How to test the over-50s resort lifestyle for yourself – and get paid to do so

Jun 12, 2019
Sunset at Tomaree lookout in Port Stephens, NSW, Australia. Source: Getty Images

There is a style of living that thousands of Aussies are embracing: living in an over-50s gated resort. Our opportunity to experience this type of lifestyle came with a pet and house-sitting assignment in the spectacular Port Stephens region, a couple of hours north of Sydney, New South Wales.

We were not sure how it differed. We are over 50 … so qualified there. But would we enjoy this type of living? Would it differ from a normal house and if so, how? And would it suit us long-term?

My partner Gai and I were there primarily to care for two beautiful poodles while the owners were away on holiday. What we did know was the estate is right in the middle of magnificent coastal region.

The over-50s resort style of living has really taken off in Australia. There are now 5,000 of these gated communities around the country, according to the industry body. So why are they so popular and what is the big attraction?

Firstly, everything is so neat! The homes are all of a similar look but individually styled. The community facilities are first class, with a huge indoor pool, gym, tennis courts, lawn bowls rinks and beautiful, bushland pathways to explore.

Walking each day through the complex, residents are very friendly and say hello to everyone else, just like a country town! It is easy to get to know others and very quickly we became seamlessly embedded in the local scene.

The only reason you would want to leave the resort was to go shopping, visiting or exploring the local area. Everything else there is totally self-contained.

Gai and I took the opportunity to ask many of the residents why they chose to live/retire in a complex like The Cove Village at Fullerton Cove. For many of them it was the tranquility and leisurely pace of life that attracted them.

A large slice of them had come from Sydney. Life in Australia’s largest and busiest city can be exhausting just getting around. Also, the amazingly inflated house prices in the city mean you can sell your house, buy into somewhere like Fullerton Cove and have a big wad of change to spend! Freeing up cash is a very attractive proposition.

The pace of life is totally different in a gated resort too. No one is in a hurry. The security aspects appeal to many people, as do the extensive community facilities. The cars all drive very slowly through the place … so very low chance of a traffic accident!

Being so close to a major city like Newcastle (population around 350,000), the seventh largest city in Australia, gives easy access to excellent medical facilities, shopping and services.

You can drive, of course, but a much easier option is to catch a bus to nearby Stockton and take a ferry across the mighty Hunter River over to the city. It’s a short ride and you can see the city from the extensive networks of riverside parks and reserves.

Nearby Stockton is also a great place to watch huge coal ships come in and out of the harbour. Some of them are so big, you feel like you can reach out and touch them as they are going by under the power of several tug boats escorting them in or out of the harbour.

The whole Port Stephens region is stunningly beautiful, with long coastal strips of pristine white beaches, mountainous national parks and great fishing spots if you are into that.

We were there in peak season so there was plenty of activity. Along this eastern coastline there are dozens of attractive areas to explore. The two gorgeous poodles in our care loved going out in the car and walking in new places with fresh doggie smells.

So how to sum up life in an over-50s resort like Fullerton Cove? Relaxed is the best way to explain it. You have a feeling of belonging. Also, a sense of being safe in a gated community. Out of the many house- and pet-sits around the world we have completed, this one at Fullerton Cove just north of Newcastle allowed to live like locals almost immediately.

With 5,000 of these communities now in Australia, you can take your pick to live like a local!

Have you visited Port Stephens? Have you considered downsizing and moving into a lifestyle community?

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