Gulf Harbour is located on the south coast of Whangaparaoa Peninsula, a long thin finger poking out into Hauraki Gulf. Aukland commuter land, it is full of shiny new housing. A typical modern marina complex with hundreds of boats that people hardly seem to visit, blocks of identical waterside apartments and a souless village centre. However modern does also mean, solid well maintained pontoons and berths, good security, reliable electricity supplies, easy parking etc. etc. And wandering a little further a field we have discovered a rarely visited beach just a five minute stroll away, a National Park a five minute drive away and a British Pie shop (pies seem to be a big thing here), right on our doorstep. In fact we are beginning to discover that wherever you are here, beautiful landscapes (and copious pie supplies) are never far away.
Last weekend dawned, yet again, grey, cold and drizzly. We drove through the housing estates of suburbia, past the retail parks and shopping centres that are in abundance here and reflected how quickly the excitement of these attractions has worn off. Then suddenly we were in the countryside and even on a day such as this it is spectacular. We were enroute for supper with Domini and family and driving through the green hills, past woodland, farmland and babbling brooks we could see the attraction of making your home here. It was nice to be back for an afternoon in a family environment, we enjoyed playing with the kids, we used their unlimited, full speed wifi and in true Kiwi style, despite the weather, the BBQ was lit and we were treated to delicious ribs and pavlova.
Right at the end of Whangaporaoa peninsula the houses stop abruptly and you are in the Shakespear National Park, a protected area of wild beaches and rolling hills. With the sun finally putting in an appearance on Sunday we drove the short few kilometres into the park to stretch our legs. Te Harui Bay has soft sand, backed by small grassy dunes and today was full of wind and kite surfers enjoying the breezy conditions. We climbed high into the hills above the beach to watch their hairaising antics and enjoy the views over the Gulf, its islands and just through the haze the high rise buildings of the city.
What a difference the sunshine makes, for the first time since our arrival here we have been able to shed our jumpers, get on with some jobs outside and even sit in the cockpit. It also means the other boat owners on the pontoon have been out and about. We were still worrying about Raya being hauled out in our absence and this was being made worse by the lack of meaningful communication from the yard doing the work. On discussion with our neighbours it seems everyone here uses another boatyard an hour up the coast to have haul out work done, Robertsons Boats comes highly recommended. Looking at the charts however didn’t bode well, the yard is a couple of kilometres up a shallow winding river. We were due a day out so we decided to go and take a look.
We took the Hibiscus coast road that winds past the town beaches of Owera and up through the hills and deep river valleys that line the coastline.
As the road turned inland we were surrounded by dense woodland which to our European eyes was a fascinating mix, tall dark pines, rounded lush disicduous trees, spiky firs and the ever present stunning tree ferns. We entered the small town of Warkworth and on to the boatyard which stands on the banks of the Marhurangi river. Our hearts sank, a scarily narrow, brown stream of water trickled through the mud flats.
As we looked more closely, we could see larger, deep keeled boats chocked up on the hard and after a fifteen minute chat with the owner, Conrad, we were sold. A family run business the place had a friendly, caring feeling to it, the work being carried out looked of a good quality, they were happy to run out to the harbour mouth and pilot you in during the high tide window that you can use to get up river, they even offered to run us back to Gulf Harbour to pick up the car. So we are back to plan A, Raya stays here in the water while we are in the UK and then beginning of February we sail to Warkworth and she is worked on out of the water while we tour the South Island.
Spirits buoyed we drove on to Matakana, described in the travel guide as a quirky village frequented by the Auckland chattering classes. We didn’t see any obvious city folk but we did have a fantastic lunch at the refurbished heritage pub, accompanied by locally brewed beer and rosé from the vineyard around the corner. There was also a proper deli, the first we have found in New Zealand and perfect lunch fare for our friends the next day.
Oh yes, and we bought an inflatable kayak, looks like fun.