Peter Robinson and Anne Van Dyke feel like the king and queen of the castle, living in their Californian bungalow on top of a hill with harbour and forest views stretching out below.
Anne, a travel writer and correspondent with radio shows and breakfast TV slots to her name, says the rural setting is quintessentially New Zealand but she can also see similarities to favourite overseas spots. For instance, Canada with the lake-like setting of the Kaipara harbour and pine trees, and in summer when the rolling hills take on golden tones, Anne is reminded of Tuscany and California where she lived for 20 years.
"It is an amazing combination of the world. People visit and say this is the most beautiful view in the North Island. It is stunning with the water as well as the forest."
The couple bought the 2.2415ha property in November 2011. They wanted somewhere that was no more than one hour from the CBD, a private driveway and no more than 4ha. They also wanted enough land to live the good life, to grow fruit and veges and graze sheep and alpacas. "We wanted privacy but I didn't want to be isolated in case of emergency," says Anne. "By accident we were driving around to look at other properties ... and we saw the sign.
"Here was this house on a hill with a grove of trees. And, oh, the views. We call them jaw-dropping. It has double views, nearly 180-degrees of the Kaipara and up the back is the Tasman Ocean and you see the sun set.
"Like a lot of baby boomers, our children had left home. For once we didn't have to be affected by school districts and we were both in stressful jobs. We were in Parnell and we escaped to the hills."
At first, Peter and Anne allowed neighbours to graze stock in their paddocks, taking lamb or venison in lieu of payment. Now they run alpaca and sheep but still barter excess heritage apples for neighbours' plums. The property also has a sleep-out and a barn.
They have been finishing renovations on the 1940s Californian bungalow, moved to the land in the late 1970s. Peter, an electronics engineer, and Anne have worked hard to bring it up to its present immaculate condition. "Peter is an amazing DIY-er, hugely
talented," says Anne.
They especially appreciate the bungalow's tongue-and-groove details, the living area's large picture windows and the stained glass doors opening to the wraparound deck and spa pool. Visitors always comment on the "Upstairs Downstairs" laundry/pantry with tongue-and-groove cupboards and pull-down airing rack.
The home's layout is open plan, with kitchen, dining and living. The master bedroom is private, sitting across the hallway from the other two bedrooms. "It is a logical, well-thought-out layout," says Anne. A craftsman installed the bespoke wooden kitchen, with its Scandinavian lines, Hettich cabinet fittings and high-end Swedish and German appliances.
The home's wooden floors have various finishes, polished in the shared living space, and stained for the entrance hallway and master bedroom. Sisal carpet was chosen for the other bedrooms and hallway. The living area's Belgian linen curtains frame exquisite water views, and in the master bedroom the curtains are Irish linen curt, a nod to Peter's heritage.
"At night I pull back the drapes and go to sleep looking at the stars," says Anne. "When we are in the spa pool we have a competition to see who can see the first shooting star."
But now the couple are selling. "Like a lot of Auckland baby boomers we are moving out, probably going south and then maybe we will live overseas."
She imagines their home will appeal to people fleeing the city, and families. "And it is horse country."
She says South Head was once regarded as a hidden backwater; but that is changing. "People are moving from overseas, farms are being cut up, you have international entrepreneurs, amazing craft people, families that have been here since the first settlers.
"South Head is not a long way anymore. I can drive home from the city in rush-hour traffic and it takes an hour. That is one of the reasons we chose it, it was far enough but near enough. It is a piece of paradise, definitely."