Parnell Baths, Tamaki Drive, Auckland
Life is always a little slower across the Tasman. Visiting Auckland over Christmas, my original hometown, the city has a slight post apocalyptic feel after Boxing Day, when the country’s four million population leave en mass for small beach towns and the typical kiwi holiday. This is characterised by cramming into fibreglass box shaped beach houses (known as baches), playing beach cricket, watching kiwi bands play at small country pubs, swimming, fishing, reading five year old Woman’s Days and using the barbecue for three meals a day. It’s the kind of no frills relaxing yoga retreats charge thousands for, but with more wine and carbohydrates.
For those left behind in New Zealand’s biggest city, which really isn’t that big by global standards, it feels like it’s just you and the motorways.
On some levels Auckland also offers some similarities to Sydney. There is a giant harbour, a upper middle class North Shore, bogans in the West. But sadly unlike its much more glamorous bigger cousin, the city just did not have the same kind of parental guidance growing up. Especially when it came to ocean swimming. While one of the North Shore beaches did offer a beach pool it was demolished in the 1950s.
Parnell Baths on Auckland’s waterfront is your best option if you want to enjoy outdoor swimming with a touch of kiwiana kitsch. A little untapped gem this place embodies everything that’s great about New Zealand. Clean, unpretentious, accessible and entirely practical. While its brasher cousin is celebrating the recent opening of water park Wet n Wild Auckland teens and families are quietly enjoying there own local version with much less hype.
Half of the 50 metre pool has been created into a kids area where the thermal temperature keeps both parents and kids contented for hours. There are fountains, small slides, platforms, dive boards, and hot tubs for the parents. For the big kids the Olympic sized pool is close to empty and there is one lane per swimmer on the day I visit. Framed by red pohutakwa trees and the once active volcano Rangitoto Island watches in the harbour this is a great day out at such a small price. Auckland I felt a little proud.
High points: This place is just kidtastic. It’s free for under 16s. The water is heated to bathtub temperatures so parents can lounge and float with the rest of them
Low points: The water was a little Auckland icy. No heating in the big kids pool. Also no KFC allowed (true story).
Attire: School bags, rash suits, frumpy hats and sustainable clothing
Cost: $6.30 (NZ) for adults, free for under 16s. Nice thinking Auckland
Best for: Auckland families wanting to get out of the suburbs for a cheap day out
Overall Score: 7.5 out of 10