Twelve things to do in nature and the best parks for doing them in!

Step beyond the playground and experience our parks at their natural best. Our Dirty Dozen gives you ideas on how to encourage your children to explore our parks in different ways, allowing for fun and learning.

Building a hut.

Children learn through play. Childhood experiences with nature are important for determining life attitudes, knowledge and behaviours towards the environment. To understand and value nature, you need to experience it – and getting dirty is part of the fun.

1. Build a hut

The pine forest at Spencer Park is perfect for hut building. Gather large sticks and pine needles to create a cubby.

Hill rollers; photographer Celia Hogan

Photo by Celia Hogan

2. Roll down a hill

There's nothing like the dizzy feeling you get from rolling down a really big hill. It can be really fun to do with friends, racing each other to the bottom. To pick up speed make your body into the shape of a sausage with your arms tucked in tight and roll down the hill sideways – watch out for poo though!

Great hills to roll down can be found at Findlay's Picnic Area at Halswell Quarry Park, Walter Park(external link) in Mareihau and Heathcote Domain(external link) – and possibly a local park near you.  

Exploring large trees in the Christchurch Botanic Gardens. 3. Be wowed by the awesomeness of trees

Christchurch Botanic Gardens has some super trees from all over the world both large and small. The native forest section is great for exploring, with lots of winding paths.

Riccarton Bush is home to our tallest native tree, the kahikatea. Check out their awesome buttressed roots or sit in the kahikatea grove and marvel at their magnificence.    

Float leaf boats; Photo Celia Hogan.

4. Float leaf boats

Edmonds Factory Garden has old, English trees that drop their leaves in winter, and ponds and channels where you can float your leaf boat.

You can access the Otukaikino River at The Groynes or visit Picton Reserve in Riccarton, which has a kid-size, spring-fed stream. Parents, supervise your children near water.

Styx Mill stepping stones.

5. Jump across stepping stones

Styx Mill Conservation Park and Halswell Quarry Park both have cool stepping stones across waterways – a magical pathway to another world!



Rock wall scrambling, Victoria Park.

6. Go rock scrambling

Victoria Park has a great rock wall for easy climbing. Many of our harbour beaches have rock pools for exploring at low tide; Rapaki Beach and the rocky shoreline at Diamond Harbour are two fantastic spots.



Sumner beach rock pools.

7. Splash in the sea

Sumner Beach at low tide has awesome pools that are perfect for splashing and exploring. Corsair Bay in Lyttelton Harbour has nice gentle waves, or you could visit Purau Bay on the Diamond Harbour side.



Exploring Christchurch Botanic Gardens.

8. Imagine you are an explorer

Feeling intrepid? Some parks have remnant forest that give you an idea of what it might have been like for early explorers. Ashgrove Reserve (external link)has stony paths winding through trees, while Kennedy's Bush on the Port Hills is a wild place.

Or for something different push through tussocks and explore the caves at Mt Vernon Farm Park


9. Spot some birds

Lots of parks are great places for seeing some of our amazing wildlife.  Charlesworth Reserve and McCormacks Bay (external link)are good for spotting seasonal rare wading birds like godwits/kuaka (in summer) and royal spoonbills/kotuku-nutu papa (in winter). 

Travis Wetland has a bird hide where you can spot wetland birds without them spotting you! Take some binoculars or make your own.


10. Find your way with a map

There is something pretty cool about figuring out where to go on a map.

Permanent orienteering courses are set up in four of our parks – Spencer Park, Victoria Park, The Groynes and Halswell Quarry Park.


Digging in sand; photo Celia Hogan.

Photo by Celia Hogan

11. Dig in sand

Taylor's Mistake(external link) is such a beautiful spot, definitely worth the extra effort to drive over the Scarborough Hill.

Sometimes, at the right time of year, you might see whales migrating up the coastline.



Nature's treasures; photo by Celia Hogan.

Photo by Celia Hogan

12. Go hunting for nature's treasures

Anywhere, anytime! We've made this nature's treasure hunt card [PDF, 178 KB] for you to take with you when you visit any park.

Or you could check out the treasure hunt at Christchurch Botanic Gardens. Each season there are new treasures for you to find.



Looking for more ideas?

Discover awesome Kiwi Guardians(external link) adventures around Christchurch or take action in your own backyard. This DOC programme sponsored by Toyota encourages kiwi kids to explore new places and earn a medal. Two Council sites are in place at Travis Wetland(external link) and Putaringamotu/Riccarton Bush(external link).