Rob Cox and family play human snooker and study the art of horseshoe pitching on Waiheke Island
It was supposed to be a quiet morning in Matiatia, a rest day of sorts. Yet there we all were yelling our heads off, sledging, booing, showing appalling sportsmanship toward our kin in what turned out to be the most competitive family match we've ever had - and it was entirely the owner's fault.
Our day started at Matiatia beach, on Waiheke Island. A truly stunning spot and one I can't remember during my first trips to Waiheke. I guess I always thought once you landed in Matiatia and hopped off the ferry, the first thing you needed to do was walk or bus up into town. Well forget that, the bay, beaches and park area make it the perfect spot to relax for the day ... well that was the plan.
Across from the ferry building and wharf is the Waiheke Adventure Centre. Ross, the owner has been running kayaking adventures out of there for years and has expanded his list of activities to include mini-golf, bumper balls, windsurfing and for all you Hunger Games diehards, archery tag!
We started the morning quite calmly with an enjoyable game of mini-golf; that is until my son Johnny and his best mate Justin saw the bumper balls.
It's a bizarre thing to watch. These giant inflatable balls rolling around the field with kids inside them, bouncing off each other like they're in a game of snooker. My daughter Evie, 10, wanted in, and then it was all on. If you want to completely knacker your kids in only a few minutes, I can't recommend it highly enough.
Next up, kayaking. The set-up is great, you can kayak under the wharf and watch the stingray underneath. While we did this, my wife Kate took Evie along the beach to study the beautiful rocks, shells and seaweeds.
Everything was going swimmingly until the horseshoe pitching. Before we were even allowed to start playing, Ross, who is a very quirky character, took us through the rules and history of this sport. There were many rules and there was so much history. Did you know the Americans tried to make it an Olympic sport? Me neither.
The etiquette of the game matched that of golf, the abuse you were allowed to inflict on each other matched cricket back in the 1970s. The kids loved it, especially the thrill of hearing that magical sound as the shoe clangs against the iron stake. When it was my turn, Kate passed me the shoes, then gave me the compulsory pat on the back that nearly re-corrected my spine.
In the end I promised the family that I would find an official horseshoe pitching set this year, as we have some unfinished business to settle ... because I won.
We'd obviously worked up an appetite, and just across the park from the Adventure Centre is Ahipao. The food at this cafe was so good, and the fudge you get with your coffee is dangerous. We also treated ourselves to a real fruit icecream from the totally cool old Kombi van, which has been converted into an icecream van, out on the lawn.
The real seller for us though was the beautiful grounds. Ahipao has a great area indoor space to dine in, but on a sunny day, their outdoor area is hard to beat. Picnic tables, bean bags on the lawn, bar seats and leaners out on the deck, all protected by a colossal tree which gave us the perfect shade.
In the same building, to the right of the cafe, you will find a cool shop selling all sorts of gorgeous interior bits and pieces but mainly cashmere wool garments, from their own cashmere factory on-site. I was hoping not to turn the day into another shopping trip, but hey . . .
We stayed at Ahipao for ages, there are more walks and lovely beaches to explore in the area but we were happy to chill out where we were; though none happier than me ...
because I won.
To find more information about Waiheke activities and attractions, go to tourismwaiheke.co.nz