After living in Europe for many years, John and Margie Henderson returned to New Zealand and decided they needed a holiday home within two hours' drive of Auckland.

On Labour Weekend in 2001, they met an estate agent in Mangawhai, who told them what they were looking for might soon be available.

A week later, they returned to check out the agent's recommended property. It was in Eveline Street, and known locally as the "White House". After a second visit it belonged to the Hendersons.

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Sitting high on the clifftop, the simple yet elegant white bach was designed in the 1980s. It has a contemporary triple gabled aesthetic opening north through a staggered front elevation to expansive sunny decks.

John says he is indebted to designer Laurie Breakspear "for the skilful positioning of the side patio" which provides a sheltered living space with sun but still allowing sea views through the master bedroom.

"This is a favoured place for the family in the late afternoon/evening around the pizza oven."

The master bedroom with en suite gives John and Margie privacy from entertaining and guest rooms.

"When we're by ourselves, we live in the front part of the house and guests have their own space with a patio to the outdoors," says John.

"It's a great house for either a couple on their own or a house full."

The main living and dining area is where they spend most of their time, looking out across the Mangawhai Estuary to 180-degree views from the top of the Coromandel to Whangarei Heads.

The vista takes in Little Barrier, Great Barrier, Mokohinau, and the Hen and Chicken islands.

Apart from the house itself, John and Margie like the private location, with tidal water access and close proximity to the Mangawhai golf course.

A main focus for both of them has been improving access from the house to the picnic area by the beach.

Once, access was through a jungle of wild ginger and weeds. John and Margie cleared it out, laid top soil, gravel and concrete pavers, and planted native trees.

Now it's a walkway complete with robust steps and footbidges and where the native plantings are irrigated by natural spring water.

Today they take much pleasure every time they trek the path to the beach, acknowledging the peaceful presence of their Buddha and a sandstone sculpture.

During the 17 years they have owned the property, they have used it almost every weekend in summer.

The journey from their home in Remuera usually takes them an hour and 20 minutes.

When John had a business with about 10 staff, he always held Christmas parties here.

"They were a great success with kids down on the beach with barbecues. We'd also regularly have friends to lunch and being so close to Auckland made it feasible to come in the morning and return in the afternoon."

It will be a wrench to let this stellar coastal lifestyle go. But they're relocating to the UK to be closer to their boys and grandchildren.

John's looking forward to their new home, also called the White House. He jokes he has ordered his orange toupee and set up a Twitter account.

33 EVELINE ST, MANGAWHAI HEADS
• 3 bedrooms, 2 bathroom, 0* parking spaces.
• Land 1378sq m, Floor 130sq m.
• Auction: Nov 8, at QBE Stadium, Albany.
• Inspect: By appointment.
• Schools: Mangawhai Beach School, Rodney College, Otamatea High School (Maungaturoto).
• Contact: Craig Matheson, Barfoot & Thompson Mangawhai, 027 2184509, c.matheson@barfoot.co.nz, oneroof.co.nz/1206637
*6 OSP