Kowhai Park In Whanganui
By Deb Alexander
You’d be hard pressed to find a local who doesn’t have some kind of association with Kowhai Park. It is arguably the best playground in the country and understandably so!
This place rocks! It has everything a family needs to have an epic time. Recently I did a little survey to see how many locals have memories of Kowhai Park and it didn’t take me long to get some great responses – some of which I will share throughout this article along with my own experiences.
“Being able to ride Dino & then sit on Barney’s head!”
“Burning your bum on the slide on a hot day but always going back for more!”
“Getting knocked over by the swing & losing teeth” oops!
“My Grandad painted the original whale!”
Dreamt up in the 1950s, the vision was to create a children’s playground which would be the first of its kind in New Zealand.
I have no memories of visiting Kowhai Park as a child and I have no idea why. If I knew this place was here, I would have begged my parents to come over! But thankfully over the past few years, I have been able to make my own memories here with my kids, friends and nieces & nephews. My kids LOVE coming here and always have a blast when we visit. The same thing happens every time we arrive – I say ‘Stay between the shoe and the dinosaur slide and then we’ll do the flying fox/pirate ship/castle after’ mainly so I can sit and do basically nothing and not chase them around!
My boys generally head straight for the swings or the mountain or the merry-go-round. I remember my boy at about the age of 3 or 4 standing at the top of the mountain having a meltdown in front of all his kindy buddies because he simply did not want to come home.
I also have a love-hate relationship with that merry-go-round because I am terrified that one of my kids will get flung off that thing but I can never seem to bring myself to tell them to get off because they’re always having so much fun – definitely a case of ‘look the other way’!
My boys, both at a very young age, faced their initial fear of the flying fox and conquered it with absolutely no looking back. A total winning moment! We have enjoyed many hot afternoons playing in the sprinklers and getting some much needed relief. We have had play-dates here, birthday parties here, family meet-ups here and so many other memories! We have seen this Whanganui icon completely ruined by the 2015 flood but bought back to life only a few short months later. Kowhai Park will keep going for many years to come because so many people are passionate about this place. A true Whanganui icon.
“Playing tag in the castle – jumping off it to avoid the tag!”
“Standing on New Zealand!”
“Train tickets were only 10c in the 1980s!”
“There used to be water in the moat around the castle!”
Dreamt up in the 1950s, the vision was to create a children’s playground which would be the first of its kind in New Zealand. During the 1960s, construction took place starting with the opening of the boating pool which drew a large crowd.
‘Marine land’ consists of the famous whale, the brontosaurus slide, the sea-serpent swings, the dolphin, the turtles and the octopus.
‘Space land’ consists of the rocket ship, the jet car and the space house.
My kids LOVE coming here and always have a blast when we visit!
‘Story book & Nursery Rhyme Land’ consists of Fred Flintstone, Humpty Dumpty, Old Mother Hubbard’s shoe, Miss Muffet & her spider and Goldilocks & the three bears. The ‘Cuckoo clock tower slide’ was kindly donated to the park in 1963. In the same year the ‘Tot town railway’ was unveiled. The Carousel was introduced in 1967 and refitted thirty years later. The ‘Castle’ and the ‘Pirate Play ship’ were added to the park in the 1970s. The ‘Moa Family’ and the ‘Pumpkin’ popped up in the 1990s.
Other features of the park include the Volcano, the original skating rink, the skate park, the flying fox & fort and Antarctica.
I imagine as a child in the 1960s, it would have been so magical so see a place like this unfold!
“I used to love coming here as a kid and now I bring my own children to visit!”
“We always came to Kowhai Park when in Whanganui visiting relatives!”
“One of my girls got stuck climbing on Mother Bear!”
Kowhai Park really does cater for everyone. The facilities are clean and well maintained which is great considering the amount of families that come here. The Pumpkin houses a great BBQ area and is very popular – a great venue for a birthday party. The Tot Town Railway runs on weekends and public holidays for a small fee of $2 – I can always hear the train’s toots from where I live! The areas surrounding Kowhai Park are great too. Nearby is the Go-Karts and Mini Golf Course as well as walking tracks and the Dublin Street Bridge. My kids really enjoy the beetles too and have spent many happy times riding them around and around – these can also be enjoyed for a small fee.
“I remember climbing to the front seat of the rocket shop and feeling like I was so high!”
“My Nana wrote a book about Kowhai Park!”
“I’ve enjoyed many BBQ’s in the pumpkin over the years!”
“I remember when Humpty Dumpty used to rock back & forth”
For anyone visiting Whanganui with children Kowhai Park should definitely be number one on the list of things to do! Come on down, bring a picnic, enjoy some fresh air and make some awesome memories all of your own. There is so much waiting to be experienced here!
From our destination to yours…