The inner-west Auckland suburb has plenty to keep a stay-at-home dad and his baby occupied, writes Phil Pinner, who has been there and done that.
Since Friday’s announcement that Jacinda Ardern and Clarke Gayford are expecting a child in June, the father-to-be has inundated with unsolicited counsel. Gayford, who will be a stay-at-home dad for the prime ministerial offspring, noted himself at the announcement outside the couple’s Point Chevalier home: “It doesn’t matter how many books you read or advice you get, you don’t really know until you’re there.”
What he was trying to say – clearly – was that the generic fathery primary-caregiver advice is fine but what would be really useful is some practical advice about what to do with a sprog in the seaside suburb of Point Chevalier, Auckland. Wait no longer, Grant. The Spinoff has enlisted Phil Pinner, stay-at-home father to Wes, to reveal his tips on bringing up a kid in Pt Chev.
Getting out of the house to avoid going stir crazy was my biggest motivator if I remember rightly but luckily Pt Chev has plenty of good and repeatable excursions within walking distance.
And moving around with a baby in tow is relatively easy because the streets and footpaths are wide, and mostly flat. I would have got a cycle trailer way earlier if the safe ways to get about the area and town by bike, which we’re increasingly seeing now, had been in operation when Wes was small.
One of my favourite outings with Wes was to catch the tram from the aviation hall at Motat to Auckland Zoo. A season pass to both Motat and the zoo quickly becomes easily the best value double whammy close to home. The tram continues on to the main part of Motat at Western Springs, but to be honest we got bored with that more quickly than the zoo.
I always made the morning sleep my exercise time (I still do with Wes’s recently arrived little brother, Adam, who has come to the gym or on a run every morning with me since he was brand new), so I would frontpack-walk Wes up to Meola and around the reef. There’s now that new walkway around the Westmere peninsula, which makes it all very easy. Then Catroux for a coffee and the occasional lamington to undo the good work. I did all my training for the Auckland Marathon with Wes in the stroller around the Chev.
Not far from the zoo and all trammable/walkable Western Springs, Clarke may be more interested in my favourite part of the park: the double bridge section where all the eels gather. If you walk to the next bit just before the rise to a great multi-age playground, you can get right next to the water and the eels will eat out of your hand. Much more fun than the grumpy geese.
A bunch of new places have cropped up in Pt Chev in recent years. Twisted Tomato (they inherited the name from the previous owners) is always good, so are Spilt Milk and the Pt Chev Beach Cafe. At the other end of Moa Road, Westmere has Catroux (see lamingtons, above) and a couple of other good places.
On Pt Chevalier Road, Mars Salt & Sweet and Mint Cakery are both worth stopping by to stock up – and there’s Francesca’s Pizzas, but you already know about that. Everyone is talking about Daily Bread – I’ll have to cycle Adam down once school is back in.
You’re spoiled for choice. Coyle Park is the jewel in the crown, even if the mini-train that used to hurtle around the concrete track has disappeared. (Update: the train is reportedly back in service.) The playground is great: there’s a flying fox and heaps of green space.
Smaller playgrounds at Walker Park and Moa Reserve are well worth a visit. They’ve just overhauled the playground at Eric Armishaw Reserve, down the end of Walker Road, and it’s excellent. You can wander around the boardwalk up to the shops or across to Waterview. Speaking of Waterview, the new playground built as part of the Waterview Tunnel deal is superb. It has water cannons, sand diggers, bouncy and climby things, as well as a basketball court, a skate park and a BMX track. And the coffee around the corner in the shipping container at the Waterview Coffee Project is superb. On the other side of Great North Road, the Oakley Creek waterfall is a hidden gem.
Then there’s Western Springs itself: a good old-style playground, heaps of walks and plenty of birdlife to squawk back at.
Don’t forget the beach: as you’ll know it’s tidal, so if you want to go for a dip you’ll need to time it right, but there’s also plenty to do at low tide – digging in the sand or clambering over the rocks. In fact, Wes and I even fished from the rocks down the slope from Coyle Park on an incoming tide, should you be into fishing at all.
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