Joys of unwinding at Woodend
I go there alone when I need to think and I take my favourite people there.
It's only a beach, they say. But the beach at Woodend is so much more.
Eleven years ago my family and I spent our first Christmas in New Zealand picnicking and paddle boarding at Woodend. I've returned there ever since.
The 30-minute drive is worth it and the moment I hit the road and head north I feel a genuine sense of relief, knowing I'm on the way to my happy place.
The car park is never full when I arrive - because I never visit on a hot weekend day - and despite the cold I force myself to take off my shoes and socks and leave them in the car. I tiptoe across the damp ground and start the short, steep walk up the sand dunes.
It smells like pine cones and salt and I hear the waves breaking before I've hit the top and am rewarded with the view.
From the top of the dunes the vastness of the beach is hidden and the sea is still a few hundred metres away. I make my way down to the shoreline allowing the sand to bury my feet with each step.
Then I pick a direction. I make the decision based on whether I want the wind on my face or at my back, and then I walk. Left or right, the beach seems endless. To the left, the coast curves and there's a line of evergreen trees on the horizon.
A few years ago my mum and I challenged ourselves out of sheer curiosity to walk to the tree line. Two hours later, mum gave up and plonked herself on the sand bank.
I was determined to reach the trees so I started jogging on the wet sand but they still seemed so far away. I could hear mum calling out to me so I turned back and we laughed as we readied ourselves for the long walk back to the car. I will walk to those trees one day.
To the right of the beach, New Brighton Pier and the Port Hills can be seen. Once I've hit the trees I'm determined to follow the beach as far as I can to try to reach the pier. The mouth of the Waimakariri River poses a problem but I'm sure they'll be a way around it.
I've seen horses, children, dogs, quad bikers and couples make their way up and down this land of rosy cheeks and windswept hair. Woodend Beach never fails to calm my mind and put a content smile on my face.