Patricia Newell Dunkley –  Photographs Reginald J Dunkley.

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Website: Books “Letters of a Travelling Lady, Wallis the Woman I Love, The Complete Guide to Painting and Decorating Porcelain.” Available on Amazon and Xlibris.

Greetings from down under where the spring weather is doing its own thing with one day warm the next cold. The air is full of perfume from the many blossom trees and everyone is gearing up for summer. It is a good time to visit our neighbour New Zealand at this time of year, and the Cook Islands with plenty of extremely reasonable air flights, and wonderful opportunities for accommodation.

From the moment you touch down in Cook Islands and breathe in the heady scent of frangipani flowers, you will feel relaxed.

For those of you looking for a little paradise, this is it. The fifteen islands in the Cooks are located in the heart of the Pacific, halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand. An oasis of freedom with crystal blue waters, white sandy beaches, warm weather all year round and authentic, friendly locals. Under thirty minutes plane to any beach, it’s so easy to do as much or as little as you like in the Islands. Share the “Kia Orana” spirit and discover why everyone loves this special part of the world.

A little paradise means Aitutaki home to approximately 1800 people and the world’s most beautiful lagoon. It is only 220 km or 45-minutes flight from Rarotonga. Secluded and romantic, 15 Islets are sprinkled across this huge turquoise, sunlit lagoon. Aitutaki is unrivalled in the Cook Islands for water activities; discover countless varieties of brilliantly coloured tropical fish and marine life in the impossible blue of the lagoon.

When the sun goes down, the party heats up and the nightlife of the islands in the South Pacific is spectacular, whether it is friendly open-air bars, many on the beach soaked with local live music and stunning sunsets over the water.  Or the exotic exciting nightclubs, everyone is welcomed as family.

Ancient Cook Islands Polynesian culture is celebrated daily with vibrant Punanga Nui markets for music, dance and authentic local cuisine, arts and crafts include colourful quilts known as Tivaevae, or hand-made ukuleles, decorative wood carvings, tattoos and Tapa cloth designs. Weaving is part of everyday life and hats, fans, and mats are true local treasures.

The Annual Te Maeva Nui festival in August features spectacular dance and music performances at the National Auditorium and is a sight to behold.

While in New Zealand take the opportunity to visit Waiheke Island just a 35-minute ferry ride from downtown Auckland, here you will find a haven of beautiful vineyards, olive groves and glorious beaches. In landscape, lifestyle and experience Waiheke is a world away. The island boasts more than a dozen high-quality vineyards, many with comfortable restaurants onsite. You can savour the local wine while gazing out over vine covered valleys to the blue sea beyond.

The white sandy beaches at Oneroa, Palm Beaches and Onetangi slope gently down onto the Hauraki Gulf. They are perfect for swimming kayaking, strolling along or just having a picnic in the sun. Explore the islands trails which meander along cliff tops, down to beaches and into cool enclaves of native forest. Getting around is easy too, catch one of the regular ferries that run to Waiheke from Auckland.

Rent a beach house and wake up to the sound of the waves breaking on the beach, there are also friendly back packer’s hostels. It is all available motels, hotels or anything your heart desires.

white daisy

Artists and free-spirits mingle with the rich and famous on this blissful island, and you never know who you might meet. It is a haven of stunning beaches, gastronomical delights and intimate wineries. There are dozens of art galleries and craft shops to explore and elegant New Zealand wine to sample.  Enjoy!

Here at Shelly Beach all is fine with lots of birds flying into the garden, where the jasmine is fully out and filling the air with perfume. The Port Wine magnolia bush is dropping its deep red flowers and Princess Pixie the Pomeranian is having a good sniff around at everything.  Tuggerah Lakes Art Society is exhibiting work at our local shopping centre and there are lots of sales, so everyone is happy.

Cheers.   Patricia.