Moving from Sydney: What we’re after

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! 🙂

21 Responses to “Moving from Sydney: What we’re after”

  1. Jason Says:

    We have been to Bellingen and loved it too. Other places on my list to check out would be 1) Bangalow (inland from Byron Bay), a very vibey place but smaller than Bellingen, 2) Bryon Bay itself or somewhere close by. Has a reputation for being very alternative but it is slowly becoming more and more mainstream, 3) Noosa, pretty trendy place with expensive property but there are areas opening up nearby which will be a lot cheaper, 4) Bowral, the southern highlands are beautiful and it is only an hour and a half from Sydney.

    Good luck on your search and keep us updated.


  2. Matt Says:

    Thanks for your suggestions Jason. We passed through Bangalow briefly I think, and it looked nice. The areas around Byron and Noosa were a bit too pricey for us sadly.

    We’ll definitely check out Bowral – we’re exploring south of Sydney at the moment and are coming up with some great options. Thanks again for the tips!

  3. Kay Says:

    How have you got on with your search for a better place? We seem to be in a very similar situation to you and we’re going to check-out Bellingen next weekend. We’ve already discounted the Blue Mountains, Bowral (lovely but too expensive plus East Bowral was a major turn-off),towns around Jarvis Bay area (too surburban) and many other areas within 2 hours of Sydney.

    Have you left Sydney yet?


  4. Matt Says:

    Kay, thanks for your comment. It’s great to hear from someone in the same boat! Are you currently in Sydney?

    Well it looks like we may finally have decided on the Southern Highlands. I’ll be writing a post about this shortly. Not East Bowral though – I agree with you, it’s a turn-off. Rows and rows of identi-homes. (A local park ranger we bumped into said it was “as if Campbelltown had grown legs and moved down to Bowral!”)

    I’d be interested to hear why you discounted the Blueys. Personally it’s a bit too far from the beach for my liking, and I found some parts of it a bit down-at-heel somehow!

    Anyway, I hope you enjoy Bellingen. It’s a lovely place. Do let me know what you think of it.

  5. Kay Says:

    Yes we’re in the Inner West. I didn’t say why we’d discounted the “Blueys” because I find it hard to sum up in a few words. We’ve been weighing up the positives and negatives for about 3 years now but when it comes to it it feels like it would be a bigger move than going 6 hours away to Bellingen. Nothing’s going on and although it may sound ridiculous to some (particularly as we have a 10 month old baby) there’s barely any decent pubs! Proximity to Sydney is great but driving regularly on the Great Western Hwy would kill me. Many more positives and negatives, I could bore you to death.

    I look forward to seeing your post on the Sth Highlands.

  6. June Says:

    Oh Wow….some people just like us! My husband Daniel and I are in Melbourne and have been tossing and turning where to move to with our 2 year old.
    I absolutely adore the Blue Mountains…but its a tad expensive for us and too close to Sydney. We also want to send our daughter to a Steiner school, so were originally going to go back to Newcastle, where we both grew up. We decided…what the hell, if were gunna move we may as well really move. it all came down, in the end to Bellingen – they have a great Steiner school, and a steiner long day care and preschool as well as having all the great things that you guys have said.
    Now the rubber has really hit the road for us, as we sold our house last thursday. We were pretty relaxed originally about the settlement time, but now the buyers need a quick settlement – like 1/8/08. Wow!! This is scary! We are going up to scope out the land/ rentals (no time to buy), and crossing our fingers (we have 2 dogs!) that we can find something quickly.
    Have you got something up in Bellingen Kay? We are finding that ther are more rentals outside of Bellingen proper – but when thinking of flooding, that can be a good thing!
    Hope you do well down in Bowral too Matt…beautiful place, but a bit too expensive and cold (yeah I know…we live in Melbourne!) for us

  7. Matt Says:

    @Kay: I know what you mean – the Blue Mountains don’t seem to have many things going on do they? Or maybe you have to live there a while to discover them! And yes, where are all the pubs?! Actually I feel that even Sydney is bereft of pubs (once you get outside the CBD that is), but that’s because I’m comparing it to London. I have a blog post in the offing about this topic actually.

    @June: It sounds like you’ve made a good decision with Bellingen. It really is a nice area, and I’ve heard good things about the Steiner school too. Also, I expect that now you’ve committed to it and got the ball rolling, everything will fall into place – it usually does. 🙂

  8. Geraldine Says:

    I found this analyses of places so useful. My husband and I have been trying to leave Perth for the last two years but work keeps us here, and not knowing where to move to on the East coast! It’s good to get an evaluation – opinions on Nowra would be helpful too.

  9. Matt Says:

    @Geraldine: Glad it helped! I’ve only been through Nowra once so don’t feel that qualified to talk about it. It didn’t seem particularly interesting I must say, though it’s quite well positioned in relation to the other places on the coast. And it does have a rail link to Sydney. The whole area around Nowra and Ulladulla has, I believe, the highest unemployment rate in Australia, which put us off somewhat!

