Colourful boatsheds set the scene at friendly Titahi Bay, finds Elisabeth Easther.
Origin of name:
Titahi means one cabbage tree.
Famous locals: Professional golfer Michael Campbell, winner of the 2005 US Open, TV and radio personality Gary McCormick and actor Emmett Skilton of The Almighty Johnsons.
Also famous for: Many scenes from Taika Waititi's film Eagle vs Shark were shot here.
Town icons: The boatsheds on the beach.
Old news: Legendary explorer Kupe first stopped in here in the 10th century, and the place has been popular for water sports, holidays and farming ever since.
Wholly cow: Fable has it that, back in the 1800s, farmers would walk their cows across the causeway from Mana Island to Titahi Bay — but if the tide came in they had to swim. Really?
Big business: They don't do big business, rather they have a strong network of small business owners from plumbers to mechanics, electricians to artists.
Source of pride: Aside from being a warm and welcoming community, the Titahi Bay Surf Life Saving Club is a strong feature of life here with the members giving their time to patrol the beach and keep swimmers safe.
Town fiestas: Coming up on November 27 at 4pm is the first ever Titahi Bay Boatsheds Festival with owners opening their doors to let you peek inside these historic little buildings. There'll be artwork on display, community groups to chat to and, as it's Friday, it's also fish and chips night.
Here for a short time? From The Lifeboat Cafe down by the beach in Bay Drive, stroll along the pushchair-friendly path above the beach to view the sculptures made by local artists that depict the history of the area. With seating along the way, this is a great place to stop and reflect a while.
Best reason to stop: To walk along the beach, look at the boatsheds, build sand castles, swim, surf, fish off the rocks, and those views to the South Island and the sunsets over Mana Island have to be seen to be believed
Kids love: The beach of course and The Lifeboat Cafe where kids are not only welcomed they're also given paper and pens so they can create artworks to add to the walls.
Best park: At the south end of the beach, nippers love the big grassy bank — roly polying down the hill is especially popular.
Best playground: There are about five parks in the bay, all with swings and slides.
From The Lifeboat Cafe, walk up Bay Drive and turn left along Thornley St, then trot up the road to the top of Mt Cooper and the radio transmitter masts. If you've got the stamina continue down to Onehunga Bay and walk around the Onepoto Peninsula, this is a decent walk and will take a few solid hours.
Best view: From the top of Mt Cooper in Whitireia Park, look out to the South Island — on a clear day you can almost reach out and touch it.
Best place to pull over: On the road into Whitireia Park you'll find views along the northern coast across to Mana and Paremata, which is more of an urban vista.
Best swim: Titahi Bay of course, and it's a very safe beach for smaller swimmers.
Nice arts: Check out the artworks on the walls of The Lifeboat Cafe or pop along on Thursday at 11am for the Arts Chat, open to anyone who wants to show work, talk or make contacts. Plus, if you take a shine to some of the art on the wall, it can be bought.
Cream of the coffee: The Lifeboat Cafe not only does great coffee, they sell traditional ice cream sundaes, and those deck chairs out the front are great for lounging on and watching the world go by.
Baked: The Lifeboat Cafe again; their sweet treats and baked goods are all divine, As for the homemade pies, the most popular is currently pork belly and apple. Yum.
Best food: The Lifeboat Cafe of course. Their nachos are amazing and the fish pie always sells out. Be warned though, the portions are generous so doggy bags are happily supplied. Although do note, Angela is a vegetarian so sometimes customers are called upon to taste the meat dishes to check how much salt she needs to add. Even the milkman is expected to offer the services of his tastebuds.
Lend a hand: In summer it can sometimes be pandemonium at The Lifeboat Cafe, with a million customers all clamouring for attention at once, so the locals will sometimes slip out into the kitchen to clear the plates and load the dishwasher.
Wet your whistle: The best pub is in Whitby, about 10 minutes away, looking out over a pretty little lake.
Best cycling: The Southern Clifftop Walk (2.8km) welcomes bikers on its sealed sections, and the views out to Mana and the ocean are fab.
Best adventure: From Terrace Rd, tiptoe across the narrow causeway above the steeply sloping ditch to visit the pa site Te Pa o Kapo. Despite being over 400 years old, the site is mostly intact.
Best kept secret: At low tide you can view the remains of a 96,000 year old fossil forest, a remnant of vegetation from before the last ice age when the seas weren't quite so high.
Wildlife: Penguins can sometimes be spotted paddling in the bay, while geckoes live in the older buildings where they've been known to chew through electrical wiring.
Be warned: Lifeboat Cafe proprietor Angela is very fond of squidgy little babies, advancing on them in their pushchairs to steal a cuddle. If the mother protests, "but he's asleep", Angela will quickly put an end to that nonsense, and triumphantly reply "he's not now" before extracting said babe from his stroller.
Thanks to a group of lively locals for spilling the beans.