Top 10 retirement havens

A recent Australian Bureau of Statistics study revealed that Australians are already retiring or intend to retire later than originally planned.

The survey found that 71 per cent of people intend to retire beyond the age of 65, a 5 per cent increase on a similar survey in 2013.

The survey also found that 23 per cent of people aged 45 and over intend to retire past the age of 70.

Maybe it’s because people are wary of the Government’s plans to increase the Age Pension age to 70 in 2035, or maybe it’s because more people want to be self-sufficient in retirement, and not have to rely on the Age Pension.

Regardless of the reason, it seems an increasing number of Australians are hoping to become more self-reliant in retirement and so are working longer. Once they hit retirement, though, owning a house is paramount to enjoying a comfortable post-work life.

While the Government’s downsizing scheme has lit up a few eyes, many are sceptical about selling the family home and still being able to afford a smaller house in the same area. Others are worried that the money they earn from the sale of their house will adversely affect their Age Pension. Others are just hoping to save enough money in their super to be able to afford a house somewhere, so they can live on an Age Pension without the overhead of renting.

With that in mind, Canstar has curated a list of 10 popular retirement havens, based on house price and proximity to essential services needed by most older people.

Currently, the top 10 retirement destinations in Australia that are outside metropolitan areas are:

1. Tweed Heads, NSW
Located on the border of NSW and Queensland, and nearby Coolangatta, Qld, Tweed Heads is the sixth most populated town in NSW. The average age of residents is 54 years, which means an abundance of essential services for older people.

No wonder a high number of retirees live in this area. As a popular holiday destination, there are a number of affordable food and entertainment options, and retirees will never be bored there, considering its access to travel activities such as fishing, whale watching, flora and fauna parks, and other events.

The median price for a house in the area is $655,000, rent is $490 per week and there are 14 retirement villages from which to choose.

2. Port Macquarie, NSW
Just 390km north of Sydney, Port Macquarie is beautiful region with a population of roughly 70,000, and, with an average age of 47, that’s 10 years above the national average. Another popular area for retirees, it’s also a top tourist destination, so the region boasts good food and entertainment, as well as access to health and medical services.

The median property price is $560,000, rent is $425 per week, and there are 13 retirement villages in the area.

3. The Sunshine Coast, Queensland
Noosa, Coolum, Caloundra, Mooloolaba and Maroochydore are all destinations synonymous with retirement, all located on the Sunshine Coast. It’s warm all year round, which makes it a dream retirement destination, as well as a happy holiday spot. It also means great health and medical facilities, shopping, food and entertainment, and makes for an all-round top region for living the good life. And it’s close enough to Brisbane for those who may require specialist services or a weekend in the city.

The average house in the Sunshine Coast costs $560,000, and there are approximately 95 retirement villages in the surrounding area.

4. Coolangatta, Queensland
At the southernmost suburb of the Gold Coast, Coolangatta borders Tweed Heads in NSW, and so the two areas have a shared economy. The average age here is 49, or 12 years above the national average. Everything you can do in Tweed Heads you can do in Coolangatta, because it’s right next door!

The median house price is $705,500, rent is $525 per week, and there are around 19 retirement villages in the area.

5. Echuca, Victoria
Located on the banks of the Murray River, 214km north of Melbourne, Echuca has a population of almost 14,000, ideal for those wanting a quieter retirement.

Like Tweed Heads and Coolangatta, Echuca is located close to another popular holiday spot, Moama, and so it shares access to facilities and attractions.

Popular for its community spirit and laid-back culture, Echuca boasts some superb sporting clubs; so golf, lawn bowls, tennis and other outdoor sports are complemented by cheap food, drink and entertainment at the local sports clubs, meaning you can eat and be entertained for about half the price of Melbourne.

The average house in Echuca goes for $320,000 and it’s around $340 per week to rent.

6. Mornington Peninsula, Victoria
Around 40km south east of Melbourne lies a thin stretch of heaven known as the Mornington Peninsula. The ‘Ninch’, as it is known to some locals, is scattered with dozens of small villages, excellent shopping, dining and, if you’re so inclined, wineries. A drawcard for weekenders, the Mornington Peninsula is also an ideal retirement destination on both sides of the coastline: it’s close enough to the city; has all the amenities and facilities retirees could wish for and a good community vibe for both young and old.

The median house price here is $790,000; rent will set you back about $440 a week, and there are enough retirement villages for those who prefer that type of lifestyle.

7. Adelaide Hills, SA
Set in the Mount Lofty Ranges, the Adelaide Hills has a population of around 29,000 and the climate is ideal for winemaking, which means an abundance of wineries and cellar doors dining. It can get a little cool, so retirees will need to rug up in winter but, being a winery region, there is no shortage of events and festivals and the chance to dine fireside any night of the week is enough to warm the cockles.

A house will set you back around $728,000 and rent around $500 a week, so this region is one for those who like isolation and, really, fine wine and dining.

8. Yankalilla, SA
Situated around 72km south of Adelaide, Yankalilla is an agricultural town with a Mediterranean climate and a population of just 450. Suffice to say, there’s no hustle and bustle here; it’s ideal for anyone looking for a peaceful retirement, so picking up a property that will keep you occupied is the way to go in this region. You’ll also have to drive around 45 minutes to find medical facilities above and beyond a GP, but, at least, it’ll be a very nice drive.

You can buy a house for around $329,000, but rentals will be hard to come by.

9. Esperance, WA
Located on the Southern Ocean coastline of Western Australia, Esperance is home to 13,477 residents with an average age of 48. It’s a retirement haven – and rightly so – the dreamy coast, beautiful beaches and abundance of outdoor activities on offer make this region perfect for anyone looking for an active retirement. Esperance also has a wealth of amenities that cater to older Australians, such as clubs, the arts centre and museum, and other facilities. However, the town is far from any major city – at 720km or a 1.5 hour flight from Perth, you’re far from any specialist help, should you need it.

Which is probably why you’ll be able to buy a house for around $342,000 or rent one from $320 per week. 

10. Huon Valley, Tasmania
A 30-minute drive from Hobart will take you deep into the Huon Valley, easily one of the most beautiful regions in Australia and, perhaps, the world. It’s a little chilly, but if you’re okay to rug up, then the retirement lifestyle in the Huon is simply dreamy.

There’s no shortage of wine, produce, seafood and scenery, and you can pick up most of the food you’ll need at the local farmers’ markets. Craftspeople and artists inhabit the region, so it has a creative, happy vibe and if you need anything, including medical help, shopping or a day trip to the city, Hobart is a short drive away.

It’s perfect for anyone wanting a relaxed, peaceful retirement with all the benefits of being close to the city. And, with a median house price of just $315,000, it’s one of the most affordable retirement options on the list.

Do you live in any of these regions? What’s it like? If not, would you consider downsizing to move to any of these retirement havens?

Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.
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