skip to site navigation

What Are We Doing Today?

Introduction by Hugh Joughin

It all started in Father & Child issue 25 (Autumn 2004), in which Pat Albertson wrote an article called “Let Me Entertain You”. It featured ideas on how to entertain your kids with a limited budget over the school holidays.

We followed this up in issue 27 (Spring 2004), with a look at cheap and cheerful holiday ideas in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. This time we take a slightly different angle, and explore child friendly and affordable café’s in Christchurch and Wellington.

Good places to take kids when the weather is against you. What do parents need in a good café? Good food and coffee of course. Also space, entertainment for little people, and a safe environment. Here are some of the best.


The Boathouse Café

Great location which is both handy to the central city, and separate from the hustle and bustle. Situated right next to, and overlooking, the tranquil Avon river.

There is a wide range of food available, which will keep all age groups happy. There are the ususal bicuits and slices ($1.50-$2.00), kids sandwiches (with basic fillings like ham, cheese, $2.00-$2.50), and larger adult sandwiches ($4.50) and panini’s ($6.50-$7.00).

The separate kids menu has all the basics. Mini hot dogs, chicken nuggets, battered fish (all with chips), as well as slightly more elaborate dishes like pancakes and marshmallows. All kids dishes are $6.00.

The really good news for kids though is the ice cream bar. The selection is small, but it covers all the favourites, so your little ones are bound to find something to their liking. There is also a fantastic range of hot and cold drinks, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic.

It’s a small, but interesting dining area. There are three main areas. The main indoor part, a semi-outdoor area which is covered by a marquee, and an open air area around the side. Somehow it creates a perfect balance between intimacy and space, where children can move around if they need to.

There is also the river area (small children need supervision of course) and a bridge nearby, should the kids need some distraction while you wait for the food to appear.

The staff are friendly, efficient, and above all very tolerant of young diners. Food appears quickly, and afterwards you can have a very pleasant walk along the river, or a short stroll to the botanical gardens.

If you have some spare cash left over from the meal, you can even hire a canoe and cruise the river.

All in all it’s a great and affordable place to take your family.

Sophies Café Beckenham

There are three “Sophies” café’s in Christchurch, but the Beckenham one is arguably the best (although it’s not the original one). Patient staff and amazing décor marks this as a favourite for young and old. Probably the most famous feature is the gallery of famous faces on the walls, which keep adult eyes entertained for quite a while. Kids however, love the bright colours and funky fake animal fur accessories.

The zebra themed toilets are a must to view, so make sure you wear plenty of white clothing for maximum effect under the neon lamps. Amazing! The rotating cow print desert cabinet is also captivating, almost distracting enough to take your eyes away from the mouth-watering cakes and biscuits housed within.

Meals are huge and affordable ($10.00-25.00), and even the most fussy child will find plenty of dishes to choose from. You can also mix and mingle meals to suit. Also keep an eye out for the discount coupons which appear in local newspapers from time to time.

With a nice balance between relaxed and ordered atmsophere, along with humourous touches everywhere you look, it’s a great place for eating, and viewing.


Maranui Surf Club Café.

Right over the beach at Lyall Bay. It has the obvious advantage of being able to combine beach and café. Inside there are toys, a reasonable amount of space and a great view of the bay. While we were there investigating, a pod of fifty dolphins put on an acrobatic display. The food and coffee are excellent.

Café L’Affare, College Street. ****

Though a busy, busy lunchtime café for the business suits and glitterati, it has an exceptional range of toys available. Very popular with parents during the week and large family groups on a Saturday. Closed Sundays. Excellent coffee, great savoury stuff, and choco-caramel slice to die for.

Eva Dixon’s at Wellington Zoo. ****

Has the unique attraction of the meerkats enclosure being visible from the café. Only a pane of glass separates the little ones from the cuddly, curious creatures from Telecom land. There is also plenty of space, toy enclosure and tropical fish.

The food and coffee are quite acceptable.

Clark’s Café – at the Wellington Central Library. ****

Certainly the best supply of books of any café, though you do need a library card. Also it has a large playpen area with slides and toys. There is plenty of space for the kids and the older ones could even run around in the Civic Square which is just outside.

Plum, Cuba Mall. ***

Centrally located so a useful watering hole on shopping expeditions, it’s main gift to children is that it is in a pedestrian only mall, and the play area and famous ‘bucket fountain’ are right next to it. The food and coffee are more than adequate.

Aquatic Café, Regional Aquatic Centre. ***

Due to its location and amenities this place deserves to be on the list. The older kids can swim as long as they like, naturally. There is also a large outdoor area by the café with play area, slides, etc and barbecues. They have plenty of menu items that children like though the choices for adults are fairly plain. Always popular.

Chocolate Fish Café, Scorching Bay. **

Set in Wellington’s best bay, the café is thriving. You can sit and drink coffee while your children play next to you on the beach. Beautiful location and good food from brunch to late afternoon. No toys but the beach is the play area. Only two stars as it has a road running through it.

There is a sign saying ‘beware, waiters crossing’, and another ‘slow down, penguins crossing’, but nothing that toddlers will heed.


If you are heading to central Otago, a very good website is It’s a comprehensive site that covers Wanaka, Queenstown, Fiordland, Milford Sound, Te Anau and environs.

It covers everything from restaurants (with an emphasis on child friendly ones of course), attractions, events, and even rainy day activities, not that central Otago has many of those over the summer! You’ll find plenty of family activities, ranging from free to $50.00 for the whole family. Well worth a look.

It is hoped that we can do an Otago feature next year.

Next: A Very Slow Recovery

Father & Child News

The Last Post

As the history of Father & Child is at an end, it is time to reduce the hosting costs and... Read more →