7 Playgrounds & Viewing Spots for Boat-Loving Kids - 510 Families
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7 Playgrounds & Viewing Spots for Boat-Loving Kids

Ahoy! Kids who love boats will enjoy these playgrounds with nautical-inspired features like a captain’s steering wheel, porthole windows, spotting scopes, and multiple levels. We also tracked down several prime locations for spotting big ships and sailboats, plus a few opportunities to climb aboard a boat as a family.

Playgrounds with Boat-Inspired Features in the East Bay

Bohol Circle Immigrant Park and Playground (Alameda)

Wide view of ship-inspired playground
Ahoy! This play structure is great for kids all about boats | Photo: Maureen Burke

Description: This new playground is located on the Oakland Inner Harbor, near Alameda’s Target. The play structure is designed after a modern ship, complete with a spacious bow, multiple levels, a steering wheel, rock climbing, and a telescope. There’s also a hill with obstacles, slides, stairs and ladders, balance beams, a spinny thing, and a 4-person see-saw. A small tot play structure, with a small slide and mirror, that appeals to babies who could sit upright, stand, or crawl. Outside of the playground, there’s an interesting maze to complete by foot, bike, or scooter. The location offers sweeping views of container ships unloading at Port of Oakland’s cranes, and ferries and sailboats gliding out to the Bay, plus downtown Oakland’s skyline.
Best ages: Tots to big kids
Fence: No, but there is a concrete bench that runs around a majority of the play structure to keep roaming kids a bit more contained.
Restrooms: Yes.
Watercraft Bonus: Across the Inner Harbor from Jack London Square, this park has superior viewing of the docked container ships at the Oakland Cranes.
Location: 2901 5th Street, Alameda

Our review of Bohol Circle Immigrant Park and Playground in Alameda >

Davenport Mini Park (Emeryville)

Pirate playground
Ahoy! This playground is adorable and offers lots to explore. | Photo: Maureen Burke

Description:  The play structure is designed after a ship, complete with a spacious bow, steering wheel, and telescope. There’s also a slide, stairs, and ladders to climb. Overall, this playground is tiny. However, kids with big imaginations or little ones who are learning to master a playground will find this option fun. Within the fenced area, kids can also climb through a log-like tunnel, step across a balance beam, or make their own fun in the nature area.
Best ages: Crawling babies to preschoolers
Fence: Yes
Restrooms: No
Location: 3100 Powell Street, Emeryville

Our review of Davenport Mini Park in Emeryville >

Mia’s Dream Come True Playground (Hayward)

Boat play structureM
Pretend to be captain of this cute boat | Source: Yelp

Description: This all-abilities playground is filled with creative areas that are full-on fun for kids, including a barn area with a slide, airplane swing, fire truck playhouse, and a climbable tug boat. The boat is surrounded by a cushy rubber mat surface to make it easy to roll up to the steering wheel, and safe enough to jump off. Nearby sea life sculptures add another layer of excitement.
Best ages: Tots to big kids
Fence: Yes
Restrooms: Yes
Location: 28377 Huntwood Ave, Hayward

Our review of Mia’s Dream Come True Inclusive Playground in Hayward >

Heather Farm Park & Playground (Walnut Creek)

Heather Farm Park Boat Structure
Captain the ship at Heather Farm Park | Source: Michele Yuen

Description: This park and playground are worth the drive with near-endless fun and a variety of options, including a small ship-inspired play structure. It’s low to the ground and can be accessed via a ramp or climbing through a porthole window. Kids will enjoy the real-life details and spacious area. Plus, the structure’s built-in benches always seem to be a perk to my kids. Beyond the ship feature, children will enjoy slides, monkey bars, swings, turf hills for cardboard surfing, a climbing wall, and a sand pit (with water) across the sprawling, colorful playground.
Best ages: Tots to big kids
Fence: No
Restrooms: Yes, near the public pool.
Location: 301 N San Carlos Drive, Walnut Creek

Our review of Heather Farm Park and Playground in Walnut Creek >

Matteo’s Dream Playground (Concord)

Wide wheelchair-accessable ramp at play structure
Just up the wide ramp, you can spot the bow of the boat structure. | Source: Maureen Burke

Description: Filled with multiple levels, slides, swings, and ramps, Matteo’s Dream Playground is an inclusive playground with a creative boat area built into the bigger kid play structure. Children of all abilities can easily pretend to be a band of pirates or ocean explorers. There seem to be some unhoused individuals at the larger park, but they aren’t within the playground area.
Best ages: Tots to big kids
Fence: Partial
Restrooms: Yes, but not always clean.
Location: 2050 Olivera Rd, Concord

