s worth checking out what they have on offer – they’ll have fliers available at the library towards the end of term or you can choose to be added to their mailing list.
4. Ambury Farm (43 Ambury Road, Mangere Bridge)
One of the perks of living in Auckland is the number of stunning Regional Parks we have in close proximity. Although it’s hard to pick a favourite, we do find ourselves going back to Ambury Farm time and time again. It’s a favourite of ours as you can get up close and personal with the farm animals. There are sheep, goats, cows, pigs, pet lambs (August/September), a horse, chickens, turkeys, rabbits and an elusive peacock. If you time it right, you may see cows being milked, calves/piglets being fed, or even the opportunity for your children to hand-feed a lamb. The staff are super friendly and the Family Farm Walk is pram accessible. Bring a picnic and plan to stay a few hours.
Added bonus: Consider taking a 10-minute detour after your visit to Ambury Farm to Liky Liky Gelato in Onehunga (175 Onehunga Mall) for handmade Italian Gelato that will melt your taste buds. With flavours such as marshmallow, nutella, watermelon and brunella, there’s something tempting for young and old alike!
5. Tip Top Factory Tour (113 Carbine Road, Mt Wellington)
Another perk of living in Auckland is that Tip Top ice cream is made here. Take the kids on a Tip Top Factory Tour and you’ll be guaranteed to be proclaimed “Mum of the Year” by your offspring. The tour takes approximately one hour, viewing is from enclosed windows up above the factory looking down, and everyone is allowed to choose an ice cream at the end. The tour includes access to a enclosed playground where the kids can run off their sugar high after their ice cream. The cost: $7 per person (only babies under 6-months are free). We gathered our friends together and made a booking of 25 people (minimum number is 12, maximum is 35). Beware there is a set of steps from the parking spot to the factory, so bring a backpack for the littlies as it’s not pram-friendly.
Of course, Auckland has a host of additional venues to keep your children entertained (think Bounce & Beyond, Jump, Inflatable World, Butterfly Creek, Rainbow’s End, Auckland Zoo, MOTAT, Auckland Museum – the list is endless but they’re not always cheap), but the important thing is to enjoy yourselves, enjoy each other and try to have some downtime, too!
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 at centre: Ambury Park/Auckland City Council