1. Hamilton Gardens
International award-winning Hamilton Gardens is not just for grown-ups. Kids can pick up a discovery trail activity sheet to explore an enchanting world of secret themed gardens. There are hidden magical stories, portals through time and to corners of the world - the lush tropics, the Renaissance garden, the mysteries of ancient China, bees, hens and other critters. And a good cafe for icecreams afterwards. Don't miss next week's Rose Festival (Thursday to Sunday).
2. Hobsonville Point
Close to the town hub is the wonderful Catalina Cafe and the sculpture playground, or take the children further afield to the 4km loop of Coastal Linear Park for walking and cycling through dense native bush. Eventually boardwalks will link to a waterfront promenade. Check out John Reynolds' charred wooden pole artworks and the seed pod climbing structure.
3. Western Springs
After the excitement of catching the Motat tram around the perimeter (open seven days, runs every 30 minutes, $5 family pass) explore the park on footpaths and boardwalks through the wetlands. Check out the native orea (eel) that can be coaxed to take food but are protected. There are plenty of pukeko, teal, wide-open lawns, as well as water gardens and water lilies for the kids to explore.
4. Auckland Botanic Gardens, Manurewa
On the weekend kids love to catch the Wiri Rambler train (a small tractor towing a "carriage") then pick up an Agent Ani trail booklet and follow the clues to learn and explore the edible, native plant and rock gardens, the lake and the Potter children's garden and pick up a free bag of seeds. Sign up for the EcoKids too. Train runs noon-3pm (weather dependent). Adults $2, kids $1, under 5s free.