Rides for Kids
Local parks, schools, and playgrounds are great places to start, but eventually everyone yearns for more adventure.
On this page, you’ll find some great places to ride with kids in almost every corner of Auckland. Our suggestions are aimed at children under 10; abilities and appetites for challenge vary, so use your best judgement.
And if you have a favourite park, boardwalk, or other place where young children can safely spin their wheels, let us know!
Extra info on food, comfort stops, and any other parent-friendly tips warmly welcome.
Hot tip: it’s free to bring bikes on trains and ferries, which can really extend your range. The reality is many of us with small kids will park-and-ride, so we’ve included car parking information where we can.
The city centre offers some iconic rides that will, by the end of 2017, connect into a safe circle-the-city loop of protected and off-road cycleways. It’s a work in progress, as Auckland Transport steadily fills the gaps. Here’s a great map of the state of things mid-2017. Confident adult riders and older children can explore the wider connections (including the great downhill swoop of Grafton Gully), but we suggest those with smaller kids stick to a few manageable favourites:
Lightpath/ Te Ara i Whiti is a must-ride, for the photos as much as anything. It’s even more spectacular at night when the lights come on – you can race them along and watch them change colour. Here’s a map; if you’re arriving by car, the best parking is at the Canada St/Karangahape Road end. K Road is also your best bet for food and bathroom breaks.
Silo Park in Wynyard Quarter has a fantastic playground with room to roam; there’s also a public bathroom and lots of food options nearby. Keep little ones clear of the through-roads, and watch for the tram tracks and the water’s edge, but there’s heaps of interesting space to explore. You can wander eastwards through Wynyard Quarter towards the exciting Te Wero bridge which opens to let the big boats through.
If you’re feeling confident, make your way carefully through the parked cars at the Viaduct (NB this carpark is scheduled to be removed in the near future), and you’ll wind up at the Maritime Museum. Then you can trundle along the waterfront on the separated cycleway along Quay St and watch the bike counter click over as you pass! Travel carefully past the ferry building driveways, and take a detour past the Cloud up to the top of Queens Wharf to visit the magical Lighthouse. (Note: This route also works well in the opposite direction for those starting at Britomart Train Station.)
The Westhaven Boardwalk is in the process of being safely linked to Wynyard Quarter via a shared path. For now, you can start on Westhaven Drive just past Swashbucklers (there’s a carpark) and winds its way around the marina towards the harbour bridge. A section of wide boardwalk takes you as far as tiny Westhaven Beach, then a shared path on Westhaven Drive (watch the driveway entrances) brings you to another stretch of boardwalk alongside the parked yachts, which delivers you to Buoy Cafe right at the foot of the bridge. A fun outing for those who like boats as much as bikes – and you can tell your kids that one day, they’ll be able to bike over that bridge!
Northcote’s Onepoto Reserve (just off the SH1 Onewa Road exit) is a favourite for families, with plenty of great facilities. The park is huge and grassy, and has two playgrounds within view of its learn-to-ride track, which is handy for those juggling kids with competing interests.
The track is long and there are plenty of spots where they’ll be out of sight, but that never seems to worry the littlies tearing around. It is busy, especially on weekends, so keep that in mind if confidence around other riders is an issue. The track is varied, mainly asphalt but with a few interesting bits, like a wooden ‘bridge’ and a cobbled section. There’s also a lovely boardwalk which offers a nice change of scenery when you’re all bored with the playground and the bike track.
There are toilets on site, near the playgrounds, and if you’re looking for a big day out, there are barbecues too. BYO food and drink as there are no cafes in the immediate vicinity.
Normanton Reserve in Glenfield is less well known, but well worth checking out. It has a nice big playground that the ride track loops around; a smaller loop inside a larger loop. And the two concrete courts with hoops are popular with older kids and adults.
Parents should pick up coffee en route: there are no cafes nearby as it’s in a residential neighbourhood tucked behind Wairau Valley, but there is a public toilet on site.
If your kids are small enough to need an eye on them at all times, this is a better choice than Onepoto as it’s smaller but still has plenty of room to frolic. If you want to ride or scooter with the kids, it’s quiet enough to do that. There’s also adult exercise equipment around the outer loop, and lots of shady trees to picnic under.
Parking is on Normanton Avenue which has a very wide frontage to the Reserve.
