After last week’s excursion to the beautfiul Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden in the New Territories, we wanted to stay a little closer to home for this week’s family field trip, and so found ourselves at the Fireboat Alexander Grantham and Quarry Bay Park. Our intrepid field-trippers were once again the usual suspects: two thirty-something (going on 80-something) parents and little dynamo Gracie, 2 ½ years.
Two of our happy field-trippers
Ok, so a little bit of history first (skip this bit if you like). From 1953 until decommission in 2002, the Alexander Grantham led the Hong Kong Fire Services’ fireboat team. Famous blazes fought by the Alexander Grantham include the one that engulfed and destroyed Jumbo floating restaurant in Aberdeen, as well as one that gutted the former Queen Elizabeth, which was in the process of being refitted to become the Seawise University. It’s estimated that 50% of the former Queen Elizabeth still sits underwater in Hong Kong Harbour.
As we know, all great things must come to an end and by 2002 the once state-of-the-art Alexander Grantham was beginning to show its age, especially when faced with fires on the huge container and cruise ships that often grace our waters. So the sad decision was made to decommission the Alexander Grantham and replace it with the Elite, a high-performance fireboat. But as testament to its fine service as one of Hong Kong’s most famous fireboats, the ship was renovated and turned into a permanent exhibition.
The Alexander Grantham in action fighting a blaze onboard the Seawise University (the former Queen Elizabeth) in 1972.
I feel quite the boat-spotter now – a photo of Elite on the water.
Back to the present day and I never knew that the Alexander Grantham existed until a friend who happens to be a mummy-in-the-know, (more on her later,) pointed me in the right direction. The Alexander Grantham is nestled on the waterfront at Quarry Bay Park, within walking distance from Cityplaza, so very accessible by public transport. The exhibit starts off with a little bit of background, some computer games for older kids (don’t get too excited… there’s only 3 computers) and then a gentle amble up a ramp to the boat.
Once on board, you pretty much have free rein to explore as you please – quite refreshing as a parent of a toddler who often has to be physically removed, kicking and screaming, from places she shouldn’t be. The boat has upper and lower decks, split into quarters including the engine room, casualty room, pantry, office, mess room and water closet (!), that toddlers can explore as they want.
Although I originally wondered if the boat might be a bit of a boy thing, I am happy to report that Gracie loved it! The freedom to clamber on board, run in and out of the different quarters, aim the fire hoses, turn the red fire hydrant wheels, tear around on deck and climb up and down the stairs, (assisted by mummy as they are a bit steep)! There is plenty here to keep kids of either gender occupied.
Aim and fire! Pick a wheel, any wheel? Oh decisions, decisions….
If a trot around the Alexander Grantham hasn’t burnt off enough energy there’s Quarry Park Playground just 5 minutes walk away in the park. Gracie’s little eyes lit up when she saw the size of this playground and it took quite some persuasion, as well as the mandatory tantrum, to get her to the exhibition at all. Depending on how much energy you have on the day in question it might be easier to let your little one run off steam in the playground first. But we do like a challenge, and besides, the ship was the star attraction for mummy’s column… try explaining that to a 2 year old!
Quarry Bay Park Playground
Filled with lots of swings, slides, bridges, rocking horses, climbing frames and a swing boat to name but some of the attractions, Gracie was spoiled for choice at Quarry Bay Playground. The equipment is designed for 5-12 year olds, with another set of equipment for 2-5 year olds, but Gracie pretty much covered everything, regardless of age limit.
Also, worth a mention is Cityplaza itself – it’s what Hong Kong does very well; a shopping mall that’s great for families, with child-friendly restaurants, an ice rink and cinema. There’s also a Jumpin’ Gym USA – a children’s arcade with ball pit, slides and tunnels, a mini bumper car, rides, games of chance and other arcade faves. All amusements require the purchase of tokens and don’t forget your socks!
And a big thank you to mummy-in-the-know and event planner, Laura, who suggested this family fieldtrip. Laura’s company Maya KIDS have plenty more ideas on how to entertain little ones for a day or a party, so just drop her a line at [email protected] if you need more inspiration.
The Fireboat Alexander Grantham and Quarry Bay Park
Quarry Bay Park, Near Hoi Tai Street, Quarry Bay, Hong Kong.
Opening hours: Monday, and Wednesday-Sunday, 10 am – 6 pm, closed on Tuesdays (except public holidays) and the first two days of the Lunar New Year.
Getting there: Take Exit E from Tai Koo MTR Station, walk through Cityplaza and cross the footbridge to Quarry Bay Park. The walk takes about 10 minutes. Alternatively, take Exit A of Sai Wan Ho MTR Station, then head west via the Hong Kong Film Archive to Quarry Bay Park. Also about 10 minutes. Or you can take any bus that runs via Lei King Road (2A, 2X, 77, 84S, 85, 99, 110, 606, M722, N8), alighting opposite Lei King Wan Leisure Area and walk westwards for around 5 minutes, passing the Hong Kong Film Archive until you arrive at Quarry Bay Park.
Admission is free!