Enjoy our new series, Out & About, focusing on accessibility and suitability of various public places in Auckland for babies and small children.
While still a fair drive from our little country town, Botany Town Centre was one of my favorite places to shop and socialize pre-baby. During school holidays I’d meander around window shopping, perhaps picking up some sushi or fro-yo and sitting in the open-air lane-ways to enjoy it. At night, Papa M and I might see a movie and dine at Goode Brothers or Nando’s. I first met the lovely Wendy there when I took my mum there for coffee. The place holds a lot of great memories for me so it was going to be interesting to see how accessible it would be once CJ was my plus-one!
There are many different options for parking at Botany but we were heading there in wet weather which had me a little nerve-wracked. While the mall itself has lots of canopied walkways for those drizzly days, the under-cover parking is extremely limited and I was worried that we’d get thoroughly drenched when swapping from the carseat to the push chair. I literally prayed to get an undercover park and was lucky enough to get one but do bear this in mind if you are heading out on a less than stellar day.
The parent room at Botany is truly five stars. Entry is through large sliding doors with an access button to prevent those little escape artists from getting their way. A television is switched on to a children’s channel (I may have lingered a while watching Lego Star Wars) that overlooks a lounge area with comfortable seating. I’ve used this area on one occasion when having to pump while out without CJ, leaving the cubicles for mothers with infants. There is a large play area directly opposite this lounge area and I imagine this would be ideal for mothers with more than one child, wanting to keep an eye on their playing toddler while feeding their newborn. There’s also a handy food prep station that would really only have further benefited from a jug or Zip boiling water system for access to suitable water for the bottles of little ones.
There are plentiful nappy changing stations, each with their own bins and other paraphernalia. The stations are nicely spaced too, with enough bench space to not feel too crowded. CJ was particularly enamored with the high contrast mural on the wall and was far more obedient than at his usual nappy changes (wriggle-bum!). There is also another play area near the change station, again ideal for parents with more than one small child. For parents there is also a generous toilet facility with the ability to fit a stroller either within the cubicle (ideal for baby’s clingy stages) or within the sink room as there is a lock on the main door leading into this area. This could also be great to use with a toilet-training child as there is less chaotic noise than in the usual public restrooms.
The feeding cubicles, however, is really where this place comes into its own. Each area is generously sized with mesh curtains that allow you to see occupancy without any detail, easily accommodating mum, baby and stroller without feeling cramped. Each room also comes with a plastic table (ideal for mums like me who are trying to juggle burp clothes – CJ is still a spiller – and nipple shields) and the icing on the cake – a comfortable swivel chair! It can be the small things that count and boy, was this one of them! The ease of being able to scoop CJ out of his stroller, spin towards the table to sort the nipple shield and then settle back into a comfortable spot cannot be overstated. This really left me feeling positive about this parent room experience.
The rest of our time at Botany was equally enjoyable. Large covered areas such as the Pavillions meant that there was plenty of space for us to get our stroll on. Stroller access to the second floor is available via two elevators, located in Whitcoulls and the food court. The only time having a stroller was a disadvantage was in choosing a cafe – some cafes are too small to fit a stroller through during the lunch rush. CJ was having a particularly wriggly day – heaven help us when that boy learns to walk! – so I was very glad of our final choice of Robert Harris (Whitcoulls). The extended space of this cafe meant that we could put down a blanket and he could stretch his legs to his heart’s content.
I can see this place growing with CJ and our little family. All restaurants and cafes are family-friendly and it is certainly not odd to see the coffee group crowds at places that will later become the domains of the young pub-goers. I can visualize CJ hooning around the outdoor play areas on Garden Lane or perhaps splashing a little in the fountains outside the food court. We can explore the library or maybe see his first film. While it’s likely to always be a bit of a way for us to travel – the real estate prices in this area being beyond our reach – it’s one of those destinations that is worth the journey.
Botany Town Centre / 588 Chapel Road, East Tamaki, Auckland