There’s no better way to start, than the heartbeat of fun in our communities – the playground. Here are 10 of the best in NSW:
1. BLAXLAND RIVERSIDE PARK
AUSTRALIA’S biggest free playground is in the grounds of the former Olympic precinct.The final stage, completed in June 2012, includes a huge multi-level tree house, sandpit and the largest water play facilities in the state.
Spread over 3ha, it features 12 play environments including a double flying fox, mega-swing, tunnels, slides, climbing walls, play mounds and giant climbing web.
It also boasts a viking swing that wouldn’t look out of place on a medieval battle field, but is essentially a length of rope as thick as a tree trunk suspended by chains.
There is a kiosk and free electric barbecues.
Free parking is limited but spaces in the P5 carpark cost $4 an hour (maximum $20).
2. DARLING QUARTER, DARLING HARBOUR
THE largest and most expensive of the inner-city playgrounds, the 4000sq m Darling Quarter features a dizzying array of climbing ropes. The three-storey “octanet” will test the nerves of bigger kids, the 18.7m-long tightrope circuit will test their skills while the 42sq m of rope netting of the “tangled web” is perfect for little ones.
Then there’s the water park. The German-inspired playground features water jets, pumps, giant scooping wheels and water dams designed to encourage children to make friends as they use teamwork to get the water flowing in different directions.
Winner of the Kidsafe 2012 National Playspace Design Award for playgrounds over $1 million it also features slides, giant swings, a flying fox and dedicated shade areas.
Though easily accessible via public transport, mid-week parking can be pricey at $44 for three or more hours but on weekends and public holidays a flat $10 fee applies.
1-25 Harbour St, Darling Harbour
3. CITY PARK, GRIFFITH
REGIONAL towns are home to some great playgrounds and the new City Park at Griffith is among the best around.
Featuring the largest rope-climbing structure in the southern hemisphere, the $1.8 million playground also has swings, slides and climbing sets, fitness equipment, a 30m double flying fox and a bike and walking path, which winds across the canal through town to gardens on the other side.
There is an enclosed area with a sandpit for toddlers and a life-sized board of snakes and ladders, while teenagers will love the sky surfer.
And when the mercury rises the large splash pad with upward shooting jets, tipping buckets and water cannons is an ideal way to cool off.
Kookora St, Griffith
4. LAKE MACQUARIE VARIETY PLAYGROUND
KNOWN to most as simply Speers Point, this mega-park on the northern shores of Lake Macquarie features an enormous 12m-tall, industrial-looking climbing tower with a giant 9m spiral slide.
It’s a four-storey drop but through clever design, heavy-duty mesh and metal screening, there is no way for toddlers – or teenagers – to exit the structure other than down the slide or back the way they’ve come and a solid hand or foot-hold is never out of reach. Other equipment includes a double flying fox, swings, wet area, climbing wall, spider net, performance stage and mini amphitheatre.
There is also a quiet retreat specifically designed to allow children some time out in a more passive environment.
Bikes are a must, especially for those still on training wheels, with a tiny road circuit complete with street signs, speed humps, lane markings and an intersection.
There is a kiosk and free barbecues located in two of three covered picnic structures.
Park Rd, Speers Point
5. PENINSULA RECREATION PRECINCT
AFTER a $4.5 million overhaul two years ago the playground-come-action sports facility is located adjacent to picturesque Umina Beach on the Central Coast.
The multi-level playground features climbing ropes, swings, play equipment and barbecue facilities, as well as a skate park suitable for beginner and experienced skaters, a basketball/netball half court and BMX track.
The beach is close by to cool off and there is plenty of open space perfect to lay out a picnic blanket or a play a game of cricket.Sydney Ave, Umina Beach
6. PLOUGH AND HARROW, ABBOTSBURY
RECENTLY reopened after a $750,000 refurbishment, this playground heralds a new era in design by truly integrating technology with physical play.
In-built computers on three pieces of play equipment allow children, teenagers and adults to check their scores online and measure their scores against other competitors.
The first involves a climbing structure with flashing buttons that need to be pressed as quickly as possible, the second uses a steering wheel to move the player in a circular motion while the third is shaped like a skateboard where the user has to alternate stamping their feet.
It also features QR codes throughout that people can scan with smartphones and prompt stories and information about local flora and fauna.
The playground also features a host of other equipment from a man-sized hamster wheel, slides, rockers, giant basket swing and a flying fox through a casuarina grove.
Kids can ride scooters and bikes around an extensive loop of paths, explore a green maze and float leaves down an area of water play built from concrete sleepers.
There are dozens of picnic shelters and 22 free barbecues.
Elizabeth Drive, Abbotsbury
7. LIVVI’S PLACE, TIMBRELL PARK
THIS playground was designed in conjunction with leading academics, childhood experts, landscapers and the local community to level the playing field for children with special needs and their families. The playground’s unique design and equipment is suitable for children of all ages and abilities including those with a mobility disability, vision or hearing impairment as well as spectrum disorders such as autism. It also has everything families need for a great day out such as barbecues, wheelchair-friendly toilets, shaded areas, bubblers, a bike path and adjacent soccer fields.
Henley Marine Drive, Five Dock
8. BRELSFORD PARK ADVENTURE PLAYGROUND
THIS $1 million playground at Coffs Harbour has become hugely popular since it opened in 2010. It features fun equipment for all ages including a landmark play tower an interactive feature wall, water feature, a massive rope play structure, a multi-use play deck, a spinning disc roundabout, chalk boards, a 45m-long painted dragon, swings, seesaws, sand diggers and a range of toddler-age play equipment.
It also has an access swing for children with disabilities.
There are shade sails, landscaped seating areas for parents and tables for families to enjoy picnics or they can make use of the grassy parkland.
Corner of Albany and Earl Sts, Coffs Harbour
9. BLUE GUM HILLS REGIONAL PARK
STEP back in time and explore Newcastle‘s early coal mining history with a visit to Back Creek Picnic Area within the Blue Gum Hills Regional Park.
The picnic spot is a hit with kids and features a mine-themed playground complete with a long tunnel and crank-handled conveyor belt for transferring rocks from one end to the other, just as real miners would have long ago.
There is a timber cubby with a corrugated iron roof and a deck, which has plenty of space to play on its shaded veranda and a wooden maze with an observation deck for parents to watch their kids getting lost and found again.
The picnic area is one of two within the wider park and both feature big shady pavilions, tables, barbecues and eco-friendly amenities blocks.
Minmi Rd, Minmi
10. KOOKABURRA PLAYGROUND, NURRAGINGY RESERVE
A LITTLE gem set in the picturesque Western Sydney Parklands at Doonside, lets kids play on real grass and in tree houses.
The playground features sandstone, jarrah logs, river stones, recycled timber sleepers and shipping ropes.
Designed to inspire plenty of unstructured play, the playground incorporates trees and lots of nooks and crannies for youngsters to explore, imagine and create.
Knox Rd, Doonside