Rafael Caso, creative account manager, and Karen Caso, hard-working mum, reckon they're lucky to live in Mangere Bridge, Auckland's best-kept-secret suburb. They tell James Russell why.
Mangere Bridge is a seaside town. Even though we were both brought up in Mangere East, we'd never really been here. It's quite strange, we didn't even really know it existed - we knew absolutely nothing about it. When we moved here in 2002 what we immediately liked about it was the feel it has of being a small, self-contained village. It's quite quaint - a bit country, a bit retro.
If all you need are the basics - you really don't have to drive if you live in "The Bridge". In the village are a butcher, baker, fish shops, fruit and vegetable shops, a hardware store, post office, two cafes, licensed restaurant, stationery shop, video store, a supermarket and lots more, all within about 100m.
For parents with kids - we have two - we have the Plunket, Playcentre, Small Kauri daycare, Mangere Bridge Kindergarten, Mangere Bridge Primary School and Waterlea Primary School - all absolutely brilliant. The hardest thing when you live in Mangere Bridge and you are making decisions about your children's education is where to send them. There are loads of great options.
The nice thing about Mangere Bridge is that it is semi-rural. A lot of the landscape and vistas go off to farmland or the Manukau Harbour. That's what gives it a peaceful, sleepy sort of feeling. Driving along Wallace Rd you look out to Puketutu Island, the Otuataua Stonefields and the harbour.
We also like some weird things about the area, such as the Mt Gabriel Christmas tree farm - we go there every year with the kids to choose a tree and cut it down ourselves. We like stopping on the way to look at the miniature ponies in roadside paddocks. And I'm not sure if it's officially Mangere Bridge or not, but The Strawberry Farm's fresh fruit icecreams on Kirkbride Rd have got to be the best on earth.
Mangere Mountain is spectacular. You can go up One Tree Hill or Mt Eden and you get these views of Auckland, but up our mountain there are the most amazing views of the Manukau Harbour and a part of Auckland that not that many people see. It's an amazing geological place with the volcanic cones and caves, and an amazing historical place with kumara pits and terraced hillsides. To us it's a gem. It's a magical place.
Ambury Farm is the best place for the kids. We spend a lot of time there all year round. We take all our old fruit and veges and feed the rabbits and goats and horses. Our son has a love-hate relationship with the chickens. We've seen the pigs come and go.
When poor old Cameron the Clydesdale died the community felt it and was the first encounter our daughter had with death. We've fed the lambs and watched the cows being milked. We were hoping to camp there over the summer but ran out of warm weather.
Of course the harbour is one of the big assets of Mangere Bridge. There's a beautiful harbourside walking track from the bottom of the village all the way around Kiwi Esplanade right out to Ambury Farm.
It has a large senior population, and an increasing population of young parents with children. We didn't realise how great it would be for a family with young kids - there are so many people at the same stage of life that it really makes for a great community feel. It's possibly not that exciting for 20-year-olds.
It's a culturally diverse place, and it has a good sort of harmony and balance to it. There are Pacific Island and Maori communities, and a significant Chinese population. Many people are afraid of diversity because they don't see it working, but here's an example of how it can work really well. There are an awful lot of good people really involved in the Mangere Bridge community, and it shows in the vibe of the place.
Rafael and Karen's picks
Ruby Red Cafe
30b Coronation Rd, ph (09) 634 6454.
Mt Gabriel Christmas tree farm
3 Creamery Rd, from November 25 through to Christmas Day.
The Strawberry Farm
Fresh strawberry icecreams throughout summer.
127 Kirkbride Rd.
Ambury Farm Regional Park
Ambury Rd, Mangere Bridge. Open 8am-7pm.