  10. Danielle Says:

    HI guys,
    Just stumbled across this site when trying to find info on Nowra and possible relocation places~!~. Originally I wanted to move to coffs harbour, and yes, went through Bellingen… as I was looking to relocate i spoke to as many locals as possible, to get their perspective.. and gee, i think the Bellingen locals were not so friendly. As Im looking to re-establish a business in hospitality, i spoke to many business owners in Coffs and Bellingen, and all but one owner was rude. The general locals in coffs, were helpful and friendly and I would still consider coffs as a ideal relocation move. But would def not move to Bellingen as theres more flooding and local problems then admitted. Plus its very pricey in parts.
    Im now looking to move to Nowra ( will be holiday (recon) there next month to really check it out. It seems to hold a higher tourism trade than Coffs, probably because of the rail link and prox to Sydney. I understand Matt u have only driven through, and another comment up above about it being a hole… can anyone explain ? and maybe i can save some money and not go !!!.. what do the locals dress like ?? nice/bogan/elderly? Do u really think its a tourist spot in Nowra? or just a marketing ploy?!. Ive also heard that Berry just above Nowra is a wonderful spot. Cheers for any help anyone can provide . Danielle. my email for anyone wanting to talk direct is [email protected]

  11. Matt Says:

    @Danielle: That’s interesting about Bellingen! When we went a couple of years ago we found everyone very friendly indeed, but maybe its atmosphere has started to change as more city types move there.

    From my limited experience of the place so far I wouldn’t consider Nowra itself much of a tourist destination but I could be wrong! Seems more of a commercial centre. It *is* close to Jervis Bay though which is a big tourist spot (beautiful beaches), and it does have a lot of events, air shows etc. Berry is also a lovely rural town, very popular with Sydney tourists.

    This might help:

  12. Danielle Says:

    Hey Matt,
    Thanx for taking the time out to reply to my rambles!.
    I’ve heard exactly the same about Nowra, IE: quiet/not really tourism trade, however Berry gets all the Sydney weekenders etc etc… which is weird.. cause Nowra market themselves as the No.1 tourism regional area in NSW?… and yet the locals and yourself tell me otherwise… and also I would have figured their unemployment rate would be lower, if there was enough tourism to generate jobs… so im thinking their marketing is off!.
    Maybe I caught the Bellingen people on a bad day… but all the shop owners were so rude. and the people on the street, dont even move over in courtesy… either, you move or you lose it!!!!. it was lovely though, mind u anything is lovely compared to Adelaide… I cant get over how green it is in NSW in general…. adelaide is a dust bucket now… full of problems!.
    Thanx again matt, nice to get a locals percpective on the place… im thinking im might as well fly across for a week, and see for myself.. flights are getting cheaper from now onwards… ill be sure to post my verdict LOL!
    Ta matt

  13. Matt Says:

    no worries dannii, yeah probably best to visit and see what you think yourself!

  14. michelle Says:

    I have a property in Bellingen and have lived here all my life. I have travelled and could not think of anywhere else I would ever live. I have 4 children and they have had an excellent life style. I am selling my property that is in walking distance to town and has a creek right round even a motocross track that backs on the mountain views but Im sorry $400,000 is going to get really hard to fine something just out of town but may find a beautiful home in town…..must see Bellingen
    If you would like to know about anything about Bello please email me I am happy to help with information on real estates locals and whats [email protected]

  15. Matt Says:

    @michelle: Thanks for the info! I’m glad you enjoy living in Bello. Maybe one day we’ll relocate there – it is a beautiful spot.

  16. Kay Says:

    Hi Matt

    I was on this website back in June and we’re still on the hunt for our “better place”. We were very keen on Bellingen but have finally decided that it is too far from family, friends and work in Sydney. Actually we’re sort of stalking you as we’re heading to Robertson tomorrow to check it out!

    Think I’m in the wrong thread to start chatting about Robertson.


  17. Matt Says:

    Hi Kay,

    Excellent! Hope you enjoy your trip to the “Big Spud”. 🙂


  18. Kath Says:

    Hi Matt, (and all)

    I have read these posts with great interest. My husband and I and our four young daughters are moving from regional Victoria to be closer to my family, who are dotted all over Sydney.

    I have spent sometime researching on the internet but am overwhelmed by the possibilities. We want to be as close to Sydney as possible and preferably by the water but price is an issue.

    I was leaning towards a northern suburb of Wollongong but don’t think the area in general has a very good rap? I also found a performing arts school, (which would suit some of my daughters) in campbelltown which is only 45 minutes from Wollongong but again, some negative posts about Campbelltown. A friend who lives on the Central Coast seems to have a list a mile long of places NOT to be.

    To sum up – confused – can anyone help? As close to Sydney as possible, preferably near the water and close to major facilities… impossible ask??


  19. Matt Says:


    I think some Wollongong northern suburbs are OK – Thirroul seems nice, for example.

    A mate of mine says Bundeena (small township on the coast just south of Syd) is beautiful, though it’s about 1h15 to Syd CBD. I suspect it’s reasonably expensive though, and not near anything major.

    Campbelltown is a bit too “suburban” for my tastes (and a long way from the water!). Not somewhere I would choose to live.

    It’s hard finding the right spot, especially if you’re on a budget and want to live anywhere near Sydney that’s near the water. I can sympathise!

    Personally I would look further afield, eg Jervis Bay is beautiful. It’s 2h45 from Sydney but that’s just about doable for a weekend trip visiting family. Gerringong is nice too.

    I like where we moved to (Robertson, Southern Highlands). It’s affordable, and it’s 1h40 to Syd CBD on the M5 (non-peak!), 35 mins to Kiama and 1h15 to Jervis Bay. If you don’t mind the cooler weather and a bit of fog then it’s perfect. 🙂

  20. Kath Says:

    Thanks Matt. Info is great.

    Thirroul has come up a bit during research so might have another look and will definitely check out Bundeena.

    Not considering Campbelltown but like the idea of the performing arts high school and is only 45 mins from some areas of Wollongong.

    Yes, I think Jervis Bay is beautiful and it may be that we need to go a little further afield.

    I have been to Robertson and it is a beautiful part of the world but I am not overly keen on the cooler weather!

    Thanks again – will keep looking and hopefully, like yourselves, find our own little piece of paradise…


  21. Matt Says:

    @Kath: Glad the info helped. Good luck in your search! 🙂

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