Sarah Jane Stein tells Catherine Smith how she, husband Burkhard and son Ashton have become Huia natives.

We've been here for 16 years so we're nearly locals, we qualify now. And we're members of the Huia Fishing Club, so that makes us real Huians. It took us a while to pluck up courage, but it turned out quite well.

We came here because we wanted to find a nice community and now we have it. We have lovely neighbours with a gate between properties so you can walk over and get a cup of sugar - that's a bit of old fashioned New Zealand.

We were both international flight attendants but once I had our son, I had to get to know people. As soon as you decide, it's great.

It's only a long way out here the first time - off-peak it's 35 minutes to downtown, and once you get past Titirangi, you're in holiday mode.


Ashton takes the bus to school in Laingholm, half an hour away. The driver, Carl, used to run council, pubs, he's the real heart of the community. In February he runs the local farm open day; it's an amazing place with kunekune pigs, chickens, ducks. In spring he often carries a baby lamb on the bus - all the kids know him in Huia and he has them all in line. Ashton loves it when I go to pick him up as I can catch up with what's happening in the school community. It's an eco-school, only 350 pupils, it reminds me of school when I grew up in Christchurch. There are lots of artists, actors and musicians, lots of young families here because it's affordable. The houses were all little baches, now just added on to.

My husband is from Germany and at first we looked at Titirangi, but for a bit more of a drive we get a sea view.

The Huia Beach Store is a great place, we get a lot of attention. They have Rocket Kitchen cakes and the most amazing fish and chips and burgers, plus icecream cones.

The beach is tidal. At high tide the water is so warm it is like a bath. I'm not allowed to say where the best swimming holes are ...

From here we take the Karamatura loop track, which is a really easy walk to the waterfall and a swimming hole - it's freezing, but gorgeous. With our black lab, Hatchi, we're always walking in the bush or beach - it's a dog paradise. We know about 20 dogs on our beach. It's magic at sunset - that's when we always take visitors down to the beach.

Mt Donald McLean, on Whatipu Rd, is the highest point in the Waitakeres. it's a 10-minute walk and on a clear day you can see Mt Taranaki.

We go to the caves, they used to have boats from Onehunga come over for dances. We can take a torch and crawl on our tummies - but it's not for the faint-hearted.

Sarah Jane's Picks
* Huia Beach Store and Cafe 1194 Huia Rd, Waitakere. Ph (09) 811 8809

* Karamatura loop walk and Mt Donald McLean walks Huia Rd. Gate opening hours: Summer, 8am-9pm; winter, 8am-7pm. For maps and instructions see here