Destination Playgrounds: five essential elements for drawcard recreation spaces everyone wants to visit

Destination Playgrounds: five essential elements for drawcard recreation spaces everyone wants to visit

The increasing popularity of large destination playgrounds reflects a growing commitment to the multi-faceted health and wellbeing needs of our communities.

With children predicted to represent most of the world’s urban population in less than a decade, international research shows communities with well-designed playgrounds and open green spaces nurture residents’ overall fitness, health and wellbeing, regardless of age, as well as wider lifestyle and economic benefits*.

Often big in size, destination playgrounds are premium playground and recreation spaces that encourage an active, engaged and connected community, while also serving as a major attraction for local residents, visitors and tourists alike.

Awanui Reserve, in New Zealand’s far north, is a prime example. A community-council collaboration, the pirate-themed play space is a place to gather for local families, as well as an important tourism drawcard along the popular Cape Reinga coast.


So, let’s look at the five essential elements this and other successful destination playgrounds have in common.

  1. Maximum Play Value
    Site design and equipment selection, with a focus on diverse play needs, combine to maximise options for imaginative and social play for a variety of ages and abilities, across both structured and natural environments. Vast and visionary, Whangarei’s Pohe Island is a masterclass in inclusive, adventurous destination playground design, with multiple play zones incorporating multi-generational and multi-sensory equipment complementing and enhancing the site’s natural features.
  2. Locally inspired themes
    Incorporating local stories, history and heritage fosters a strong sense of place, connection and belonging in community spaces and is a key feature in the most successful destination playgrounds. Just as Awanui Reserve reflects the town’s shipping history and Pohe Island the unique environment of Whangarei, the revitalisation of West Australia’s Mandurah Western Foreshore combines local heritage, environment and stories into an exciting hub designed to entice people of all ages and abilities to enjoy the great outdoors.
  3. Inclusive/multi-generational fun
    Inclusive destination playground design recognises that everyone should be able to experience the pure joy and benefits of play together, regardless of age or ability. Additionally, truly inclusive play spaces acknowledge disability itself is diverse and embrace features such as passive areas, visual cues, and sensory and tactile play, rather than simply providing accessible and all-age play equipment. Similarly, being multi-generational does not only mean catering to a wide age range of children, but also considers older teens and adults. Outdoor gyms are a great way to encourage families to get active and socialise, a concept embodied by Kulin All-Ages Precinct, in regional Western Australia, which features an extensive obstacle course alongside a pump track and skate park.
  4. Community collaboration
    Who knows what a community needs better than the community itself? Harnessing the passion, dedication and knowledge of local residents ensures an attractive centre of gravity reflecting the community’s unique needs and goals. That was certainly the case in Marton, where two local mums embarked on a mission to replace an outdated 1950s playground with an incredible award-winning destination playground to attract families and businesses to the area.
  5. ‘Stay and play’ facilities
    Attractive, comfortable and functional street furniture – including table settings, benches, barbecues and shelters – are vital in creating inviting outdoor spaces which encourage people to meet, socialise and relax for longer. Playground Centre is proud to partner with Urban Effects to offer complete play equipment and park furniture packages tailor-made for every individual project, big or small.


The company behind award-winning, family favourite playgrounds, Playground Centre has the expertise and experience to help you design and build a destination playground. Contact us today.

*Source: Cities Alive: Designing for urban childhoods (December, 2017) ARUP, London.