Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Colmslie Beach Reserve (AKA Octopus Park)

Colmslie Beach Reserve is tucked away just near the Gateway Bridge down behind Cannon Hill/Bulimba way. It's along Lytton Road near where all the fishmongers are. You might have trouble getting public transport to this one, but I think this is worth finding a way to. Map is here. Given the fishy theme, I think the general consensus is that this is AKA Octopus Park.

A very lovely friend offered to get us out of our inner north comfort zone and take us to this park. Lets just say the park impressed the heck out of me - and I've seen a lot of parks. I'd go so far as to say that ladies and gentlemen, I think we have a new number one.

I think you can tell this by the fact I have a gazillion pictures following. I was trying to edit but I loved every picture because I loved every bit of the park.

To start, there is the big golden fish which juts out of the sandpit in two parts. You can climb inside the fish (sadly filled with litter) or slide down his back. My child of course chose to do daringly dangerous feats of dangling from his fins.

Move to the left of this fish and there is a giant shipwreck which is wired for sound. Levers which cover every side of the inside of the boat can be pushed to make noise. Once again, my child's favourite part of this section was climbing up the side of the shipwreck and dangling in a dangerous fashion.

The middle section was a lovely sprawl of rolling hills just perfect for scooters and bikes. I was so impressed by this section. Every park I've seen previous has dead flat bike paths but this one had little hills where the kids could just get up enough speed to have some fun without it being too dangerous. I very much subscribe to allowing kids to take some level of risk and so many bike parks take this away from them by giving them bare, flat paths. This park allows them the thrill of taking a chance, learning how to push themselves but without taking it too far into the sort of risk that ends up in plaster casting.

This is by far the best bike/scooter/skateboard area I've seen.

Oh this park made me happy to be the parent of an adventurous kid. It made me wish I were a kid. I'd happily do all the torture of school and homework and mean kids and being called names and awkward dating and long silences when giving presentations and weird discovering your style fashion misses and all those horrible horrible things about growing up all over again to be a kid so I could embrace this park with glee.

But instead I just had to potentially embarrass myself by trying to squeeze my butt into the cool slide and pretending that the flying fox could happily hold my weight as I careened down its slope. If my kids were older they'd know to be really embarrassed at that point.

Sure, everywhere you turn there are "snakes have been spotted in this area" signs and the park is so large that there is every potential you could misplace your child along the way, but none of this is a deterrant because its a mighty, mighty fine park. And if your child is not yet sick of the nautical vibe then you can simply walk fifty metres and you'll reach the Brisbane river and see this:

In terms of areas to set up camp - the picnic areas are off to the side, so you couldn't be at the picnic table and view younger kids playing, its just too far to see. There are lots of very wide benches around the place which can easily host a nice spread for a few kids and a base for them to come back to. Indeed I'll be doing a picnic there in the next few weeks so I'll report back about how accommodating it is. The landscape is just beautiful though - lots of trees and grass and rolling hills - and I think given its so near the airport it gets a fair amount of attention from the younger kids for the low flying planes (which I didn't notice at all, but perhaps I'm immune to noise given I live on the train line).

A simply stunning park.

CK was too busy running to give this park a rating, but she later said it was "amazing amazing amazing". I would go so far as to give it a 9. Maybe even a 9.5.


Age Groups: Everyone. There were even babies rolling around on blankets on the floor near the flying fox. Lots of kids on their way home from school on the day we were there.
Kid Friendliness: older kids made a point of asking if CK wanted a go on the flying fox - that's pretty cool in my book
Parent Friendliness: to be honest I was too busy with my jaw on the ground in awe to interact. I did get a few chuckles from other mothers when I tried to squeeze down the slide - and it was more a "good for you" chuckle than "you idiot" I felt (delusional much?).
Shadiness: there are some trees but in general it wasn't well shaded. My friend said that in summer its hot as hell and filled with mosquitos.
Tricked Out: yes, there are lots of things which make this a tricked out park.
Picnic/BBQ: set off to the side there are picnic and BBQ areas
Shabbiness: lots of litter in the sandpit unfortunately. This did mar an otherwise flawless adventure.
Toilets: i didn't personally go into the toilets so I can't report on condition, however I can confirm the presence of a toilet block.
Hovering Required: The park itself is so large that I did end up chasing CK around to make sure she was okay. Older kids would be fine but make sure you are wearing comfy sneakers to keep up with the little ones.
Bring Yr Bike: Yes. Best. Bike. Park. EVER.
Crowded: not super crowded but definitely popular
Wow: this has wow up the wazoo.

