Firstly, they head for the Whananaki Footbridge (the longest footbridge in the Southern Hemisphere). See, it's official.
Google Maps takes them on the most direct routes to their destinations over the course of the day, which they don't realise at the time will end up including a few miles on unsealed roads.....whoops!
It's an impressive walk, the 400-odd metres each way. The tide is out as they make the journey across today, but they can see how high the water level would rise, and they even come across a story about a lady who walks across the bridge and lets her horse swim across for exercise!
After bumping their way along a few more winding country roads, they re-emerge into some semblance of civilisation at Sandy Bay. They are recommended to try out Havana Cabana, a delightful Cuban style caravan cafe nestled down behind the dunes, and like any place that they wouldn't have discovered on their own, it has a special atmosphere with the authentic Cuban music playing. It is quite the experience.
And what of the bay itself? It is the perfect mix of sand and surf one could hope for in a beach.
Oh and it has bunny tails too. Picking and tickling is of course a favourite past-time with the youngest travellers. But if they think Sandy Bay is gorgeous, the next bay at Matapouri will blow their minds altogether.
It is quite possibly the nicest beach they have ever swum at. Ever.
The purest white sand. Crystal clear waters. Perfectly timed waves.
Two boys in seventh heaven, one doing the Downward Dog pose to celebrate. As you do.
The waves are so inviting that one traveller doesn't even think to take off her sunglasses before entering the water. And alas, when a wave takes her by surprise the glasses fly off her face into the churning waters, never to be seen again. She laments their loss but resignedly gives them up to the sea, knowing that given the choice she would still choose the loss of the glasses all over again simply to have had the wonderful experience of this bay. And all is not lost, the same traveller is happy to find a fairly identical replacement when they arrive in Whangarei later in the day.
The stop at the Town Basin allows a quick wander and a trip to the famous NZ Fudge Farm Factory before they continue to the day's final destination, Ruakaka. There is a small misunderstanding over the definition of 'linen included' with the property manager so when they arrive sandy and damp from the swim at Matapouri Bay there's only one beach towel to be had between the six of them. Thankfully, help arrives in the morning with six more towels, but three of the travellers have to put up with being a bit sandy for the night while the other three manage to share the only towel. They also attempt a takeaway dinner but cannot believe that due to only one fish and chip shop being open in the whole area, there's an HOUR wait for dinner. It tastes even better after the wait mind you!
Unlike the secluded cove at Matapouri Bay, the miles and miles of white sand on the Ruakaka coast stretch as far as the eye can see. Some dedicated souls are already in the water this early in the morning.
Today, the travellers decide to explore the next town over, Waipu, with its rich colonial history. The Cafe Deli proves a relaxing location for both coffee and lunch, and in the middle of it all, a trip to the Settlers Museum. It tells the story of the 900 odd Scottish pioneers led by the charismatic Norman McLeod (a Presbyterian minister) who escaped the Highlands after the clan system broke down, spending time in Nova Scotia before poverty and famine drove them to seek a new home on the other side of the world. It is the remarkable story of six heavily laden ships that travelled to New Zealand between 1851 and 1859 bringing the Scots to a new life here and the museum is incredibly informative about the first peoples and their descendants now numbering in the tens of thousands, some of whom still live in Waipu today.
Later they brave the rugged surf on the coast but the windy day and the pounding and unrelenting breakers make it a shorter swim than on other days. For a while they admire other more surf-ready swimmers kitted out with body boards, before retiring to the comforts of their beach house to enjoy the last night of this amazing holiday.
This week is a dream they never want to end.
Seven days of sunshine and not a drop of rain sight. Seven nights of eating in the great outdoors enjoying the sounds of summer. An amazing number of adventures in such a short space of time. Family bonds strengthened again with such quality time spent. Unique and wonderful sights seen, that for some, may not be seen again in this lifetime.