Rides for Kids
Where to take little children to spin their wheels and get their wiggles out, especially if they’re still getting the hang of riding in a straight line? Start local, and take them to school if you’re lucky enough to have a local school that leaves its gates open for visitors after hours or during holidays. It’s a treat to have all those lovely smooth sports courts to sail around without bumping into anyone.
Dedicated “learn to ride” tracks are popping up in playgrounds and reserves, aimed especially at junior riders. Here’s a starter list, and we’d love to hear about more!
Onepoto Reserve is a longtime favourite of Bubs on Bikes. Check out Bike Friendly North Shore’s great write-up with photos from a few years ago. The park is huge and grassy, and has a playground within view of its learn-to-ride track, which is handy for those juggling kids with competing interests. 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.
Also on the North Shore: Normanton Reserve in Glenfield is not as well known as Onepoto but well worth checking out. It has a nice big playground that the ride track loops around; a smaller loop inside a larger loop. Parents should pick up coffee en route as it is set in a residential neighbourhood tucked behind Wairau Valley, but it does have a public toilet on site. And Greville Reserve has a new bike track painted on top of the concrete reservoir.
Avondale has a brand new learn-to-ride track tucked in behind the Great North Road shops next to the racecourse. This one 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 “roads”. Click to enlarge the map:
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 access though, and a handy public toilet just up on the street. There’s also a public library nearby, and plenty of food options on the main street – we like the donuts at Salvation Kitchen. Bonus: easily reached by train, for the junior transport enthusiast!
Tole Reserve in Ponsonby has a teensy-tiny freshly painted ride track for really small riders and scooters. The adjacent playground has been recently spruced up, and has 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!)
City parks often have wide, welcoming pathways that small riders can trundle along to their heart’s content. Try these:
- Cornwall Park, up by the new cafe, is great as it has natural loops around the garden (which kids love) and coffee & tea (which parents love).
- Western Springs 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 birdlife, and writhing tangles of eels. The zoo end of the park has a great playground, public toilets, and flock of wild chickens to delight younger visitors, plus you’re close enough to hear the lions roaring. And the Motat end of the park features a rocky outcrop just made for climbing. BYO picnic, or buy snacks and coffee at the cafe at the zoo entrance.
- Over in Henderson, Parrs Park has nice flat tracks around the park, plus an epic new playground; and you can also visit Twin Streams on the other side of Seymour Road (great local map here).
- And Little Rangitoto Reserve in Remuera has a bikeable track next to a playground, and a skatebowl as well.
- Mangere Bridge/ Kiwi Esplanade shared path This 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!
- Wattle Downs shared path Situated 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.
- Pukekohe: Samuel Miller Reserve This park, on the corner of Nelson St and John St, has had its controversies over the few years it has been open (the big red slide, a must-see, needed some fixing and is now finally open), but is fun for all ages. 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. A great playground. NB toilets have yet to be installed.
- Papakura: Bruce Pulman Sports Park 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 does have 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.
- Beachlands: Te Puru Park The outdoor hub and local sports focus of the Beachlands community. The pathways are vast and sweeping across the beach, and connect well to the shore and up along the hill. The hills can 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.
- Botany Downs: Barry Curtis Park A real gem in the east/south area for family cycling, this park is larger than the Auckland Domain! The pathways lead through the park and there are a few options to take with either a nice paved surface or a dirt track. The family will love looping around, with planting and small ponds to explore. The track now extends across 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 is a large and popular playground, and public toilets. Parking can be at a premium on busy weekend days.
- Pakuranga: Casacades shared path This park could easily be called the ‘spaghetti junction’ of shared paths but it is worth the visit. Be sure to take a cycle 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 will 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.
- Farm Cove/Pakuranga: Rotary Pathway The best place to start riding this long track is down near the boat club. This is because it is near the famous ‘Snake’ playground. A real treat for the kids, and something distinctive to the park. The pathway 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. A great path that can link you all the way from Half Moon Bay to the Panmure Basin, both great picnic spots.
- Hobsonville Point is worth a visit. You can get there by ferry on weekdays (or come by car on the weekends for the Farmers Market), and bring your bikes to explore the burgeoning community. The streets are quiet and safe for bikes by design (steer clear of the areas under construction and you’ll be fine), and there’s a fantastic playground a short walk from the Catalina Cafe, as well as some nice paved paths that let you explore the green spaces. Eventually, a linear park will form a circuit around the whole point.
- Paremoremo’s Sanders Reserve is a MTB park that has a dedicated track for kids, within view of the carpark, as well as 20km of more advanced trails. Great spot for a day trip and a picnic.
And two out-of-town bike parks well worth venturing further south for…
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 bike-track for beginners with bumps and curves suitable for scooters as well as little bikes, plus play equipment and flying foxes.
Next to the playground is a classic 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 viewing for spectators with dreams of glory.
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, further south through (or around) Hamilton on SH1 towards Cambridge, is not just the home of sport cycling, but also has 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). There’s also a really nice cafe.
Know of other little-kid-friendly rides in or near Auckland that we should add to this list? Got tips about nearby snacks and facilities? Tell us more! And if it’s more challenging rides for bigger kids you’re after, Bike Friendly North Shore has a great list of great rides to get you started.