Neal Macrossan Park (AKA Helicopter Park)

Neal Macrossan Park is a park made up of two parks and is also referred to as Ithica Park (as it backs on to the Ithica Pool and Paddo Skate Park) or Helicopter Park. Map is here.

Called Helicopter Park for rather obvious reasons, the park has two distinct parts - the old wooden climbing frame on the high side and the new coloured play centre on the lower side. This duality makes it a favourite in our household as the disparity between the two halves really makes it feel like they are two separate parks.

Helicopter Park, being only a few kms from the city (opp Suncorp Stadium), located at the start of Paddington and within a hub of other activities (pool, skate park and dog off-leash park), plays host to a great number of events throughout the year - the most prominent being the annual Paddington Fair which is put on by Ciel Fuller hosts a variety of bands, markets and foodstuffs. Other times of the year it tends to host BBQs by the younger sect with kids from the skater crowd and a stroll through of folks fresh from the pool.

The park itself is made up of the two beautifully shaded areas which, as I've said, each hold a really different appeal. The climbing park has lots of areas for the kids to show their skills and agility in climbing and navigating along wobbly suspended ropes or monkey bars. It has platforms and spiders webs and is reminiscent of a great big tree cubby house which the kids can chase each other through. It's very much a treat for the slightly older kids in this way.

The lower park is the newer of the two (built I believe only two or three years ago if memory serves me correctly). It's really your stock standard "new" park with brightly coloured slides and interactive pieces, a little shop (the little shop with cash register and scales is really the most heavily used feature which is common to all these newer parks), and then one or two standout pieces (in this case the helicopter and the boat) which make the park unique. This area is made for the younger crowd, however I find the helicopter itself attracts the older kids - particularly as they all want to get up high on the top propeller area which spins around.

This is a good fun park. It's always got a crowd, always hosting parties and picnics (there are three main picnic tables - one undercover - but only one BBQ), always full of kids of all ages tearing about. It's not the best park by far (nor is it anywhere near the worst) but it seems to be a popular park with the masses so that in itself makes it fun as you never know who you are going to run into (Brisbane's two or three degrees of separation really rears its head at this park as we nearly always run into someone we know or getting talking to someone and find we have mutual friends).

CK rates this park at 7 and I would give it 7 too. Its a lovely park to visit.


Age Groups: It has enough diversity to cater for all ages.
Kid Friendliness: very friendly - especially in the newer section where the younger kids are
Parent Friendliness: always nice, quite often run into friends here as its so popular
Shadiness: both areas are well shaded
Tricked Out: the new park has some nice features which make it unique
Picnic/BBQ: just the one BBQ and shaded pergola but a couple of other tables and lots of benches
Shabbiness: the older part is, well, older but nothing is particularly dirty or vandalised
Toilets: i didn't personally go into the toilets however my husband came back grumbling about them. Maybe BYO paper just in case.
Hovering Required: The parks themselves are fine but the kids can run down the hill and quickly be over near the pool or skate park before you know it. So a keen eye out would be good but not so much hovering
Bring Yr Bike: No, but do bring your skateboard and go over to the legendary Paddo Skate Park bit
Crowded: not super crowded but definitely popular
Wow: the helicopter certainly pleases the kids

Enoggera Memorial Park (Shapes Park) Update

A quick update on Enoggera Memorial Park (AKA Shapes Park). I mentioned that it was due to get its sunshade shortly - well its been erected and its amazing. We have been down there almost every day since the shade went up and we've never seen so many people there before! The park is being put to great use.

The other somewhat monumental occurrence at Shapes Park this last week was that the younger of the crew - MK - has reached an age where she can become a bit more interactive with the parks. She's just turned 18 weeks and had her first solo swing, pushed by a very, very, very happy big sister. And doesn't she look thrilled. I think she's getting a little glimpse of her future right there.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Enchanted Forest (AKA Broken Arm Place)

Many thanks to everyone who has been sharing this blog address with your friends or on forums - its much welcomed spreading of the word and I'm getting great feedback that people are finding this useful and are visiting some of the parks we suggest! This is awesome. At the end of the day, its a fun thing for CK and I to do - we chat about the park, its design, the features we want to highlight - but I'm just thrilled that other people are loving it too. Please spread the word if you can - the encouragement is really motivating us to do more and more!

