by Jodi Panayotov
As any regular playground visiting parent will know, size does matter, with the creativity of the play equipment coming a close second. Which is why city slickers and their offspring find it hard to go past the many charms of New Farm Park, with its massive fortress and iconic furniture-eating fig trees. But travel a little further and look beyond the river and there's a world of fantastic children's parks out there waiting to be climbed, swung and slid upon.
True to its name the enchanted Hidden World playground, perfect for the pre-school set, is tucked away on a residential street on the north side.
The work of a talented streetscape artist, it comprises a little village of interconnected multi-coloured huts, each with its own feature slippery dip, bridge, sandpit or climbing apparatus and all on a sand base.
Extra bonuses are its setting way back from the road, plenty of parking and a modern amenities block.
Make a day of it by visiting the seafront park at coastal village Sandgate, which is about a 10 minute drive east.
This vast swathe of well-kept parkland is not just home to a massive state of the art playground but Capalaba Regional Park also incorporates a lily pond, dog off leash area and a tangle of easy grade walking and cycling paths.
Play equipment is designed for all abilities, meaning that alongside the fantastic flying fox, climbing webs, fortresses, slides and swings are a range of sensory musical equipment and a liberty swing. Picnic and barbecue facilities and amenities are on par with the rest of the facilities and there's plenty of parking.
Robelle Domain, a master-planned community mega park, is well worth an 'are we there yet' trip from any part of town. Designed with ages 0-100 in mind, it really does have something for everyone: an interactive water play zone, spanking new play equipment for all ages and abilities, bike and walking paths, cascades, ponds, an amphitheatre, loads of green open space, barbecue and picnic spots galore and the all-important on-site eatery Robelle Café.
A newie but a goodie, Calamvale District Park is the new south side hotspot*, largely due to its amazing older children's play structures. Futuristic metal climbing and sliding apparatuses, a 50m flying fox, conceptual climbing wall and spinning wheel are the said drawcards, with a smattering of younger play stuff nearby under the melaleuca trees. While part of it is still under construction on hand are brand new picnic shelters, barbecues and amenities block and around the corner across the creek is the dog offleash area and parking.
* Both popularity and temperature wise – avoid in hot parts of the day.
Cubby house, fortress or castle – the massive wooden play hut at the centre of Kidspace has been many things to many children in its time and it is still one of the most popular kids play destinations on the northside. Imaginations fuelled, children spend hours climbing in and out via the entrances, connecting bridges, towers and slides and play the best games of hide and seek while parents hand around the tables outside occasionally spying their child through one of the gaps.
When the cubby house effect wears off there's plenty of especially laid out bike paths for beginners to practice their turns and give ways. And when hunger strikes Chermside Shopping Centre is next door or down the road further the charming child friendly magnet Carousels and Cupcakes.
East enders in the know flock to Colmslie Beach, a secret riverfront reserve, hidden in an area of light industry and commerce and accessed by a tree-lined drive. Barbecue and picnic shelters are strung out along the cliff fronts overlooking the water and down a set of rickety stairs is a tiny sandy beach (not for swimming). The playgrounds dotted amongst the trees are largely for the younger set and feature fantastical sculptured sea creatures although older children will enjoy exploring the reserve.
Colmslie Pool is right next door for frustrated wannabe swimmers to cool off and make a splash.
The stately entrance gates set the scene for Kalinga Park, a memorial park which also happens to be one of the best family parks on the north side. For inside is a kind of what's what of sought after features – shady groves of majestic gums, a creek running through with a tiny silty beach, a road network for young bike riders complete with stop and give way signs, sandpit, tree house style play equipment, a climbing wall, dog offleash area and plenty of attractive barbecue and picnic spots.
NOTE: AS OF APRIL 2013 THIS PARK IS CLOSED FOR REFURBISHMENT. It may be a hike from the CBD but the setting of Scarborough Park, overlooking the sea across to Moreton Island, combined with its fantastic themed playgrounds and copse of climbable cotton trees, is hard to match.
Railway Place featuring a miniature pretend train and Pirate Place with its boat and sea-themed play equipment are ideal for young ones while older children can literally get lost in the cotton trees, whose thick intertwined matrix of branches pose a host of climbing challenges. Not to mention that this has to be the only place on the planet where children happily climb trees bare-footed in a public place with council's blessing.
With charming Scarborough Village's café strip just behind, a café lunch or fish'n'chips in the park are attractive options.