Archive for the ‘Leaving Sydney - Where to Live?’ Category

We’re moving to Robertson!

Wednesday, July 16th, 2008

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.


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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). (more…)

Where to live: Milton?

Thursday, June 12th, 2008

We’re planning on leaving Sydney in the next year or so, due to starting a family and needing a 4-bedroom house. But where to move to? The choice is overwhelming. In this series of posts, I explore a plethora of possible places – many of which we’ve visited – in an attempt to reach some sort of conclusion. Next up – Milton.

Milton is a charming little village on the New South Wales south coast. It’s about 3 hours’ drive south of Sydney, near the old fishing port of Ulladulla.


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The general area is holidaymaker territory, with beautiful beaches, swimming inlets, laid-back atmosphere and holiday cabins aplenty. Milton itself has a bit of an alternative vibe, a great vegetarian cafe, 2 semi-decent pubs, live music, a part-time library and a good IGA supermarket. It’s only 6km from Ulladulla for shopping, and close to the sea – in fact, houses with sea views are affordable for us (wow!).

Ulladulla itself is an OK but not particularly attractive medium-size coastal town. Mollymook, slightly to the north, has beautiful beaches and the stunning Narrawallee Inlet, which in summer looks like something out of a Bond movie with its deep blue water and sandy beaches. Perfect for swimming.

When we first visited Milton we fell in love with the area, and decided it was the place for us. We pooh-poohed the 3 hours’ drive from Sydney, convincing ourselves we’d hardly ever visit the city anyway.

What’s not to like?

So why haven’t we moved there? Well, the area does have its drawbacks.

First of all, it’s not just 3 hours’ drive from Sydney, it’s a good 2 hours’ drive from anything even vaguely approaching a city. Now I understand this is fairly normal for rural Australia, but it’s a bit scary coming from the UK – from that perspective, it’s the equivalent of the Outer Hebrides or something. Ulladulla itself isn’t particularly big, or good for shopping. The nearest “big” towns are Nowra (a dump, by all accounts) and Batemans Bay (which again, isn’t great for shopping either).

Second – presumably partly due to the lack of anything big nearby – it has the highest unemployment rate in Australia. Not NSW – Australia. I kid you not. I think it’s currently running at over 10 percent. The strange thing is, you wouldn’t know it to look at it. It’s not like there are crack-heads robbing you at gunpoint or beggars on every street. Nonetheless, there’s something about 10 percent unemployment that gives me the willies. Possibly not the best area to raise a family.

Finally – and I don’t want to appear ageist – the area is very much a retired person’s thing. The median age is 47, compared with the Australian average of 37. It feels like a place you would retire to (or visit on holiday), rather than a place you’d move to to bring up a young family.

But would we move there?

Despite these drawbacks, Milton’s a lovely place, the scenery is great, the people are friendly and chilled-out, and it’s close to the beach. So for these reasons, it’s still very much in the running for us.

Where to live: Blue Mountains?

Monday, March 24th, 2008

We’re planning on leaving Sydney in the next year or so, due to starting a family and needing a 4-bedroom house. But where to move to? The choice is overwhelming. In this series of posts, I explore a plethora of possible places – many of which we’ve visited – in an attempt to reach some sort of conclusion. Next up – the Blue Mountains.

The Blue Mountains is a mountainous (Swiss people would call it “hilly”) area west of Sydney. It’s an area that has always appealed to us, ever since we moved to Australia. It has a winning combination of stunning scenery and lookouts, excellent bushwalking, relaxed atmosphere, and great shopping and dining. Another plus is that it’s big on natural therapies, which is great for my wife’s Bowen Technique and meditation business. Houses are very affordable too.


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About the area

The “Blueys” can be split into the Lower Mountains, and the Upper Mountains. We’re more keen on the Upper Mountains area; it’s further from Sydney, but it has wonderful scenery and it’s cooler in summer. The Lower Mountains area turns into an oven on some summer days.

The main towns in the Upper Mountains are Katoomba, Leura, Wentworth Falls, and Blackheath. We’d consider moving to Leura or Blackheath, which are both small, lovely towns. (The biggest town, Katoomba, doesn’t seem as nice, though it has the biggest range of eateries.) When we visit we nearly always stay at Bethany Manor B&B in Leura – a place I can highly recommend for its quiet, laid-back atmosphere, luxurious (and huge!) spa baths, welcoming hosts, and superb breakfasts.

