Tips for a successful sea-change

Reporter: Laticia Gibson

City-slickers are selling up in droves and heading for the sun, surf and wide-open spaces of small-town Australia.Over the past 10 years, the population of the country's coastal areas has increased by a million people, but is the 'sea-change' switch all it's cracked up to be?

At the age of 71, computer programmer Ray Lewis and his wife Betty traded the buzz of Melbourne for the crash of the waves on Victoria's Mornington Peninsula. Ray's active interest in marine life spurred them on in their quest for a new life by the sea, but the couple gave up on the search for an aquatic nirvana after four years, finding the pace of life on the coast too slow."There's a general apathy of people in those communities, and if you're not ready to retire and bowl, go to the RSL and live a more contemplative life, it's not really the place for you," explained Ray. And he and his wide aren't alone in discovering their new, quieter life didn't suit them.

"All across Australia, you find people make mistakes," said Jill Weeks, co-author of the book Where to Retire in Australia. "They move out of the capital cities, move somewhere and then 10 years later they want to move back again." Jill and her husband Owen have been providing financial advice to retirees for more than 35 years, and realised people like Ray were making fundamental mistakes in choosing where to move.

"They fall in love with holiday destinations," she said. "But when all the people come in from Christmas time to Easter, they can't even get a car park near the shopping centre." In an effort to help people avoid such mistakes, the couple packed up their belongings and hit the road, visiting more than 200 towns in search of Australia's top destinations. Although their resulting book is titled with retirees in mind, it can be of use to anyone looking to make a move.

"Our research has shown that most people who have adapted well to their sea-change, tree-change, river-change or whatever you'd like to call it have moved no more than 2 hours or 200km away from where they used to live," said Jill.

Tips to consider before you make a change

1. Make a list of your needs and wants
2. Talk to your partner and compare lists
3. Subscribe to the local newspaper for a year before moving
4. Check out the local infrastructure, including nearby hospitals and transport options
5. Rent, house-sit or even caravan in the area to get to know it before you move permanently
6. Talk to local residents, particularly people who have moved there recently

Top sea-change and tree-change locations

Queensland: Bribie Island and Toowoomba
New South Wales: the Southern Highlands around Bowral and Nelson Bay
Victoria: the Gippsland Lakes area, around Paynesville and Metung, and Echuca on the Murray River

For more information, visit Jill and Owen Weeks' website: Where to Retire in Australia, or click on the Country Week site.