Greville Reserve in Forrest Hill has a bike track painted on the concrete top of the reservoir. Kids love following the track, and it’s all smooth concrete with lots of room to manoeuvre, making it a great place for those building their confidence or taking the next step from balance bike/trainer wheels to pedals/two wheels. Do note, there’s a 1m drop between the reservoir surface and the path or grass below, so this track may not be suitable for absolute beginners or little ones who can only go in a straight line.
The Forrest Hill Road entrance is the best entrance for the bike track; plenty of parking there and on the road on both Forrest Hill Road and East Coast Road.
There are toilets (including one with a baby change table) by the sports turf, which is right next door on the East Coast Road side. There’s also a small playground and a small court with a hoop. A shared bike/walking path goes past, making access easy for locals, and a short way down Forrest Hill Road there’s a small skate park.
There’s a small dairy across Forrest Hill Road, and several food options on the way there or home: Delish Cupcakes on Raines Avenue (off Tristam Avenue); dairies, bakeries and cafes down East Coast Road; and the Milford shops.
Tole Reserve in Ponsonby has a teensy-tiny ride track for really small riders and scooters. There is an adjacent playground, and a wee free library for parents to browse (bring a book, take a book). There’s a long smooth path through the park and a natural amphitheatre to play in, and toilets are accessible at the Ponsonby Community Centre on Ponsonby Terrace, which backs onto the park. (There’s also a gnarly vintage skatebowl – fun to watch teenagers doing skateboard and BMX tricks, but the bowl itself is not for the fainthearted!)
Grey Lynn Park is home to the famous new community-built pump track, which is smooth, fun, and wildly popular (best accessed from Dryden St). It gets crowded, so pick your moment if you’re there with very small kids.
The park has lots of nice wide paths that wind around the park, and there’s a small playground near the Grosvenor St entrance, with a supervised paddling pool in summer. There’s a handy dairy just outside the park entrance on Williamson Rd.
If you’re feeling adventurous, you could follow the Grey Lynn Greenway along Dryden St towards Hakanoa Reserve, through the alleyway past Farro and Mitre 10, and into Cox’s Bay Reserve. There’s a boardwalk along Cox’s creek, leading to paths around the playing fields and eventually to another great playground just beyond the sports clubhouse (NB still under construction in July 2017).
Cornwall Park is huge: head for the Cornwall Park Cafe, which has great natural loops around the garden (which kids love) and coffee & tea (which parents love). The most direct way to get to the tracks is via Pohutakawa Drive, off Greenlane West; however any of the roads into the park will get you there (if you’re not familiar with the park, the map is helpful).
There’s lots of parking: the cafe carpark is the closest, but it can be busy so you might need to park on the side of one of the roads. Once you’ve driven into the park, just follow the signs to the cafe (not the bistro). There’s a public toilet next to the carpark by the cafe, and a nice little ice cream shop.
The tracks start on either side of the cafe, and there are some lovely loops to follow. The rotunda offers a nice spot of shade for playing in, and if it’s quiet enough, the little ones might enjoy speeding down the ramp there, or bumping up and down the very shallow steps.
Other highlights include biking through the tunnel of wisteria, and the paths through the paddocks with the sheep (watch out for the fresh droppings!).
Avondale’s learn-to-ride track is tucked in behind the Great North Road shops next to the racecourse. The best access is from Great North Road, more or less opposite Crayford Street West – just look out for the sculpture of the giant spider and spiderweb up high on a pole.
This bike park has a lovely urban community feel and a really social vibe, and because it’s quite compact, kids have more contact with each other as they weave around the little ‘streets’.
There’s a playground nearby (although a bit too distant to keep an eye on one kid on a bike and another on the slide). Good coffee options nearby, and a handy public toilet just up on Great North Road.
There’s also a public library close to hand, and plenty of food options on the main street, including the famous donuts at Salvation Kitchen a short walk away on Great North Road.
Bonus: this one is easily reached by train, for the junior transport enthusiast! On Sunday mornings, the Avondale Markets are on at the racecourse next door and are very busy – so if you’re driving, remember that car parking will be at a premium.
Western Springs Park – readily accessible from the Northwestern Cycleway – offers a scenic loop around the lake, the perfect addition (or alternative!) to a day at MOTAT or the Auckland Zoo. The lake is home to all sorts of interesting birdlife, and writhing tangles of eels.
The zoo end of the park has a great playground with public toilets, and handy access to the zoo’s Watering Hole snack bar (when open), and a flock of wild chickens to delight younger visitors – plus, you’re close enough to hear the lions roaring.