The Upper Mountains are generally a bit cooler than Sydney in the summer, and a lot cooler in winter; it can even snow sometimes. I find the cold winters slightly off-putting as I like warm weather. It does mean that the area has four distinct seasons though, with beautiful, European-style trees and gardens. All the main towns are well connected by train to Sydney, though the two hour journey from Sydney Central to Leura is a bit of a slog.

View from a lookout in the Blue Mountains

So what’s not to like?

As a place to live, the Blue Mountains have two main drawbacks for us. Firstly, they’re a long way from the sea; according to Google Maps, it takes 1 hour 55 minutes to drive from Leura to Bondi (its nearest beach!). Secondly, you get the impression that, as an economic area, it’s not going anywhere; property prices and population have remained practically static the last few years, and there’s not a great deal of new industry springing up. (This is partly due to all the towns being on a ridge, so there’s not a lot of land for agriculture or industry.) Unemployment is fairly high, and there’s not a lot of activities for kids, so it’s possibly not the best place to raise a family.

Still, drawbacks aside, the Blueys does look like a nice place to live if you’re after peace and quiet, beautiful scenery, a cooler climate, and a relaxed atmosphere.

Where to live: Jamberoo?

Tuesday, February 26th, 2008

We’re planning on leaving Sydney in the next year or so, due to starting a family and needing a 4-bedroom house. But where to move to? The choice is overwhelming. In this series of posts, I explore a plethora of possible places – many of which we’ve visited – in an attempt to reach some sort of conclusion. Next up – Jamberoo.

We’d spent a long time looking at towns north of Sydney, but nothing really seemed to appeal. So we started searching south. Cat suggested Jamberoo, as it was a pleasant-sounding village in beautiful countryside.

It really is a nice place. Small (around 1,000 people), with attractive buildings and a great village atmosphere. It’s only 10 minutes’ drive from Kiama and the sea, and 1 hour 40 minutes from the Harbour Bridge. The countryside is simply stunning, with lush green rolling hills (it’s dairy country), and spectacular views to the escarpment to the west. It’s very English; in fact it even has dry stone walls, which are very rare in Australia. A chap called Thomas Newing brought over the skill from Kent.


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To add to the English theme, the Jamberoo Pub is a marvellous mock-Tudor affair, with a good atmosphere and a decent selection of beer. A decent pub is certainly one of my priorities!

Jamberoo Pub

There are lots of great bushwalks in the nearby national parks – another of my priorities – with some wonderful views from lookouts such as Saddleback Mountain. The locals are friendly and laid-back, and the whole village has a relaxed, welcoming feel. And if we ever fancy a Gold-Coast-style break away from it all, the Jamberoo Action Park is just up the road!

The only real drawback to Jamberoo is the property prices – you’ll be pushing it to get a 4-bedder under $500k. When we first looked there were a couple around the $450k mark, but we were lucky (or you might say unlucky, since we didn’t buy one of them!). Other more minor concerns are the lack of decent public transport (so one of us would be stranded at home while the other went out in the car), and the quiet nature of the village – there’s really not a lot to see or do in the village itself.

We do really like Jamberoo though, so if something comes up in our price range, we’ll be very tempted…

Where to live: Kiama?

Thursday, February 7th, 2008

We’re planning on leaving Sydney in the next year or so, due to starting a family and needing a 4-bedroom house. But where to move to? The choice is overwhelming. In this series of posts, I explore a plethora of possible places – many of which we’ve visited – in an attempt to reach some sort of conclusion. Next up – Kiama.

Kiama is a reasonably large coastal town about 1 hour 40 minutes south of Sydney. It’s famous for its blowhole – a hole in the rocks where the sea crashes through, sending spray high into the air. (It’s been known to claim a few unfortunate souls who stood too close to it!)


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In theory, Kiama should be the perfect place for us. It’s not too far from our friends and the attractions of Sydney; it’s by the sea, and has some reasonably nice beaches; it’s a decent size. But there’s something about Kiama that doesn’t quite gel for us. It feels very suburban and, indeed, is almost a suburb of Wollongong these days. The shops and cafes don’t seem particularly nice or welcoming, and the town seems to have a bit of a down-at-heel vibe to it somehow. People don’t seem as friendly as they do in many other small towns in New South Wales. It doesn’t seem to have much of a sense of community. Maybe this is just subjective stuff – who knows?

It’s also pushing our budget somewhat; we’d have to wait a while to find a 4-bed house in our price range. We did actually look at a house that we could afford – I think it was $430,000 – and it seemed OK, but not many come up at that price. It was also suspiciously near the main highway, so I suspect trucks at night could have been a problem. (Always worth visiting potential houses late at night if they’re near big roads, just to check!)