Indeed today's post is inspired by a comment on a friend's Facebook where she kindly posted the link. There was a very good suggestion of the Enchanted Forest in Ashgrove and it had been an age since we'd visited this park so I was happy to get a reminder - thank you Michelle.

Officially this is called Dorrington Park (but I don't know one person who refers to it as that!). Map is here.

Firstly, let me clear up the name which CK has given it - I would hate anyone to think that such a sweet and magical park is dangerous. Fact is, CK's good friend E broke her arm here. Kids break their arms at all sorts of places - in parks, in backyards, in lounge rooms, at supermarkets, on bikes, in cars, running, climbing, you name it - kids break their arms. I don't believe this park is any more dangerous than any other public space you take your child to. But, CK being three, she has event associations with places and since her friend broke her arm here the park has been dubbed Broken Arm Place (and I particularly like her use of "place" instead of "park" - it really makes it sound quite fancy!).

The Enchanted Forest is the Northside Park that people talk in length about. If you are talking about playgrounds then someone is bound to ask if you've been here. It really is quite magical and a stunning park. I visited it this time wondering if it was all hype and it was going to live up to the enormous props which everyone gives it or if it had just become a legend which got slightly embellished along the way making an okay park sound better than it actually was. I walked away thinking it indeed was magical.

The concept of the park is simple - its filled with enchantment. There are toadstools, magic shops and enough fairy and spooky inspired designs to keep both the fairy lovers and the eye of newt lovers happy. The perimeter is lined with artwork which reflects the theme - both this and the story which is featured in the audio toadstool section are inspired by the ideas and tales of year three students which the artists worked with.

Given that CK is heavily (read obsessively) engrossed in the Enid Blyton Faraway Tree series at the moment all her play at home is about enchanted faraway lands so this park really fits with a theme she is exploring.

There are lots of different areas in this park and lots of climbing, sliding, imaginative play and interactivity. In that sense, this park combines all that I've talked of so far in this blog - its perhaps the only park to capture everything in one. The play area is set under a beautiful canopy of trees (I think this is the key to a successful park in Brisbane) and is set to the side of expansive ovals for further play. It appears to be the go to park for parties - on the very rainy day we visited there were two parties in occurrence - an Indiana Jones party and a fairy party - this in itself shows you the flexibility of interpretation of the park. Unfortunately there is only one covered picnic area with a BBQ - the other picnic table is uncovered and has no cooking facilities -so if you are thinking of hosting a party here I think you have to be there at the crack of dawn to stake your claim to a table.

The above hill with the ropes and slide was easily CK's favourite area of the park. She was climbing the tallest mountain and then racing down the big hill to the bottom. The three different shopfronts were also great for imaginative play - they are all magic based but could easily be adaptable to whatever concept the child could come up with for the area. The whole park is pretty run down - the frog is peeling, one of the peek through pictures was shattered - but it holds its own and the condition isn't detrimental (or dangerous) in any way.

Its fairly hidden down a side road which could easily be missed from the main street. The remnants of balloons show you the history this park has as a party park - I really think this is the forte of the park so its a shame that there are not more facilities to accommodate multiple groups.

There is a coffee shop about two minutes walk away - I always find the access to coffee quite a critical factor in deciding which park to visit early on the weekend mornings...

CK rates this park at 9 and I would give it 9 too. Its very much on par with Kalinga Park as the best in Brisbane.


Age Groups: It has enough diversity to cater for all ages.
Kid Friendliness: very friendly - CK was playing with a six year old boy this last time and normally (at this age) there's quite the distinction where a 6 year old boy would be loath to hang out with a three year old girl - but everyone gets along!
Parent Friendliness: really good parents and a nice variety of parents too (straight shooting, alterna parents)
Shadiness: wonderful canopy of trees
Tricked Out: its packed with lots of old and new school features
Picnic/BBQ: just the one BBQ and shaded pergola
Shabbiness: its not dirty, its not vandalised, its just neglected.
Toilets: the toilets are okay and not too dirty. they are all super sized so you can take a pram in with you.
Hovering Required: No you can see everywhere in the park from wherever you stand.
Bring Yr Bike: No, there are paths but they are generally covered in bark - and I don't think you need any extra attractions here
Crowded: not super crowded but definitely popular
Wow: as I've said above, its the stuff of urban legend status