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The sea-change trend sweeping Australia’s east coast

The sea-change trend sweeping Australia’s east coast

There’s a classic cartoon in which an elderly man, clearly some way from his prime, is laid back in an armchair doing a crossword. With a furrowed brow he calls out to his wife: “Honey, I need a seven-letter word for catatonic.”

His wife thinks hard for a moment, and calls back:

“Try R. E. T. I. R. E. D.

Of the many misconceptions about retirement – when it should be done, what it should look like – one of the more pervasive is the notion that retirement is necessarily a process of reduction: a well-deserved winding down after decades spent on hard work.

But there’s a new trend in retirement on Australia’s east coast that is quickly dismantling the cartoonish stereotype of retirees idling about in community villages. No more Hawaiian shirts. No more bridge club. A huge number of retirees are embracing a particular type of sea-change retirement that, according to several of its fans, involves trading a lifestyle of work for a lifestyle of play.

We spoke to three couples who are residents of Harrington Waters, a hidden gem on the Mid-North Coast of New South Wales, where a community of like-minded residents are being drawn to this unique style of living.

Margaret Spours, who lives in Harrington Waters with her husband Stan, radiates positive energy when she talks about her new home:

“Oh, we moved here not to sit in the home and watch TV,” she says, smiling.

“We want to be out! Outside – down at the beach or walking along the river. Living on Harrington Waters, you can basically walk to everything, and that’s what really attracted us. My husband’s a golfer, so he’s a member of the Golf Club. And me, I love walking along the Riverwalk and to the other parts of Harrington Waters – it’s nice flat, scenic walks, with stunning sunsets. And when our family comes up to visit, it’s nice to go to the beach and explore around Crowdy Head, the beaches, even whale and dolphin spotting.”

The distinctive lifestyle offered by Harrington Waters is made possible by Roche Group, one of Australia’s premier development companies with more than 20 years of experience. The waterside community has been deliberately conceived as an offering unlike anything else in Australia, offering a one-of-a-kind lifestyle for the recently retired. This is an area where you’re more likely to see rock fishing than rocking chairs, and friendly neighbours that embrace an active, fun-filled lifestyle, surrounded by an award-winning golf course, shopping village, cafés, a medical centre, newsagency, bakery, Harrigan’s Irish Pub, community centre, library, national parks, Crowdy Head Beach and more.

“There’s just a genuine village feeling,” says resident Adrian McCallister, a retired university teacher who moved to Harrington Waters six months ago with his wife, Annette.

“Something about it’s very peaceful and open, so we can do a lot. It’s where the Manning River meets the ocean, so we can stroll along the beaches, or we can walk over near the river. It’s just very enjoyable and relaxing. There’s a sense of connection in the community village, neighbours become close friends. Bowling is very popular, and golf, even tennis.”

Annette adds in, “...also fishing, boating, biking. And you see dolphins and turtles while walking along the sea wall. There’s so much activity.”

The sea wall Annette refers to is a paved breakwall that extends two kilometres over the Manning River, offering residents a pedestrian walkway with stunning panoramic views overlooking the river to the west and the open ocean to the east.

Annette sees the move as one of renewal; a new lease on life.

“We both had a very full and busy life,” she says.

“I taught dance for 30 years. We came up here to rejuvenate. And from here we can travel up to Brisbane. We can travel down to Sydney and back in a day. We still have children on the Central Coast. We very regularly pop down there to visit and come back.”

Being centrally located allows a number of Harrington Waters residents to have regular visits with friends and family, with Margaret’s husband even commuting to the Central Coast every week for work.

“We have a caravan that he stays in during the week and then he comes home on the weekends,” Margaret says. “It’s easy! He leaves early, and there’s not much traffic at all.”

The final conversation we have is with Mario Schembri, a retired local that moved to Harrington in December, and a keen fisherman. After a brief exchange, he asks for a call back. Several hours later, he confesses:

“When you called earlier, I was on one of the jetties out here catching Blackfish, and I had a bite on the line when you called me, which is why I asked ‘Can you call me back?’ I caught a bunch of fish today, it was good. And they’re big ones too, so even better!”

With a local boat ramp, countless jetties and nearby beaches, every home in Harrington seems to be located within easy reach of some of the best fishing spots on the Manning River.

Asked about his experience with the design and construction process, Mario is unequivocally delighted: “The house is 100% perfect, as far as I’m concerned. It’s a RIBA Home, and I’d definitely build with them again. We’ve built a number of houses over the years and this was the least stressful house I’ve ever built. Once the process was underway,” Mario says, “Mate, we didn’t have to do anything. Everything came together. They were about six weeks ahead of schedule. RIBA are a really good company, and they build a real quality home as far as I’m concerned. I’ve had a few homes over the years and this one is by far the best.”

Annette, whose home won Design of the Year last year, was similarly full of praise. “We’re quite chuffed about the house itself,” she chuckles. “The home, by RIBA Homes, was actually designed for our block. The living areas are at the back, so it’s very quiet.”

Life at Harrington Waters certainly seems to have a distinctive charm. A number of modern, brand new homes are being moved into, and some residents are buying land on which to design and build their dream home, close to everything that keeps their life active, social and fun.

There are many misconceptions about retirement, most notably the idea that it’s necessarily a process of reduction, a winding down; a lifestyle of stasis or quiet calm.

As for Harrington Waters, and its warm, genuine residents like Mario that are embracing a distinctively new type of retirement, he insists the area is dynamic, and suits a range of personalities and lifestyles: “It’s what you make it. It can be a quiet place. But there’s an Irish pub, a bowling club, tennis. There’s a bit of nightlife if you want to go out. And it’s only 40 minutes from Forster, 20 minutes from Taree and 40 mins from Port Macquarie.”

Toward the end of our conversation, Mario pauses. “It’s just such a nice area,” he says. “Plus, it’s priced right. It’s priced very well.”

Breaking into an endearing laugh, he adds, “So, please don’t tell too many people about it, alright?”

Don’t worry, Mario. There are plenty more Blackfish in the sea.

Our sincerest thanks to Mario and Therese Schembri, Adrian and Annette McAllister, and Stan and Margaret Spours for sharing their photos, stories and the unique lifestyle of Harrington Waters with us. Below are some of our favourite photos, and you can learn more about the hidden gem of Harrington Waters at harringtonwaters.com.au

This article was written in partnership with Over60.