The Fletcher family of Waiheke tell Donna McIntyre why they love living on an island in the Hauraki Gulf.
We moved to Waiheke Island in June 2000, six weeks before my eldest, Jack, was born. We wanted to give our kids a childhood similar to ours.
At that stage Waiheke was one of the only places in Auckland where we could afford to buy. How times have changed. We chose Blackpool as it is one of the few flat areas on the island and only three minutes from the ferry at Matiatia.
I'm a freelance camera operator, so all my work is in Auckland. I love sitting out at the back of the ferry going to town and watching the sunrise, and on my return, watching the sunset while having a post-work drink. It's great having no traffic to deal with.
What do we love about the island? We love that the kids can still take off with their friends and have adventures. People here still have time to stop and say hello - and we feel safe with the island's low crime rate.
Our sons, Jack, 9, and Ben, 6, go to Te Huruhi Primary, a truly supportive environment. Our family doctors know and care about our family - and they still make house calls.
We've enjoyed getting involved with the island's community groups - playgroup, the Toy Library, kindy, Friends of the School, Sea Scouts, soccer club, school patrol.
I'm a cub leader with the Sea Scouts - a dedicated group of families using the fantastic resources that we have to give our Keas, Cubs and Scouts both valuable life skills and challenging activities.
The boys also play soccer for Waiheke United. While that's a winter activity, we love that when the season is over, the teams still meet up for beach soccer and barbecues during the summer.
And summer is packed with great community events like the annual Onetangi Beach Races - one of the best days of the year. There is a buzz about the island when all the holiday makers arrive, and serenity when they leave.
We're lucky: we have incredible beaches and scenery, great coastal and bush walks and they are all within a short walk or drive.
I work for Electronic Navigation Ltd, a marine company based in Westhaven, so after catching the ferry to Auckland, I spend 15 minutes walking to work around the Viaduct. We manufacture a Multibeam Sonar called, Wassp, which is used for mapping the seafloor.
The product, designed and developed here in Auckland, is exported to about 20 countries and I am in charge of global sales. In the past three years I have averaged three to four months out of the country travelling for work.
When I am visiting Iceland, Norway or Nova Scotia in Canada with a temperature of minus 10-20C, I cannot wait for the flight to New Zealand to arrive and take me home. Waiheke is one of the most beautiful parts of the world. It is clean; small in population but big in heart. It surpasses anything I have seen in the Mediterranean.
One of my favourite locations, and where many a family celebration has occurred, is Little O Beach [Little Oneroa Beach] and the barbecues that are available for public use. A barbecue with the family, a cold beer and fantastic scenery in front of you is the stuff of dreams.
The Fletcher family's picks
* Greg: Little O Beach's barbecue area at the western end which is the site of many birthday parties, family gatherings, summer dinners and impromptu after-school gatherings.
* Rebecca: Gaby's clothes shop in Erua Rd (The Clothing Rack, 12 Erua Rd, Ostend ph (09) 372 2412) which is always good for a new frock and a gossip.
* Ben: Exploring beaches, and the mozzarella pizza bread at Stefano's (18 Hamilton Rd Surfdale, ph (09) 372 5309).
* Jack: Toys on Tui (part of the Take Note bookshop, 128 Ocean View Rd, Oneroa) the best little toy store ever. And I like the staff at BP Oneroa, they're always nice to me.