The MOTAT end of the park features a rocky outcrop just made for climbing. BYO picnic, or buy snacks and coffee at the zoo cafe.
Over in Henderson, Parrs Park has nice flat tracks around the park, plus an epic playground; and you can also check out the Twin Streams paths, which travel beside Henderson Creek and connect all the way to the Northwestern Cycleway if you’re feeling very ambitious.
Hobsonville Point has a lovely playground a short walk from the Catalina Cafe, as well as nice paved paths that let you explore its green spaces. Eventually, a linear park will form a circuit around the whole point. (Note: you can get there by ferry on weekdays, but it’s a long wait for the ferry home.)
If you want to ride around with your kids but haven’t brought your own bike, nextbike.co.nz have 8 bikes in 2 locations at Hobsonville Point. You need to register online with them (which costs $4), then the first 2 hours is free, then $4 per hour per bike. Registered riders can rent up to 4 bikes.
Paremoremo’s Sanders Reserve is a mountain biking park that has a dedicated track for kids within view of the carpark (specifically for kids under 10), as well as 20km of more advanced trails. A great spot for a day trip and a picnic. It’s recently been recognised as being amongst the best parks in the world, receiving a Green Flag Award for 2016/17. (A Green Flag represents the very highest levels of park management standards in terms of community involvement, public safety, maintenance and sustainability.)
To get there (it’s around 30 minutes from downtown), head north on SH1, exit at Greville Rd, drive through Albany Village, take the turn towards Paeremoremo, go left onto Merewhiwa Road, and follow the signs from there.
Tamaki Drive can’t be beat for enchanting views and fresh air. The shared path on the ocean side is old but serviceable, and you can roam for miles. Note: it gets busy on weekends, you’ll be sharing space with joggers and walkers, and there’s the odd yacht club driveway to watch out for, but mostly it’s plain sailing and sea breezes.
Useful to know: it’s about 2km from Okahu Bay (which has a great playground with a flying fox, public bathrooms by the beach, and is close to Kelly Tarlton’s) to Mission Bay, which has lots of food options, a playground, and the famous fountain. Pick a starting point and see how far you get!
Remuera’s Little Rangitoto Reserve on Upland Road has a bikeable track next to a playground, and a skatebowl as well.
Te Puru Park in Beachlands is the outdoor hub and local sports focus. The pathways are vast and sweeping across the beach, and connect well to the shore and up along the hill. The hills might be challenging for the very small kids but once they get up they will be enjoying the ride down. An enjoyable ride that connects through to Omana Camping ground reserve and the ever popular Maraetai beach with a great shared path.
Barry Curtis Park in Botany Downs is a real gem for family cycling, and larger than the Auckland Domain! The pathways lead through the park, with the choice of a nice paved surface or a dirt track. The family will love looping around, with lots of foliage and small ponds to explore. The track now extends under the bridge to connect to the skate park and basketball courts, so don’t worry about entertaining the teenagers as there is plenty to do for all ages.
There’s a large and very popular playground, and public toilets. If you’re accessing the park from Stancombe Road (closest to the playground), there is a carpark plus on-road parking, which can be at a premium on busy weekends.
Pakuranga’s Cascades Shared Path could easily be called the ‘spaghetti junction’ for bikes, but it is worth the visit. Be sure to take a map with you, as you can get lost on the almost 10km of shared path, which now extends up to Botany’s Te Irirangi Drive. You’ll find playgrounds, tunnels and more, so take a picnic and a soccer ball. You can start at many points, so this ride is worth the repeat visit to explore every nook and cranny.
Also in Pakuranga, the famous Rotary Pathway runs for 9km along the Tamaki Estuary, from Farm Cove to the Panmure Bridge. The best place to start riding with small kids is near the Pakuranga Sailing Club on Bramley Drive, Farm Cove. This is because it is near the famous ‘Snakes and Ladders’ playground (which has a public toilet). A real treat for the kids, and something distinctive to the park.
The pathway is entirely off-road, and winds in and out along the shore, and is shared with walkers, so be sure to have those bells ready to ring, and keep a close eye on the small ones. The path is usually drenched in sun but the sea breeze can sometimes make riding a challenge.
The path connects to Half Moon Bay (lots of eating options there) via quiet streets (more suitable for older kids). With bikes free to bring on the ferry, this path could form the basis of a truly epic day out.
