Clare Hamel, originally from Dunedin, and Arun Guin, originally from India, weren't looking for an ordinary modern house.

The couple had lived all over the world and arrived in this tranquil part of Mahurangi East because Clare has grandchildren on Auckland's North Shore, and Algies Bay is only an hour's drive from the CBD in off-peak traffic.

The pair, who are in their 70s, say when they came across this two-storey weatherboard 1980s build by accident three years ago, it had been empty for a while.

"It had a cat flap at the front door and I think most of the local cats had come through and left their calling cards," says Clare.


The house had the character they wanted, however, and the setting was to die for. They got to work and after a bit of love and quite a bit of money, the house is transformed, Clare says.

They put in a new en suite bathroom upstairs, fixed up a rotten floor, washed the cedar exterior and gave it a soaking with a good oil.

They also painted, and cut down some big trees to let the sunshine in.

Now, they love their house and the Algies Bay community and have had many great evenings either at neighbours' homes or the neighbours have been at their home, plus Clare's grandchildren love coming to play.

"We've had birthday parties for my grandchildren here. And in the summer, we love to sit outside at 4 o'clock on the deck with a glass of wine, and you can hear the birds," says Clare.

"It's magic. This is a beautiful, special place."

Clare made gardens with roses and wild flowers, and they gather firewood from the trees, which makes winters cosy.

In summer, they are just minutes from a swim at the sandy beach and they also have extensive water views from the house and decks.

The view is framed by native trees and you can see Kawau Island and all the boats on the water.

Clare loves the clean air and being able to hear the waves.

"I love being in the garden and being able to hear the seagulls. What we have particularly enjoyed lately are the antics of the herons."

Three fledgling herons were living in a totara but grew too big for the nest "so we watched these babies walking up and down on the branches and they were slipping and falling and squabbling".

Another thing she loves is waking up in the second floor master bedroom and looking out to a "cathedral of trees".

"We sit there in bed and have our cup of tea in the morning and it's almost mesmerising."

The house, she says, has a rustic, organic feel with timber joinery, an internal rimu staircase and multiple decks.

The location is great. It's about equal distance between Warkworth and Matakana and handy to everything, plus there's a good medical centre at nearby Snells Beach.

Arun says the property is "paradise". The international businessman named it Nilgiri after an area of natural beauty in India where there is lush bird life, tigers and deer.

"We found it very neglected and a completely run down property but we liked the character, elegance and beauty.

"We have restored it - it is the best home in my life."

Clare, however, is yearning for the mountains, so the couple are heading back to the South Island where she grew up.

On the web link