Five years ago, Rachel Osborne went searching for a rental property out of Auckland but instead bought a weekender on the edge of the Kaipara Harbour — "as you do when you come across something super-cute", she says.
Truth be told, it was the pretty blue and white Minniesdale Chapel at Wharehine, further along the same road as her cottage, that piqued her interest in the district.
"The chapel wouldn't look out of place in Greece, with its crisp white and blue paintwork," she says. She got out of her car to have a closer look and was struck by the peacefulness. "The only sounds were the bumble bees and the fantails."
Then she spotted the cottage, known as Armitage Cottage, and the owner told her about its history. It had been built around 1880 by William Armitage, one of the original Albertlander settlers from England.
(Albertland refers to this area west of Wellsford, the site of the last organised immigration settlement from Britain in 1862. Settlers included farmers, carpenters, butchers, cabinetmakers, millers, drapers, sawyers and clerks.)
Rachel could see the cottage would benefit from some TLC and started planning renovations.
Fresh paint inside and out. White curtains and new lights were added, wooden floors were polished. The house was treated to a makeover while still honouring its heritage.
She updated the kitchen with Samsung appliances, and a wood burner now easily heats the whole house.
"It is as lovely to come here in the winter as it is in summer," she says.
Rachel uses the front room as a master bedroom. There's the dining room, kitchen and lounge which steps down to another lounge area, at a height to make the most of the views.
A hallway to the back of the house leads to a queen-sized bedroom, toilet, bathroom, and a single bedroom. A workshop has been converted to another queen-sized bedroom.
The living areas and kitchen open to the picturesque veranda. Another deck is on the northern side.
"The views from here are spectacular," says Rachel, referring to the rural surrounds and the extensive views over the Hargreaves Basin of the Kaipara Harbour. And while her weekender was built in cottage form, Rachel says it has villa style ceilings and skirtings, and large windows that capture the views.
She loves that she and her visitors have the run of a whole hectare. If children are staying, they head outside to make their own fun in the paddock. Rachel regularly takes a jet ski out on the Kaipara and knows a couple of good fishing and swimming spots. Jet skis can be launched at nearby Port Albert.
And because she can be at her cottage in just one hour and 10 minutes door-to-door from her Takapuna home, she has been able to get there for weekends at least two or three times a month.
"It is a great place to bring friends as it is in the middle of nowhere, but still only 25 minutes from Wellsford. Port Albert has a great grocery store where you can get coffee, fish and chips and essentials. And this is close to Matakana, Langs Beach and Mangawhai."
Rachel says the area has a lovely community vibe. The chapel that first caught her eye is looked after by locals who organise a service once a year. And the community also runs a "welcome inn" at the Wharehine Hall for people new to the district. "There's a local band playing, and everyone takes a plate. And I've been to people's olive groves and helped them pick olives to press into oil.
"When we're not home, our neighbour keeps an eye on the house. He runs his stock on our grass to keep it down. And if he sees any strange cars on the road, he makes a note of their registration.
"It is a really safe place."
The only reason Rachel is selling — reluctantly — is to buy a home in Auckland.