In the 90s I was living on Great Barrier Island with my partner Jill and the kids, building our stone house.
Then in 2002 I started commuting to Waiheke for work and I was on the island a year later when I got the devastating news that Jill had died suddenly at home on the Barrier. At the time, I was working on a stone bridge on what was previously George and Judy Hudson's property next to Stonyridge Vineyard. The kids and I moved to Waiheke and the Hudsons took us under their wing and treated us like family. The local community is like that. I still go to the bridge sometimes and think about Jill.
To be honest, for a long time I really didn't appreciate living on Waiheke. I think my heart was still on the Barrier, but then last year I commuted to a job in Auckland and that really brought it home to me that Waiheke is pretty damn good. I think the kids appreciate it too, because they commute daily to schools in Auckland and when they get back here it's like being in a different world. Morgan loves surfing and if the weather's right, he can surf every day after school. We're able to swim and dive in clean water, and at the moment there are plenty of snapper around.
It really is paradise in many respects and it's good for the kids too. They experience lots of down-to-earth things here - they learn about the sea and the bush, and they've acquired some good practical skills.
On a typical Saturday morning, Morgan and I get up and check out the surf on Onetangi Beach and then we wander along the beach to Charlie Farley's. They make great coffee and there's a really nice local atmosphere. I'm very fussy about coffee and that's how I pick my cafes. We also like Ricky's and Spice in Oneroa, and Island Thyme in Surfdale.
We eat pretty healthily and we shop at Waiheke Fruit and Veg for organic and specialty food and the local German bread. Hannan is basing her Year 12 art project on the store and has done some amazing drawings of vegetables.
About one night a week we'll get fish 'n' chips from Grub to Go by the Onetangi Service Station. It's just got new owners and it's good.
We feel lucky to live near Onetangi Beach. You can still dig for tuatuas and it's nice seeing people walking their dogs and just enjoying themselves. There's always something different going on - we've had bonito in the bay this year which the locals can't remember seeing before. It feels like a real ocean beach and is a pretty special place.
* Charlie Farley's, 21 The Strand, Onetangi, ph (09) 372 4106, open Tues-Sun, 8am till late. There's a great local vibe, the ocean is just across the road, and Lisa makes superb coffee.
* Ricky's Cafe Bar, 118 Oceanview Rd, Oneroa, ph (09) 372 2273, open seven days from 7 am and until late Fri-Sun. You can sit outside and read the paper and the coffee is consistently good.
* Waiheke Fruit and Veg, 110 Oceanview Rd, Oneroa, ph (09) 372 8866, open Mon-Sat 7.30am-6.30pm, Sun 8.30am-5.30pm. You can always find something different to boost a meal with.
* Grub to Go, 24 Onetangi Rd, Onetangi, ph (09) 372 3166 for hours. They have a good range of takeaways, including pizza and nachos