Romance is alive and well in Waimauku where Heather Wilson's Freshwater Cottages offer romantic getaway suites in a serene rural setting.
Heather has transformed 70 Mahana Rd from bare land to a spread with a main home, Honeysuckle Cottage and Rosebud Cottage plus a one-bedroom studio. She's renovated them in a quirky French country style, incorporating extras such as chandeliers and outdoor rooms with two-person Victorian-style slipper baths.
Future owners could further develop the business (www.freshwaterfarm.co.nz) which earns a base rate of $285 a cottage a night or use the cottages for extended family.
Heather bought here in 2006 after living in Australia. "I loved the privacy and seclusion - you can't see another home - and the fact that it was a blank canvas." She has an entrepreneurial background - having set up Kumeu's resort-style pet accommodation Critter Creek - and she tackled the development of this property in stages.
That first year she moved in an early 1930s or '40s railway cottage of native wood. Then she had Rosebud Cottage purpose-built to suit its position nestled on a ridge overlooking countryside and a neighbouring lake. Later, she added a double garage and a one-room studio near the main home and transformed another relocated building into Honeysuckle Cottage.
"I love doing up buildings and I love creating special outdoor spaces to go with them, like the cottages' outdoor rooms with slipper baths."
Rosebud Cottage has offered accommodation since October last year and Honeysuckle since January. Heather says she's been averaging takings of some $2000 a month each (with Honeysuckle commanding $850 for a whole weekend wedding-party package). The cottages are usually booked for anniversaries, romantic getaways or honeymoons, with eight wedding venues nearby.
"My motto for business is to exceed expectations and the feedback I've received from people who've stayed here has been amazing."
The sign at the gate, "Freshwater Cottages", refers to the property's three gentle natural springs, which have helped nurture the hundreds of trees and plants Heather's established to complement views over undulating countryside.
Her character-filled chihuahua, Deebee, provides an extra welcome to her home, so oblivious to his tiny size that he happily rounds up the cows Heather keeps in five fenced paddocks.
Rusticated wharf piles used throughout the property feature in the gazebo entrance to the main home's front deck.
Heather adores her master bedroom, which looks through the neighbouring bathroom to outdoors. There's another bedroom across the hall and native timber floors throughout.
Two sets of bifold doors unite the sunny living-dining-kitchen with a covered deck and an outdoor room. "I love the peace and seclusion of this home. It's been a haven for me. And I like living amongst nature - I practically live out there on my deck looking out at the beautiful plants and trees."
A fantail enjoys an inside visit most days, flitting around above the open-plan living's wood-burner with rock hearth, the heritage-style timber wall panelling (featured in all three dwellings) and the country-style kitchen with chunky macrocarpa bench.
Honeysuckle Cottage boasts decks, three bedrooms (a dusky pink one currently configured as a lounge), a kitchen-dining room, two luxurious bathrooms plus a third bathroom with slipper bath in a covered outdoor room.
One-bedroom Rosebud Cottage's deck fronts a romantic bedroom, kitchen-dining, polished en suite bathroom plus a dreamy covered outdoor room with slipper bath overlooking the countryside. The one-room studio is in the garden, as is the hen-house for 13 free-range chickens, which sometimes lay eggs in pot plants outside Honeysuckle Cottage.
Having developed the property, Heather's ready to split her time between a new project and visiting her partner's Malaysian property.