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Every summer, thousands of Kiwis dust off their tents, fill the car with camping gear and seek out the perfect holiday location. For the Greaves family, of Christchurch, and their friends, Moeraki is the ideal spot. They risked exposing their secret to tell Rosie Manins why.
Ray Greaves (31) has spent most summers camping at the Moeraki Village Holiday Park since he was about 5 years old.
His father was taken to the camping ground as a child by his parents, and so Mr Greaves was a third-generation camper and his children among the fourth generation.
Every year for about two weeks during the Christmas holidays the Greaves family set up a tent village at the camping ground, where they were joined by families of friends.
Moeraki catered to every need while retaining its small community charm, Mr Greaves said.
Children could safely wander from the camping ground to the beach without crossing a busy road, ride their bicycles around the village, fish from the wharf and entertain themselves at the local playground.
Dolphins, seals and penguins were easily found around the coast, ensuring city folk a healthy brush with nature.
The camping ground also allowed dogs.
And, of course, Moeraki boasted excellent fishing.
''It's just the feel of it, a small community feel - a bit more knitted together. It's safe bringing kids here and there's plenty to do,'' Mr Greaves said.
His wife, Charlotte, could not think of one thing a Moeraki holiday lacked.
''It's a home away from home. It's kind of ideal ... pretty damn close to perfect I think,'' she said.
''You see the kids when they're hungry and it's great. You don't have to worry.''
This year, Mr and Mrs Greaves were joined by each of their parents, Mrs Greaves' aunts and uncles, family friends Margaret and Gary Brand, and some of the family's neighbours from Christchurch.
Their dogs, Willow and Moose, were also on holiday, along with 12-week-old German short-haired pointer Carson.
''Willow is about to have pups so she may be having them here at the camping ground if we don't get home in time. The ability to bring your dogs is a big drawcard because not many camping grounds allow that,'' Mr Greaves said.
His family enjoyed going on walks, trips to the Moeraki boulders, fishing charters and jaunts to Oamaru or Dunedin if the weather packed it in.
But most of their time was spent relaxing in the sun, making the most of being in a relatively unpopulated and quiet area.
''Some camping grounds have hundreds of people, which can be a bit much. This is a nice size and has a great feel about it,'' Mr Greaves said.
When the fishing charters started, he stopped bringing his own boat down from Christchurch, to save the hassle.
The charters, and subsequently smaller number of vessels in the water, had helped replenish the crayfish and paua stocks, he said.
Blue cod, perch and groper were most commonly caught and served up for lunch or dinner.
''As a kid, I used to go down to the boat ramp and there would be people waiting in line to launch their boats. There would be 40 or 50 boats in the whole time.
''Now, everyone sticks to the gentlemen's number of 25, although I think 30 is the limit,'' Mr Greaves said.
Moeraki's camping ground had always been full and bookings were essential, he said.
Over the years, the owners had kept improving amenities, which were always immaculate, Mrs Greaves said.
The Moeraki village itself had escaped over-development, although Mr Greaves had seen the establishment of Fleur's Place and the opening of the local watering hole.
''It's been the source of some great friendships. We see familiar faces each year but also new ones, as well,'' he said.
''But, of course, you can't print any of this. We don't want anyone to know how good it is,'' Mrs Brand chimed in.
Catch me if you can ... Cousins (from left) Ciara Kennedy (10), of Sydney, Hannah Bond (10), of Oamaru, and Michaela Kennedy (7), of Sydney frolic in the Moeraki waves.
Idyllic ... Christchurch couple Charlotte and Ray Greaves (left) relax with friends Gary and Margaret Brand, also of Christchurch, at their favourite holiday spot in Moeraki.
PHOTOS: GERARD O'BRIEN
Unspoiled ... Moeraki's small size attracts holiday-makers from the city, keen for some peace and quiet.
Child's play ... Archie Wood (4), of Christchurch, is entertained by Carson, a 12-week-old German short-haired pointer, at the Moeraki Village Holiday Park.
Rods at the ready ... Siblings Laura (14) and Hamish (10) Masters, of Christchurch, try their luck fishing off the Moeraki wharf.
Dog days of summer ... Christchurch pets Moose (left) and Willow make the most of being taken camping at Moeraki Beach.
Sunbather ... A seal soaks up the sun on the beach.