Most Kiwis have been bewitched by at least one breathtaking, unexpected little bay, somewhere remote around our coastline. But how many of us knew there was one of these 15 minutes from Auckland's CBD, gazing at the city across the harbour from Chelsea Bay, Birkenhead Point?
Tania Bennett and Adrian Townsend did, well before they relocated to it from London with boys Tom, 12, Harry, 10, and Joe, 7.
Four years ago they wanted a change from their hectic central-London lifestyle. Adrian's a property developer and Tania had been in women's fashion retailing. Tania's brother lives in Ponsonby so they'd visited Auckland, musing about relocating.
They saw this property advertised on the internet when it held a sweet, modest circa-1918 villa. Its setting captivated them, being one of only three properties enjoying extraordinarily immediate waterfront access to this little-known bay, an easy walk to Birkenhead Point village and handy to town. They visited to see it first-hand.
"I thought, 'Wow, what a haven,"' says Tania. The 2277sq m property in two titles stretches from rear native bush with a stream to a front lawn bordering the dreamy little bay, nestled one bay around from Chelsea Estate Park.
Tania says: "We stood on the deck and I thought, 'This is absolutely amazing.' The sun was shining, the water was shimmering and it just looked like such a really relaxed lifestyle."
Living in a five-storey central London townhouse with a tiny garden had meant they couldn't even lie on the lawn at home relaxing with the boys.
They bought here, completing an extensive re-development in 2010 to create a meticulously finished three-level weatherboard home, melding period charm with luxurious modern convenience. Its sea views are gob-smacking.
The couple have met locals who hadn't known the bay even existed. There's no public road access down to its front foreshore strip, only paths including a waterfront track around from the Chelsea Sugar factory.
A secluded driveway leads to a parking deck bolstering a double garage with basement workshop and loft. Tania and Adrian's passion for architecture and decor resonates throughout the home, enveloped in decks and native landscaping.
The interior is full of natural light and vaulted ceilings, blending character origins with Scandinavian style. Specifications include gas central heating, air-conditioning, double-glazing, sound-proofing, a sophisticated media system, CCTV and alarms.
Visitors enter a mid-level reception hall, preceding a big open-plan living room with a reclaimed kauri feature wall. Wide macrocarpa floorboards continue past a restful sitting-room bay and arched windows inspired by originals, to a kitchen/dining/family room embracing the deck.
Detail and craftsmanship abound, from the kitchen bench hewn from one solid 40mm-thick piece of marble to an Egyptian fountain reinvented as a guest toilet handbasin.
The layout is versatile and brilliant for entertaining. This floor currently has two bedrooms, one with an en suite and another with a mezzanine level and a neighbouring bathroom.
Upstairs the front master bedroom with balcony and bank of wardrobes gazes seaward. An exquisite bathroom neighbours a rear bedroom (alternatively a dressing room) with balcony overlooking the pool.
The "garden floor" downstairs can be self-contained for guests. There's a kitchen/living room doubling as a home theatre, two bedrooms, a bathroom, laundry and a wine cellar/storeroom concealed behind a bookcase.
Mark Cashmore designed the rear pool complex with a heated in-ground pool with swim jets, contemporary spa and guest cottage/pool house. Its open-plan living/dining/kitchen with built-in indoor-outdoor multimedia system accompanies a bathroom and a bedroom with private deck admiring serene native bush.
Adrian says he treasures the freedom the location has given his family to swim, fish, explore and relax. They're reluctant to leave but are returning to Britain, as the boys are at an age when it's important they have their grandparents around.By Sandra Goodwin