Well after around 3 years of deliberating, evaluating and pontificating – not to mention travelling up and down the east coast countless times – we’ve finally decided where to move to when we leave Sydney: Robertson! In fact we’ve more than just decided – we’ve sold our Northern Beaches unit and bought a house there. Wahey!
Where’s Robertson, I hear you ask? It’s a large-ish village in an area south of Sydney called the Southern Highlands, which are 700m above sea level. Other towns in the area include Bowral (the home of Don Bradman), Mittagong, and Moss Vale.
It’s certainly not a place I’d heard of till about a year ago, but apparently Robertson is famous for its potatoes (hence it has a “Big Potato”). It’s also semi-famous because the movie Babe, about a talking pig, was filmed there (not that I’ve seen the film).
Good things about Robertson
There are loads of great things about Robertson and the Highlands:
- It’s relatively close to Sydney. Robertson is 90 minutes from the Harbour Bridge along the super-quick M5 (although in peak times we’re told it can be as much as 3 hours!). We don’t have to commute to Sydney, but it’s great to know it’s only an hour and a half away for occasional day-trips to see the sights and catch up with mates.
- It has beautiful countryside. Thanks to the cooler climate and lots of rainfall, the area around Robertson is full of emerald-green, rolling hills. Almost like being back in England! The area also has rainforest, spectacular views over the escarpment (including the new Illawarra Fly), and Blue Mountains-style scenery around Morton National Park to the west.
- It’s close to the coast. Although it’s in the Highlands, it’s only 35 minutes away from the beach. And what’s more, it’s a beautiful drive through lush rainforest and rolling hills.
- It’s full of people our age. Much as we loved towns like Milton, the census data shows that many of the rural towns we liked are retiree central. I suppose this is partly because they’re a long way from urban centres for jobs. Robertson, on the other hand, has lots of young families our age (at least according to the census).
- It’s affordable. Houses in Robbo (as the locals call it) seem very well priced, considering the generally desirable area and the relative closeness to cities like Sydney and Wollongong. For example, right now you can get a decent 4-bedder for $400k, whereas you’d be struggling to get a measly 3-bedder for that money 20 minutes away in Bowral.
- It has a decent pub. Robbo only has one pub – the Robertson Inn – but it’s a nice pub. Unlike some country pubs that look like they’re about to collapse, the Robbo Pub is modern, has a good range of beers, a good beer garden, and does grub, live music and trivia nights. What more do you need!
- It has good cafes and restaurants. Considering its small size, Robbo has a great selection of cafes, as well as the renowned Pizzas in the Mist restaurant and the inevitable Chinese restaurant in the bowling club. And, of course, the world-famous Robertson Pie Shop down the road!
Bad things about Robertson
Of course, nowhere’s perfect. Here are the minus points about Robertson in my opinion:
- The weather. Let’s face it: icy-cold winters, fog, and torrential rain hardly comprise typical Aussie weather. It’s certainly my number 1 concern about moving to the area. But on the other hand, it means beautiful countryside, less sweltering summer days, 4 distinct seasons for added interest, and cosy log fires in winter, so it’s not all bad!
- It’s small. I’ve never lived somewhere as small as Robbo – it only has around 1,500 people, and it’s fairly quiet as villages go, too. I hope we manage to make lots of friends there.
- It’s a bit isolated. It’s 15-20 minutes’ drive from the nearest library, cinema, and decent-sized supermarket (the one in the village is more of a convenience store really). I’ve never had to drive somewhere to go shopping before, so that’ll be a bit of a change. And, the way petrol prices are going, a bit scary. (And yes, I know 15 minutes is nothing in Aussie terms.)
- Bugger all public transport. We have a car now, but prefer to use public transport if possible. Unfortunately there’s basically no public transport in Robbo to speak of, apart from the occasional once-a-day bus. So your options to get out of Robbo are car, bike, or walk!
- The housing market is glacially slow. For some reason, houses in the Southern Highlands take ages to sell, but Robertson is particularly bad, with houses staying on the market for an average of 240 days. One house in Robbo has been on the market for over 5 years! This is not good if we hated the place and wanted to move an a hurry. Though there’s always renting I guess.
Bad points aside, I can’t wait to move (at the end of August) and have some space again! And a garden. And a cat. And clean country air, and no traffic jams. And a more relaxed pace of life. And a smaller mortgage. And… and…