Bev Crawley and husband Brian only moved from Melbourne to the riverside relaxation of Echuca-Moama when they retired. That was 14 years ago, and the pair is now among a large retiree cohort in one of Australia’s most popular tree-change hotspots.
But Mrs Crawley, who instigated the big move, first had the idea when she visited her husband there in the late 1980s.
“He was up here for five months and I came up to visit because he was working six days a week here,” says Mrs Crawley, now 74. “I decided, ‘yes, this is a nice place’ and I said we should retire up here. He said ‘no, we’re not!’”
When retirement finally rolled around, she was adamant they were finally moving. “I said ‘I’m going up there; you can do what you like’,” she says. “I felt I was living in a doll’s house in Melbourne, but I put up with it for 42 years.”
New analysis commissioned by the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia (ASFA), based on latest Census data, shows that retirees are flocking to seaside and riverside towns across the country.
The analysis, carried out by demographer Bernard Salt, pinpoints Forster-Tuncurry, about three hours’ drive north-east of Sydney, as one of Australia’s most favoured retiree hotspots.
About 32 per cent of its 2000-strong population is now made up of retirees over over 65.
With a median house price of $553,000, ASFA CEO Dr Martin Fahy said sea-changers moving to Forster-Tuncurry could liberate significant capital, with the median house price $650,000 lower than Sydney. “That is a lot of money that can be used to pay off a mortgage or fund a better retirement lifestyle.”
Charmain and Bruce Williams, now both 80, spent the first eight years or so of their retirement in Sydney before moving to a self-care retirement village in Forster in 2008.
“Forster is a very lovely place because you have the beauty of the surf beaches as well as the lakes. People can swim, fish, kayak,” says Mrs Williams.
“We have excellent facilities as far as hospital and medical care.”
With three adult children, seven grandchildren and five great-grandchildren, you wonder whether distance might be an issue. But Mrs Williams says her family is “scattered around” and that it’s actually quite convenient to visit Sydney, with her public transport fare costing just $5.
She and her husband volunteer for various organisations, including the Red Cross and Meals on Wheels, and there’s plenty to keep them occupied including live music and dance.
“We feel very fortunate to live in a place like this. I think the air quality is very good and you’ve got this abundance of lovely seafood,” says Mrs Williams.
In Queensland’s Hervey Bay, which has a median house price of $328,000 compared to Brisbane at $552,000, almost one quarter of the population is over 65 and no longer in the workforce.
The analysis also pinpointed WA’s Albany and Victor Harbour-Goolwa in South Australia as growing retiree seachange hotspots.
Ulverstone, on Tasmania’s north-coast, was the cheapest coastal hotspot in the analysis, with a median house price of $243,000.
Meanwhile, Victoria’s Bev and Brian Williams are loving their retirement. They used to live close to Melbourne Airport and never went overseas; now they go four times a year.
Plus Mrs Williams says their property is just what she always dreamed of – perhaps with the exception of annual council rates, which are more than $3000.
“It rural-residential, just on the edge of Echuca and it’s beautiful,” says Mrs Williams. “I see the kangaroos at the end of our backyard, we’re close to the Campaspe River. It’s a lovely place to retire.”