Six of the Best Playgrounds in Melbourne
By: Stacey Roberts, ellaslist
I hate to be one of those people who say “back in my day things were different”, but I’m going to say: back in my day, things were different. We did not have the incredible children’s playgrounds of the 21st century in Melbourne, and let me tell you, I’m making up for lost time at all of them!
There is more outdoor free entertainment in this city than you could ever get to in a lifetime (but that doesn’t stop me!), and your kids are sure to have an absolute blast in any one of them. But for the best of the best, the real special spots, you absolutely cannot go past these exceptional playgrounds.
1. Nature Play, Parkville
One of our most frequented parks, there is plenty to do, climb, touch and see – particularly from the top of the big grassy hill! The views are spectacular.
As for the kids (once they finish rolling down the hill), there are swings and slides for every age and ability, a low ropes course (best suited to older children, it definitely gives me a fright when my four-year-old attempts it!), natural water play area, sandpit, bridge, tunnels, birds nest swing, and even a huge metal dinosaur. I particularly dig the natural materials the equipment is made from, and the native plants that have been plentifully planted across the landscape.
There are BBQs, plenty of seating, paths to stroll or ride your bike on, and space for days to run around in. Toilets are also nearby and parking can be a bit of a headache, so the tram that stops right out the front is your best bet.
2 Alma Park, St Kilda East
Alma Park is fantastic to run around in, and there are plenty of swingy, slidy, climby things to keep kids of all ages occupied. Everything is quite spread out, but visibility is pretty clear, in case you have several kids all running in different directions.
Fabulous big picnic areas with tables, rotundas and toilets abound, and the wetlands area through the middle and the public art dotted around help this play area stand out from your bog standard. You could spend all day here with a footy or cricket set and nobody would be bored. I especially liked the community-run lending library in a little book nook near the junior playground.
3. Victory Park, Moonee Valley
It is akin to impossible trying to get my kids to leave this park at any stage, and to be honest, I can’t blame them. It is an almost-totally-fenced wonderland of wooden fortress nooks and crannies. Enough swings so there isn’t a lineup, plenty of places to run between items, and something interesting to do every single time you turn around.
The lower monkey bars are particularly good for the younger folk, and shorter kids should have no trouble being able to reach all parts of the park. There are slides aplenty, turrets and towers from which to do battle with imaginary dragons, and even a sandpit for when you just need a good sit down.
There is a lovely walking/bike trail around the park, memorials to see, and picnic/bbq facilities to enjoy. The Ascot Vale Leisure Centre is right next door with handy toilets and a cafe.
4. Hays Paddock Playground, Kew East
Hays Paddock Playground is always well-attended, and with good reason. Built with the idea of being accessible even to children with the most limited mobility, the playground really is incredibly inclusive.
There’s no shortage of your usual climbing frames, fortresses, slides, roundabouts, sand pit and bridges, there’s also swings of different sizes and shapes for children of differing ages and ability, a roundabout that comfortably fits a wheelchair, and a large, low seesaw that’s much easier to manage than the old-fashioned style.
A special bonus is the cubby house-like lookout over the wetlands, and my girls loved the spider-web climbing frame with unexpected but very welcome trampoline in the middle. A really great park to come and spend the day in. Or if you’re anything like me you’ll be spending the day in the hammock swing.
5. Valley Reserve Adventure Playspace, Mt Waverley
I can’t adequately explain enough how much I love Valley Reserve Adventure Playspace, no matter how far it is from my neck of the woods! In 2016, it won the Parks and Leisure Australia Award for Excellence for the best playspace in Australia, and its thoroughly deserved.
In amongst the rope-climbing courses (shoes off or shoes with good grip are best for some parts, my heart is in my throat half the time I’m watching my kids navigate them!), cool tree house, huge bird nest swing quite a way off the ground, regular swings, slides, bird-shaped climbing structures, which all blend seamlessly into the surrounding nature reserve, thanks to the natural materials used to build them.
There are two flying foxes, one with a regular disc-shaped seat, and one with a much larger bucket-style seat for smaller folk – although it does get quite a bit of speed up so make sure they’re holding on tight, or someone is at the other end.
There is a small water pump and creek play area, tons of shaded seating and barbecues, and plenty of space to spread out and spend the day. It was council’s vision to create a SPARC area: a Socially Inclusive, Playful, Active, Relevant and Connected playspace and they’ve totally outdone themselves.
6. ArtPlay Playground, Birrarung Marr
A welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of the CBD, the ArtPlay playground just down behind Federation Square, along the river, is the place to be. Filled with brightly coloured undulating equipment (or for the more nature-minded, there are shady groves of trees and amazing big rocks to clamber about on), it’s an excellent playground for kids of all ages.
The layout has been created with interaction and experimentation in mind, and offers plenty of entertainment and challenges of differing levels. The balance beams and swinging hammocks are popular, and for a slower change of pace, the activity panels are worthwhile. Definitely a spot to hit when the kids need to stretch their legs and run around a bit after a city-filled day.
What would you include in the list of Melbourne’s best playgrounds?