Child’s Play at Coastlands

The winter school holidays have been and gone, and with it, the seemingly endless quest to find something for the kids to do. Ever since shopping centres opened in New Zealand fifty years ago, families have used them as entertainment. When Coastlands opened in 1969, being one of just a couple of indoor shopping centres in the country open at the weekend; visiting it was a huge treat. Those were the days of simple pleasures and shopping for necessities only. Having an ice-cream or spider at the Karetta Lounge after a slide on the indoor playground would have been the highlight of a child’s month.

Over the years, Coastlands has put on thousands of holiday activities for children, together with shows, exhibitions, displays, competitions and sporting events. In the seventies and eighties, baby shows, and beauty pageants were very popular. Proud mothers would enter their babies to win the bonniest baby, and girls would compete in the Miss Coastlands and Junior Miss Coastlands competitions. Now these babies probably have babies of their own and for the beauty pageant winners, the competition is a distant memory.

In the early days, children were enchanted by a 20c ride on a mechanical rocking horse outside the Wimpy Family Restaurant. Now there is a multi-screen cinema, Coastlands Aquatic Centre and a variety of free activities provided by the centre. Yet, children are still heard to say frequently “I’m bored”.

Some things though, have stood the test of time. Colouring in competitions still feature, as well as the everlasting popularity of Lego table and talent contests.

In the last school holidays, children could make rice paper rolls in the Little Chef sessions, wearing their own chef hats and aprons – a little more sophisticated than the All-Star Pro-Thumb Wrestling and Laser Yo-Yos Championships of the seventies.

The simple fun of apple bobbing was a very popular event in 1975 drawing huge crowds to watch children try and eat apples hanging off a stick. Many will still remember the Christmas Parades, Ronald McDonald shows, visits by Garfield, Mickey and Minnie Mouse, tea with Mr Blobby, Golden Stories Character Show, clowns, magicians and puppets – all of whom appeared in the line-up at Coastlands over the last 50 years.

Who remembers the popular Junior School Quiz which ran for several years between contestants at Kapiti junior schools? As with most things, entertainment at the mall has evolved, leaving the organisers forever chasing the next ‘big thing’ to attract people to watch and take part.

Even face painting has come a long way from the amateur painted nose and whiskers in the eighties, to the sophisticated, detailed designs of international award-winning artists at Daizy Designs who are regularly booked to face paint at Coastlands.

Coastlands is celebrating its 50th birthday on 6 November 2019. As part of the celebrations, there will be a public photographic exhibition of images taken at the mall over the last fifty years, showing the events, tenants, staff, customers and visitors.

Do you have a childhood memory of activities at Coastlands you would be happy to share? Email them to