Sarah Butcher loves to cook in her big kitchen knowing that much has come from her lifestyle block — even the olive oil.

There have been some great olive parties here, she says of the 1.29ha property where she and husband David have lived for about five years.

Sarah, who is English, met David, from the Waikato, in New Zealand. They lived in Sydney for some years, where they opened a commercial cleaning business, but decided they wanted to live back in New Zealand.

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So they came over to have a look around. for where they might settle. "We didn't want to be in the city again," says Sarah.

"We'd had enough of cities. We came up on a day trip and just fell in love with Matakana."

Six months later they returned to look for a property, and while they did look at a few other places, such as Dairy Flat, they kept returning to Matakana.

They liked the easy, laidback vibe, the vineyards and the nearby beaches.

"I mean, it's got everything really, and a well-serviced village."

The area had a "vibrancy" to it they liked and it still had the proximity to Auckland.

"We could still go for dinners and shows and come back again. You don't have to stay; it's that close."

Sarah says the size of the property they chose was ideal — not too big and not too small, and they were drawn to the two small paddocks of olive trees.

They had a lot of fun making the oil, which Sarah sold at the Matakana Village market.

"Our daughter's uni friends would come up and sleep on the floor and friends would arrive and pick all day and there'd be a big long lunch and pick a bit more in the afternoon and then take the olives up to the press and then have a big dinner in the evening."

She and David have also loved the property's location between Matakana and Warkworth, and its privacy.

"You just feel you're in a different world. The driveway's quite long so the house is set fairly well back off the road and you just feel like you're in a little oasis."

Sheep help keep the grass down under the olive trees so you don't have as much to mow and Sarah says the property would be great for someone who wanted to keep chickens and other animals.

It is large enough to hold functions — they held their daughter's wedding on the back lawn with a marquee, a band and a dance floor.

"She got married in the olive grove. There are some special moments that we've had."

The house is architecturally-designed and they think was built about 15 years ago.

They particularly liked the light and space — through the entranceway the cathedral ceiling rises about 6m in the central area.

Sarah says the house has been well-designed to capture the sun in winter when it's lower in the sky and to keep the house cool in the summer.

The open-plan living area flows out to a pergola-covered deck with grapevines and views over the back garden.

There is a wing with two double bedrooms and a family bathroom, and at the other end of the house is the master bedroom with en suite and walk-in wardrobe.

A few years ago they put in a new kitchen, which Sarah says is a pleasure to cook in and which she says flows really well to the outdoor space where they entertain and spend a lot of time.

Inside, every room has framed views that capture the seasons, and the previous owners put a lot of work in establishing the colourful landscaped gardens, which are now easily maintained.

A river runs down the back of the property and Sarah says people sometimes kayak up from Sandspit on the high tide.

She and David love to watch the abundant birdlife: "We sat in bed this morning watching two little kingfishers sitting in the tree and diving on the lawn and coming back with worms."

They also get fantails, masses of tūī, kererū and even kookaburras.

Sarah says they love Matakana's changing faces: "In the winter it has a more sedate village atmosphere and as we approach summer it starts to hum with the arrival of holidaymakers and visitors."

Although sad to leave their country haven, they have decided to move to a smaller property in Matakana Village.

661 MATAKANA RD, MATAKANA
• 3 bedrooms, 2 bathroom, 2 parking spaces.
• House 171sq m, land 1.29ha.
• Price: $1.8 million. Sale by negotiation.
• Inspect: Today 1-2pm, or by appointment.
• Schools: Warkworth and Matakana Primary, Mahurangi College.
• Contact: Jennie Georgetti 021 389236, Marie-Dominique Lennan 021 490039, LJ Hooker, oneroof.co.nz/1180077