On the plus side, Kiama is pleasant enough as a place to visit, with attractions such as the blowhole, feeding pelicans, a lighthouse, and lovely scenery to the west. I’m just not sure it’s the right place for us to settle down.

Where to live: Morpeth?

Saturday, December 15th, 2007

We’re planning on leaving Sydney in the next year or so, due to starting a family and needing a 4-bedroom house. But where to move to? The choice is overwhelming. In this series of posts, I explore a plethora of possible places – many of which we’ve visited – in an attempt to reach some sort of conclusion. Next up – Morpeth.

Morpeth is a sleepy little village of just over 1,000 inhabitants. It’s on the edge of the Hunter valley, northwest of Newcastle, and sits on a gentle bend of the Hunter river.


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Unlike many country towns in Australia, Morpeth actually has a bit of history to it, which appeals to us. It used to be a river port, transporting coal and people via steamer to Paterson, Maitland, Newcastle and Sydney. The village is full of historic sandstone buildings, including the riverside Arnott Bakehouse, owned by the original Arnott family (of biscuit fame). In fact the village is so historic that it has National Trust status.

The Hunter River at Morpeth

A big plus with Morpeth is that it’s just 37km from a big city – Newcastle – which means you’re never that far from the action (though if you’re not driving then it’s a 6km walk or cycle ride to the nearest train station in East Maitland). It’s almost exactly 2 hours’ drive from Sydney, too, should we ever need to head into the Big Smoke. It’s well served by schools, with a primary school in town and two good public high schools in East Maitland. (more…)

Where to live: Maleny?

Monday, October 15th, 2007

We’re planning on leaving Sydney in the next year or so, due to starting a family and needing a 4-bedroom house. But where to move to? The choice is overwhelming. In this series of posts, I explore a plethora of possible places – many of which we’ve visited – in an attempt to reach some sort of conclusion. Next up – Maleny.

Maleny is nestled within the beautiful hills of the Sunshine Coast hinterland in south-east Queensland.


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Maleny is about an hour’s drive north of Brisbane, and 30 minutes from the coast. This means it has access both to a major city, and to some beautiful beaches such as Caloundra, Maroochydore and Noosa. The views from Maleny and nearby roads are simply stunning, taking in vast swathes of rolling hills, the ocean, and the spectacular Glasshouse Mountains in the distance:

Lookout, Sunshine Coast hinterland

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Where to live: Bellingen?

Monday, September 24th, 2007

We’re planning on leaving Sydney in the next year or so, due to starting a family and needing a 4-bedroom house. But where to move to? The choice is overwhelming. In this series of posts, I explore a plethora of possible places – many of which we’ve visited – in an attempt to reach some sort of conclusion. First up – Bellingen.

Bellingen is a vibrant country town nestled in the middle of the Bellinger Valley, south-west of Coffs Harbour, NSW. We first heard of it through some friends of ours; their son lives in an intentional community just outside Bellingen proper.


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For such a small town – population: 3,000 – Bellingen is a truly happening place. It has a famous jazz festival; lots of great cafes and restaurants; two good pubs; a very strong community feel; and a bit of an “alternative” culture (think Glastonbury in the UK, or Sydney’s Newtown). It also has a bit of history, with some lovely heritage buildings in the town, and the scenery is simply stunning. Just the kind of place we’re after, in fact.

Cafe dining, Bellingen

It’s also nice and close to Coffs Harbour, which – while nothing special – does at least have decent-size shops and facilities, and is a pleasant enough seaside town. Some of the other smaller seaside places near Bellingen are lovely too. (more…)

Moving from Sydney: What we’re after

Tuesday, September 18th, 2007

We’re planning on leaving Sydney in the next year or so, and we’re looking around for places to live. Here’s our list of requirements:

  • A four-bedroom house, or at least a three-bed-plus-study, so that I can continue to work from home while we house our ever-expanding family
  • Price range: somewhere around AUD $400k-430k at the moment
  • Somewhere with a real sense of community and identity (which rules out most of suburbia!)
  • Ideally somewhere fairly rural – but not too rural, and not full of rednecks ;)
  • As close as possible to a major city – ideally Sydney, as that’s where most of our friends and business contacts live

We’re currently scouring the country for suitable places; so far we must have checked out over 50 villages, towns and cities up and down the east coast. I’ll be talking about each of these places, including their pros and cons, over the coming weeks. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, if you have any suggestions for places that would meet the above criteria, I’d love to hear them! :)