Our Review of Matteo’s Dream Playground in Concord >

Adventure Playground (Berkeley)

children climb on old boat at Adventure Playground in berkeley
Climb aboard, this boat is open for play at Adventure Playground | Source: Julie Herson

Description: Step inside the gates of Berkeley Marina’s Adventure Playground to experience a unique play space that’s all about inviting kids to build, paint, and imagine. Boat lovers will enjoy the old boat that’s fair game for climbing, decorating, or refashioning with the tools on site. If you’re interested in a more traditional playground, don’t miss out on the boat-like wooden structure at Shorebird Park Playground–just steps away from Adventure Playground.
Best ages: Preschool to big kids (wear close-toed shoes!)
Fence: Yes
Restrooms: Yes
Watercraft bonus: You’re within walking distance from the sweet yachts and pleasurecraft at the Berkeley Marina
Location: 160 University Avenue, Berkeley

Our review of Adventure Playground in Berkeley >

Shoreline Park (Hercules)

Playground that looks like a Tug Boat
This playground is so adorable | Photo: Yelp

Description: Little kids will enjoy playing at this incredible tugboat-inspired playground. There are all the classic features–slides, stairs, ropes, tunnels, and letters. Steam stacks, a bow area, and cute USS Victoria detailing add so much charm.
Best ages: Tots and preschoolers
Fence: No
Restrooms: Yes
Watercraft Bonus: This playground is fitting to its location because it’s located along the Carquinez Strait where tug boats can occasionally be spotted next to barges or large ships.
Location: 1000 Tug Boat Lane, Hercules

Learn more about the park >

Bonus: Lookout Cove @ Bay Area Discovery Museum (Sausalito)

Children playing on boat
Explore Faith, the museum’s fishing boat | Source: Bay Area Discovery Museum Facebook Page

Description: Not in the East Bay but always worth the drive because there’s something for every child at Lookout Cove, the 2.5-acre outdoor play area at Bay Area Discovery Museum. Pretend to be a fisherman in the real-life boat-turned-play structure, search for treasure from the pirate’s lookout, or dig in the shipwreck sand pit. The museum and all its exhibits are a must-see, plus the play-forward outdoor space is phenomenal.

Admission Prices: $15 – Baby (ages 6-11 months) | $19 – Child/Adult (ages 1-64) | free to Bay Area residents* the first Wednesday of every other month (next is September 6, 2023); call for more details.
Best ages: Tots to big kids
Fence: No, but museum grounds are enclosed.
Restrooms: Yes
Location: 557 McReynolds Road, Sausalito

Our review of Bay Area Discovery Museum >

Where to See Large Ships & Boats in the East Bay

If you or your kids love watching boats, there are boatloads of areas to go boat spotting throughout the entire Bay Area (see what we did there?). Here’s a list of prime viewing areas in the East Bay:

  • Jack London Square: View personal sailboats, larger yachts, ferries, and even some ocean liners from the benches or manicured Ferry Green near the JLS Ferry Terminal.
  • Bohol Circle Immigrant Park: Across the Inner Harbor from Jack London Square, this park has an amazing playground and superior viewing of the docked container ships at the Oakland Cranes.
  • Middle Harbor Shoreline Park: This park’s industrial location offers exciting viewings of so many working vehicles, including container ships and supporting tug boats.
  • Lake Merritt: Chances are you’ll spot rowing shells, kayaks, pedal boats, or even a gondola on the lake. Boats are smaller in size, but still entertaining.
  • Bay Trail: Whether you’re biking, walking, or strolling along the miles of the Bay Trail, you’re sure to spot multiple watercraft.
  • Local Marinas: From San Leandro to Richmond, there are so many local marinas that are filled with personal sailboats, fishing boats, and other water vessels for your little one to watch.

Where to Ride Boats in the East Bay

If your little one is itching to catch a ride on a boat, there are several opportunities for families in the East Bay. Some options require more physical exertion than others.

  • San Francisco Bay Ferry: It’s one of the most enjoyable ways to travel across the Bay. East Bay ferry terminals are located in Richmond, Oakland, and Alameda. It’s a great option for all ages.
  • Historic Ships: Step aboard the USS Hornet in Alameda or USS Red Oak Victory in Richmond. Both vessels offer tours and a history lesson.
  • Cal Sailing Club: Located in the Berkeley Marina, this club offers free rides on its fleet of keelboats and dinghies during monthly open houses (April – November). There are also specialty camps for older kids and teens if they are hoping to take up a water sport.
  • Lake Merritt Boating Center: Visit this center to rent canoes, kayaks, and several other styles. Bring cash.
  • Lafayette Reservoir: Rowboats and pedal boats are available to rent on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • Lake Chabot Regional Park and Marina: Families can rent a variety of boats for recreation, adventure or fishing.

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