Despite having spent little time in Taranaki, Scott Willson was always impressed by how passionate its locals were, even those that had left the region.

“Any time I met someone from Taranaki they were ultra-proud of it, and many would find their way back there to live after having kids or travelling widely abroad,” Scott says.

“I didn’t know much about the region, but knew it must have had something going for it!”

When a new family member – Avery – joined Scott and Monica, they started looking for an affordable lifestyle-friendly location to live.

“We were living and working in Wellington, and could see the financial pressure that owning a home there would put on us as a family. Housing prices had gone nuts.”

“We put together a checklist of what we wanted – less traffic, lower housing prices, a decent sized section, good mix of recreational opportunities for Avery as he grows up, and somewhere beautiful by the coast.”

The young family began looking around New Zealand for regions that ticked those boxes, and settled on South Taranaki and Otago as likely candidates.

“We’d never been to Opunake before in our lives, but came up for a look one weekend and loved what we saw,” says Scott. They returned permanently in September 2017.

“We’ve moved to Opunake and into a mortgage-free home that is larger and has a much bigger section. We’re able to bring up our son enjoying many of the things that were important to us as kids - simple things like climbing trees, playing in the yard, growing veges, and riding bikes – all of which are much easier now that we have the room to move.”

“Opunake would have to be the best-resourced small town in New Zealand. It’s got a world class sports centre, a beautiful golf course, vintage cinema, heated pool, walking and cycling tracks, beautiful coastline, lake – anything we could want for recreation is right here. I might even have to take up surfing this summer!”

“And then just up the highway in New Plymouth and down the road in Hawera we have all the shops and restaurants we need and New Plymouth has a great range of events to look forward to each year too.”

“Opunake is filled with beautiful murals, the cafes have good food and coffee, there are some really great boutique shops and plenty of people coming through the town each day. It all adds up to a really vibrant hub in a cool coastal town.”

While the family confess to missing K-Mart a little, and have to plan a bit better around things like supermarket and clothes shopping that aren’t on offer in the town, they’re loving the change from a one-hour commute to a wander down the hallway – Scott and Monica took the opportunity to build on their previous experience and launch a marketing, web and graphic design business called Family Creative.

“We’ve both got extensive experience in the industry and really enjoy the work, and saw an opportunity to be a locally connected business with the ability to work for clients anywhere in the world,” Scott says.

“We both loved out old jobs, and achieved a lot we’re really proud of, but now we are running our own business so we have more flexibility. We still work hard, but aren’t tied to the 9-5 routine, don’t have any traffic jams to deal with and the feeling of creating something yourself, from scratch is really rewarding.”

Building their own business has been a great way to get involved in the local community, joining the Opunake Business Association and the committee for the Opunake Beach Carnival.

“It’s been crazy how quickly we have got to know a lot of people in Opunake,” says Monica.

“Our neighbours are so friendly, we had met 6 sets of them in the first few days of being here. Another couple from Wellington moved in next door to us two days after we arrived and their dog has become best friends with ours – they sneak out and go next door when it’s play time!”

“We do miss out friends, but having a bigger house means they can come and stay with us any time, and we’ve got to know so many people in Opunake!”

The family are loving their transition to life in Taranaki, and are loving the time and space that the move has afforded them.

“We wish we’d done it sooner. Life is so good here! We love Wellington too, but for us right now, we wanted more space and more time together as a family and Opunake offers us exactly that.

“Where else in New Zealand can you get affordable housing in a region that has a stunning coast and a beautiful mountain that you can see clearly from just about wherever you are?”

“You’ll get more space, more time to be with those you love and you’ll find warm, friendly people and plenty of things to explore inside and out.”