Affordable beachfront real estate in the Hokianga is becoming a major drawcard for many Aucklanders looking for a natural escape - with property sales more than doubling in the last year.
Three hours north of Auckland, along State Highway 12, sit the twin settlements of Opononi and Omapere with their long stretches of white beach, rolling sand dunes and royal blue sea, in a still sparsely populated area. The last census put the population at 414.
In 2015, Bayleys Real Estate agent David Baguley said 28 properties had been sold in the area, compared to 12 in 2014 and 13 the year before.
He said interest was growing in the once rather "depressed" market where there remained a number of vacant properties.
Among those buying into the market were a number of well-known figures, including former Black Caps captain Adam Parore, radio and television host Duncan Garner, radio host Kerre Woodham and writer Wendyl Nissen.
When Ms Nissen first bought her house near Omapere, in 2013, the market was so devalued her property valuer wouldn't make the trip out to look at it. He told her and her husband not to expect to get their money back.
But it was the area's relative lack of popularity that drew her in and made her want to spend the "rest of my life" there.
"I loved the vast, private, quiet of the area and the fact I could get away from my Auckland life."
Currently she only spends 50 per cent of her time in their beachside property, but hopes to make it more regular in the New Year.
Mr Baguley said the waterfront properties he sold tended to go to Aucklanders - five within the last two years.
"Aucklanders like the laid-back lifestyle the Hokianga can offer. It is quite anonymous, there is no pretence and they can feel quite at home."
He said it also offered better value compared to East Coast properties. Waterfront properties in the Hokianga tended to sell for around $400,000 to $600,000 compared to the million-dollar plus they sold for on the East Coast.
The place was put on the map in the 1955 when a dolphin named Opo played with children in the Hokianga harbour. Official protection was granted to the friendly bottlenose just a day before it was found dead. Opo was buried beside the local hall and is celebrated by a statue in Opononi.