We’re moving to Robertson!

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).

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… 🙂

10 Responses to “We’re moving to Robertson!”

  1. annie Says:

    hope it’s all going well? thanks for writing about your search…..am on a similar one and your piece on Bellingen was helpful…….wondering if you ever ventured around Dungog area?

  2. Matt Says:

    Thanks for your comment Annie! Yes, it’s wonderful down (up?) here in Robertson. Clean air, peaceful, and lots of space. The little one loves the garden. Much nicer than living in a pokey unit in Sydney! 🙂 The locals are really friendly and welcoming too.

    Haven’t been to Dungog itself but the Barringtons area in general is beautiful, and Gloucester seems a pleasant (if rather uneventful) country town. We stayed there a few nights.

    Good luck in your search and I hope you find the perfect spot for you. 🙂

  3. Julie Says:

    Have been reading all the great info here, thanks for all your thoughts. We currently live in San Francisco and have 3 small children. We are thinking of immigrating to Australia later this year (hubby is an Brit with an Aus. passport too). We are looking to live 1-3hrs outside Sydney (to make it affordable) and have been researching to start our search when we arrive. Have you enjoyed Robertson so far? Can I assume the public primary schools are all good (i.e. don’t need to budget on private school fees?). Can you give an idea on a monthly cost of living?

    Thanks so much!

    Julie

  4. Bridge Migration Says:

    Looks like you made a great choice! Good luck with the move and starting the family!

  5. Matt Says:

    @Julie: yes we love it here in Robertson. Great if you want to live within 2 hours of Sydney and don’t mind the cooler weather.

    The local government primary school is pretty good I hear.

    Hard to give a cost of living as it’s all relative. Average I suppose. I’d imagine house prices in Robertson are less than in SF though!

  6. Kay Says:

    Ah here’s the Robertson thread. Robertson sounds very nice although a population of 1,500 sounds tiny! Fine if everyone is like-minded though. Is there plenty to do? Have you made some friends? How are you coping with a 20 minute drive to the supermarket? Is it something you get used to or do you run out of milk and toilet paper regularly?

    We’re heading to the Sth Highlands tomorrow for a couple of days and Robertson is on our list of places to visit.

    Kay

  7. Matt Says:

    @Kay: I suppose Robertson is what you might call a “large village” or a “small town”. I wouldn’t stay there’s a huge amount to do in terms of attractions in Robertson itself, but the community is very active and there’s always something going on, whether it’s a music night or a bushwalk or a movies evening. They have markets on the second Sunday of the month and of course the Robertson Show which was on last weekend.

    We’ve made tons of friends here already – about as many as we made in our 5 years in Sydney! Everyone is very welcoming. It helps having a kid as we go to the local playgroups etc.

    20 min drive to Moss Vale for shopping is no problem. We just do a weekly shop. In fact Robertson itself is actually better than the supermarkets for things like fruit & vegies and gourmet food items. (I highly recommend the Harvest Ingredients shop in town – their stuff is now on sale in Harvey Nichols and Harrods in London!)

    Anyway you’ll get a good idea when you visit. Hope you enjoy Robertson! If you’re after a nice café then I can recommend the Three Creeks (next to the Big Spud) or Café Pirouette (in the shopping village). The Cheese Factory up the road is also worth a browse.

    Matt

  8. Mark Says:

    Hi,

    Good to hear you have settled into life in Robertoson so well. I first read your blog 6 / 12 mths ago and we seem to be aiming for the same sort of lifestyle flavour, in fact i’ve taken my family of to some of the places you have bogged about on the strength of your comments.

    I reckon you might be responsible for a mass deluge of whinging poms into Robbo ! at least the pub will be busy !

    We’ve been thinking about a similar treechange chnage for a couple of years and are months away from escaping Sydney. Its good to hear that you have taken the plunge and have no regrets.

    One question though – as a freelance web developer i’ll be heavily reliant on a reliable and fast internet connection – whats the internet connection like in robertson ?

    i’d also be interested in hearing form anyone’s recommendations for getting a satellite provider for out of town places

    thanks for the blog, its been really interesting

  9. James Says:

    I’m surprised nobody has mentioned the Robertson pie shop. That shop put Robertson on the map. 🙂

  10. Matt Says:

    @Mark: Thanks for your comment – I’m glad you’re finding the blog helpful. 🙂

    Living anywhere has its ups and downs, but on balance we’re pretty happy here in Robbo. The plus points are the scenery, the peace & quiet, the lack of traffic, and the friendly people. The minus points are the cold (brr!) and sometimes I get a bit bored (though frankly that’s my fault really!).

    Our ADSL connection (Westnet) is decent enough (1.5Mb). My wife and I are both freelance Web developers and haven’t had any problems. Of course broadband in general is due for a massive shakeup soon with the government’s plans. In theory Robbo should qualify for the super-fast fibre (it just about has over 1,000 residents) but we’ll see! If it doesn’t then we’ll be on satellite I guess.

    @James: Good point! The pie shop is an institution in itself. 🙂

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