While the weather can be frightful at this time of year, we do have some stellar winter days. Cabin fever can so quickly set in when you are a parent to little ones and it feels great to get out in the air and sunshine! We have a few good walks around our local area and we’re very lucky to live in a small town that abides by the “old-school” manners that we were raised with as kids – I know, I know, I’m turning thirty, not eighty! Still, sometimes it can be nice to go further afield and one of our favorites is The Auckland Botanic Gardens. The on-site cafe Cafe Miko can get very busy during peak hours, so bear that in mind if you have hungry little people or if you are in desperate need of caffeine!
There are two major bathroom facilities at the Gardens, one in the main foyer and a secondary facility in the cottage building over by the Rose Garden. The foyer has a parent room with unisex bathroom, fold-out change table and a feeding seat. The unfortunate thing about this set up is that there is absolutely no privacy between the change table and the seat. The property management may be laboring under the misconception that only women change diapers – certainly not the case with us. On one occasion the carpark was packed and I dropped Papa M and CJ in front of the building while I used my knowledge of the side streets to find a better park. Papa M had to deal with a rather suspicious smelling nappy in my absence and a woman actually waited for him to finish the nappy change before feeding in the seat. Not ideal. There is no indoor feeding area in the Rose Garden facility and there is only a nappy change table in the women’s bathrooms.
Don’t let this put you off – just plan accordingly. The Auckland Botanic Gardens have amazing opportunities for fun and education. I have very early memories of feeding the ducks (a bit of a no-no now) at the jetty there but they are only one of the great attractions there. One of the most kiddy-friendly areas is The Potter Children’s Garden. There are a range of activities in here, suiting infants right through to school age. There are paths that take you through the tree canopies, through mazes and down little tracks. There’s a human-sized sun dial. There is a giant egg-shell that sees many a cute photo opportunity – I’m waiting until CJ grows a little more for that one! The area has also recently been extended to create gardens representative of different climatic and geographic conditions – my favorites being the jungle (that periodically mists as you walk through) and the meadow. Plenty of learning opportunities and the perfect safe place to let your active little ones expend that energy.
Kids are never too young to learn about sustainable gardening and the origins of their food. Tucked away in a sheltered corner by the main foyer is the edible garden section, with two courtyard gardens as well as raised beds and a teeny orchard section. This would be great for those families whose current living situations don’t allow them to grow their own produce. It can also open up conversations about some of the plants in there – that as well as looking pretty, you can eat nasturtiums. I’m definitely looking forward to having those conversations with CJ as he grows older. There are also a number of themed gardens that can expose your child to many different plants and eco-systems, bush walks, an off-leash dog area and a sculpture exhibition every summer.
Our active little bean is going to need lots of outdoor time as he grows and the Auckland Botanic Gardens will continue to be a place that we visit as we raise the next generation of Ms. While a few minor tweaks (change tables in bathrooms of both genders, more breastfeeding privacy, faster service in the cafe) would make it a stellar destination, it is still well worth the journey.