Mangere Bridge/ Kiwi Esplanade shared path is a narrow path frequented by local joggers but is a great place to take the kids, with its playground and small beaches ideal for picnics. If you feel adventurous, take the family around to Ambury Farm as far as the Mangere Ponds, or head the other way until you reach Southdown. Crossing the bridge is the real treat, and something the entire family will enjoy. Try the old Mangere bridge and the under-bridge path on the new bridge. They’re both awesome!
Taumanu Reserve, Onehunga is the result of a massive foreshore reclamation project that finished in 2015, designed to restore the foreshore amenities that existed before the motorway was built across Onehunga Bay in 1977. It’s got great cycle paths, and you can bike over the pedestrian/cycling bridge to the Onehunga Bay Reserve which has a playground. If you time it right, you can even take a dip one of the sandy beaches at high tide. Keep going and you’ll discover the new boardwalk around the bottom of Hillsborough.
There’s a toilet and changing rooms at the Orpheus Drive car park, and car parking is available at the Seacliffe Road end of Orpheus Drive. (Watch out for Google Maps, which hasn’t caught up with any of the recent reclaimation in either the standard map view or the satellite view!)
Wattle Downs shared path is in a quiet residential area. Its views of the Manukau harbour, green space and playgrounds make it an ideal picnic destination, with enough pathways to keep the kids riding for ages.
Pukekohe’s Samuel Miller Reserve on the corner of Nelson St and John St is fun for all ages. It has a great playground with two new ‘serpent slides’ that opened in December 2016 (replacing the infamous Big Red slide that was breathtakingly steep), and a flying fox.
The bike track has built-in road signs, and a mock roundabout; take care on the hills, as you can get kids on balance bikes flying down at speed.
In Papakura, Bruce Pulman Sports Park is a popular spot for locals. This park may not be suitable for the very young but the large carparks and wide drives are ideal for children who are more confident and have learned some road biking skills. It has a few shared paths along the edges, and contains a little pond and some seating areas for picnic. Be careful of the cars attending sports matches, as they can cut through driveways and car parks where you may be riding.
Out of town
Minogue Park, at the northern end of Hamilton, is handy for Aucklanders looking for a short day trip. Accessed via Moore St, off Forest Lake Rd, the playground features a newly paved tiny bike-track for beginners, with bumps and curves suitable for scooters as well as little bikes – plus decent play equipment and flying foxes.
Next to the playground is a brilliant BMX track, which is enjoyed by up-for-it kids as young as 5. The first time round can be a bit nerve-wracking, but once they get the hang of it, try stopping them! A treat for confident riders, equally popular with girls and boys, and entertaining for spectators with dreams of glory.
You can make a day of it by bringing your togs and visiting nearby Waterworld (call ahead to double-check when the hydroslides are running). And if you’re visiting on a Sunday, you must check out the Hamilton Model Engineers’ miniature ride-on trains, in another corner of Minogue Park – a toot-toot hoot for adults and kids alike.
The Avantidrome in Cambridge, south of Hamilton on SH1, is the home of sport cycling with all sorts of options for family fun.
There’s a fantastic bike skills park with working traffic lights, plus a great kid-friendly BMX/pump track. It’s open 7 days a week from dawn to dusk and is totally free (although the traffic lights only operate from 8-5).
The bike skills park has little ‘roads’ for the kids to bike on, which makes it lots of fun. Littlies are fine on their balance bikes and trainer wheels, so long as they have control of where they’re going; watch out for those just learning or moving up to a bigger bike, as the tracks can be a bit narrow when they get the wobbles. When we visited, we found all the kids were careful around each other and keen to all have a good time.
There’s a fairly large playground on site, and toilets. The Bikery Cafe at the Avantidrome has great food and coffee, and is open 7 days a week.
Never ridden on a real velodrome? Avantidrome has ‘Have a Go’ sessions (for ages 10 and up), at $25 for an hour. They say: ‘If you’ve never ridden on the Avantidrome and want to give it a try, this is the session for you. An Avantidrome coach will fit you with a bike and helmet and will guide you through your session on the track.’ Times vary, so check out their website for the latest information.
The Avantidrome also marks the beginning of the lovely leisurely Te Awa cycle path along the banks of the mighty Waikato. Depending on family energy levels, you could do a quick explore out along the river and back, or bike the easy, flat 3.2km into Cambridge for lunch and a spot of antiquing, or go the full 19km to Karapiro. Avantidrome has bikes to hire, including e-bikes that can go 100-150kms before they need to be recharged. Check out this useful map; more details here.