I hadn't made it to Matai Beach or Kerikeri or Doubtless Bay and Puketi Forest. And after hours of driving, I got closer and closer but was still an hour away over a windy mountain road.
All that doubt evaporated once I laid my eyes on Piha, a famous black sand surfing beach separated from Auckland by the rugged Waitakere Range.
The lodge is a little slice of heaven with a big open central space. Above is the view from my room.
It's an easy walk up the street and through the forest to Kitekite Falls.
There were lots of families from Auckland in flip flops with kids and dogs.
And these crazy people climbing.
After that I set off for the beach. The town reminds me of Stinson Beach.
That's Lion Rock. It's even better from the other side.
You can take a trail nearly to the top, but I left that to more ambitious people and splashed in the waves instead.
Lots of swimmers though the surf is chilly and a little dangerous.
The valley is stunning too.
Someone has rented out the beach house starting tomorrow so everyone staying here has to leave. A few people are flying home today.
We're all pretending that our trips aren't ending, enjoying late checkout (noon, an extravagance in New Zealand) and the sumptuous view surrounded by trees and birdsong.