Malcolm and Erin Clark recall that they'd only gone across to "get a sniff" of Whangapoua the summer of 1992 when they'd been renting a bach at nearby Matarangi.

"We saw an old-fashioned beach community," remembers Malcolm. "The first day I went to the store to get the paper and bread, and a friend said 'come and see us'.

Three months later he called and said 'I want you to buy from us, go down and stay in the place'. We bought it. They took the food out of the cupboards and left everything for us."

The couple, whose daughters were then pre-schoolers, enjoy the simplicity of the house and, even more, the simplicity of the community.

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There's a local newsletter, a beach store that does double duty as the hub of the community, and fewer than 50 permanent residents in the 200 or so baches.

Locals (and that means the mostly long-term bach holders) are vocal about no changes to their special place, with vigorous lobbying for campaigns as large as saving New Chums Beach to more regularly blocking the installation of citified street kerbing, planting to protect the dunes and keep the tiny population of dotterel alive.

"It's very family oriented and very safe," says Erin. "There were lots of young families. The kids played on the beach until dusk and came home only when they were hungry. We
used it winter and summer, we'd come in December and not go back until early February.

Malcolm would commute to work in South Auckland."

The little bach was beautifully positioned on the beachfront, with views to Opera Pt headland, easy access to the safe harbour beaches and community boat ramp, but its upper deck had no access to the grounds below and it was gradually falling down.

In 2004, after Malcolm retired, the couple rebuilt the house in a similar style, a more modest house than the huge architectural statements of other beaches.

They cunningly organised the floor plan so that the ground floor is self-contained, with its own kitchenette for fridge, microwave and sink, as well as a bathroom, two bedrooms and living room. With daughters, now 26 and 30, living in the South Island and Japan, it is a great way of sharing the house for long stays.

Outdoor living for both floors meets in the middle with an extensive raised deck.

Surrounded by built-in seating, it is perfectly sited for the sun and is everyone's favourite daytime spot in the summer. The Clarks say dozens of kids would come to stay over the holidays, camping on the lawns.

Upstairs is Erin and Malcolm's territory. The front of the house — living room and master bedroom — opens through ranch sliders to a glass-fronted deck. Erin says that when she stands at the kitchen bench it feels as if she is right on the water.

They sleep with the doors open, so they can enjoy the peaceful sounds of the waves lapping on the beach.

The couple chose hard-wearing materials for their bach to withstand coastal conditions — a 25-year guaranteed Palisade siding, seaside-quality Colorsteel roofing and kwila decking outside. Inside, there is engineered Canadian hardwood flooring (it was updated two years ago) and Italian tile floors that withstand chipping.

Erin liked the bamboo-effect of the cabinets, still timeless after 13 years, and the couple is pleased with the Fisher and Paykel appliances they installed.

Naturally the kitchen bar is the favourite gathering spot for family and guests to help the cook. A deck on the street side of the house gets the last of the afternoon sun and is a great spot for watching the sun go down.

The lounge around the corner has a sofa custom-made to fit the space, and this plus all the furniture, apart from a couple of chairs, is being sold with the house.

There are two more bedrooms upstairs and a roomy bathroom. An interior designer neighbour helped pick out the deep grey-blue colours for the bedrooms, soothing shades that draw the ocean into the house, says Erin.

Below the deck is a carport to supplement the single garage, and Malcolm also updated an old boatshed on the corner of the property. There's a hot outdoor shower for swimmers returning from the beach.

"Whatever the tide, you get a swimmable, safe beach here," says Malcolm. "The attraction is that there's nothing else there. We love the place, but we're travelling extensively and will continue to, so we don't want it to sit empty. It's time to give it up and let it be used by the next family."