My happy place is the cliff-top walkway at the southern end of Long Bay on the North Shore. The walkway has been part of my standard dog-walking route for about 13 years, and the northern outlook over the beach and Long Bay Regional Park is my favourite view in Auckland.

I've lived on the Shore all my life, so the beach is the main image I associate with home. I love it during the early evening with the waves all queued patiently and everything so quiet it's like the whole place has been waiting around with its feet up just in case I fancied a visit.

I normally take the cliff-top route a couple of times a week, and I always bring my labrador, Wanda, with me. Wanda isn't big on obedience - she failed guide-dog training and can be a bit of a handful even if you can see. But she can daydream with the best of them, so we get along just fine. There's a seat near the top where we like to stop and take in the view: the huge expanse of ocean ahead, and to the left the coast laid out in a long north-easterly sweep towards Whangaparaoa.

I've always found walking very restorative - Long Bay's sea view and sea breeze mix is a great stress sedative. It's also my prime daydreaming time - I've never succeeded in putting a story outline for a novel on paper and then actually adhering to it, so the only solution is to try and hash out the details while walking. During the writing of my second book, I hit a plot snag that needed three cliff-top visits a day for about two weeks. The dog and I got very fit.


For me the beauty of walking is that it represents a 30- or 40-minute window during which I can ignore everything except what I want to write, what I have written, and what needs to be backspaced. In that sense it always feels worthwhile - I've given my brain a nice reprieve from anything important, and I've devoted time to my hobby by ironing out what I next need to write or what I need to cull.

I love Long Bay because it encapsulates what it means to live on the North Shore, and it is one of those simple, free pleasures that I will always remember fondly whether or not I'm living in Auckland.

Ben Sanders is a bestselling crime novelist. His first book, The Fallen, was published when he was just 20. Three years on, his third novel about Auckland detective Sean Devereaux has just been released. Only the Dead is published by HarperCollins, RRP $24.99.