Living the dream: the 12 best places to retire in Australia


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From Philip Island to Margaret River, we've compiled the top locations to retire in Australia.


Bass Coast (e.g. Phillip Island)

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Natural habitat, fresh air and proximity to Melbourne.

Goldfields & Spa Country (e.g Castlemaine)

Active arts scene, diverse range of medical facilities and a relaxed village feel.

NSW Southern Highlands

Close to Illawarra coast, relatively close to Canberra and Sydney , weather is largely free from Sydney's humidity, and rural setting close to the beach.

North Coast (e.g. Port Macquarie)

Commercial airport, a range of shops, and medical facilities.


Sunshine Coast (e.g. Buderim, Bribie Island)

Close to Brisbane, choice of living inland or on coast, and varied housing options.

Darling Downs (e.g. Toowoomba)

Recreation and cultural facilities, ideal conditions for gardeners, a sense of community, and the climate is cooler than in Brisbane.


East Coast (e.g. St Helens)

Weather (claimed to have 200 days of sunshine a year), a good community feel, and close to Binalong Bay (one of the best white sand beaches).

Huon Valley

Close to Hobart for amenities, four distinct seasons, lifestyle (gourmet) and leisure (such as golf and gardening).


Adelaide Hills (e.g. Mount Barker)

Natural open spaces, South Eastern Freeway enables access to Adelaide, and a choice of shops.

Fleurieu Peninsula (e.g. Victor Harbor)

A large number of community groups and clubs, medical services and proximity to Adelaide.


Great Southern (e.g. Denmark)

Arts and culture, restaurants, natural environment and a sense of community.

South West (e.g. Margaret River)

A Mediterranean climate, art and culture (vineyards, restaurants, music festivals, art galleries), lifestyle, and proximity to sea and forests.

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Case study: Island life is the best of both worlds

Phillip Island is famous for its little penguins which waddle up the beach each night to the delight of tourists.

It is also a popular surfing destination. And it's a fairly easy drive, usually taking less than two hours, from the Melbourne CBD.

For Liz and Graeme Bowyer, this is their ideal retirement spot. They moved from Melbourne to the island to retire from their jobs in transport and retail. They wanted to live on the coast, and previously had a holiday house at Golden Beach, on Victoria's scenic Ninety Mile Beach.

While they enjoyed that quiet seaside community, it was a fair distance from Melbourne. "We were always going to retire to Golden Beach but as we got older we decided that we wanted to be closer to Melbourne," says Liz.

The couple started to look at the Mornington Peninsula and the Bass Coast. They both love the beach and the fresh air and were fortunate not to have to search for too long as a chance visit to Phillip Island made up their minds.

"We drove to Phillip Island and fell in love with the place."

They inspected real estate and facilities before buying their home.

"Phillip Island has a feeling of country and coast and we believe we have the best of both worlds here," says Liz.

The Bowyers have also found there is a good sense of community, with supportive and caring locals. It's been easy for them to make friends and there are lots of activities to enjoy.

Graeme has bought a boat and enjoys fishing and chatting with mates at the boat ramp each morning.

"Here you can walk up and talk to people, which is something I wouldn't do in the city. I also feel more secure here and there's plenty to do if you choose."

Liz has joined one of the three "seachange" groups on Phillip Island and has found it beneficial to meet other newcomers.

"I'm involved in a lot of activities, including exercise, social and gardening groups." Their move has also been popular with their family, who enjoy the many attractions of the area.

There are few things they miss from their previous life in Melbourne, and the only frustration is that occasionally, at peak times, it can take quite a while to get off the island.


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Jill Weeks is the co-author of several editions of Where to Retire in Australia and Retire Bizzi, and is the author of 21 Ways to Retire in Australia.