Diane Copestake was about 19 when she first visited Waikauri Bay on the Tawharanui Peninsula. It was the early 1970s and she and her partner had gone to visit his mate Garry, whose family holidayed there. She was entranced.
"We sat on a hill, we had a little fire going and we cooked cockles and drank beer, looking over the most superb little bay. It was just perfect."
Garry's parents had bought into the small holiday community in 1963, after having camped on farmland in the area for years. All they had on their plot of land was a garage that housed the boat and some bedding.
By the time Diane returned to the bay about 18 years ago, much had changed in her life. She'd been married, had two daughters, got divorced, and had fallen in love again - with Garry.
The bay had stayed largely the same, though there were fewer sheep grazing on the land, and Garry had pulled down the old garage and built a two-bedroom "bachelor pad", says Diane.
In the gated community, with its safe beach and where most people had known each other for decades, Diane and her children discovered a new carefree way of holidaying.
"When my girls started going there when they were 9 and 10, they could just go and explore. And I didn't have to look out the window wondering where they were. It was very family-orientated, and so safe. They only came back to be fed. Everyone would look out for them."
By day, the family would collect shellfish off the rocks, take the dinghy out to catch snapper for dinner and snorkel at nearby Kawau Island.
By night, Diane and Garry would gaze out at a starry sky unpolluted by city lights and drink a glass or two of local wine, or have friends over for a barbecue while the kids shared tents with innumerable friends. They had no need for a television.
Diane's girls grew up and returned to the bay with their own children, who did the family proud in the fiercely-contested Waikauri Bay fishing competition. The fishing competition is part of a series of regular events that includes a sandcastle building competion, sports day, and a cricket match with the rangers from the nearby Tawharanui Regional Park and native bird sanctuary.
Gradually, many of the 25 properties in the community were renovated and replaced, including the Copestake house. About 10 years ago, Garry and Diane transformed it into a more substantial holiday home, with four bedrooms (including a guest suite), two bathrooms, a double garage and an open-plan living area. They built decks to take in the sea views out the front and the peaceful outdoor retreat at the back.
"I could never get over how I could just sit at the bay and look at the sea," says Diane.
"It's like reading a book, it changes all the time."
Over summer, Diane and Garry began to live at the bay and commute to their jobs in Albany.
"Garry would take more holidays than I could, so I'd go back up there at night and he's got the table set up on the deck, and he's caught something for dinner. So that was really nice."
With the prospect of broadband internet, they discussed living there permanently. But Garry died suddenly last year from a brain tumour. "Too young," says Diane.
So Diane has made the difficult decision to sell.
"I'm sure it's going to be very, very hard to part with," she says, "but life goes on."By Bronwyn Sell Email Bronwyn