‘Great house, nice neighbours, lots of wine: The Barossa is retiree heaven’

Jun 28, 2020
It was more than just a love of wine that appealed to Robin and his wife when they settled on the Barossa Valley for their retirement. Source: Getty Images

Since we married in 1973, my wife and I have lived in almost every state of Australia (except Victoria and Western Australia). We even spent a wonderful three years in the United Arab Emirates in a delightful city called Al Ain.

For most of our married life, Alice Springs was our home. Our two children and grandson still live there. We worked there until we retired and had thought of moving to the Gold Coast in Queensland, where we have an investment property. We bought the investment property in 1997 with a view to one day retiring at the Gold Coast. Over the ensuing years, the Gold Coast became less desirable and after we retired, we didn’t know where we’d live our last days.

Alice Springs was a lovely place to live and work for 30 years but retiring there presents considerable costs getting in and out of the city when travelling. It requires either a large cost for fuel or an airfare. Not much good to two retirees who want to travel.

We sold our Alice Springs house much earlier than we anticipated and spent two years in our caravan travelling all-round WA, Queensland and South Australia. We saw some very desirable cities in WA but they all had the same problem as Alice Springs – relative isolation from the rest of Australia.

Our children had asked us to retire somewhere where they could get to us without too much trouble. That ruled out Bargara, near Bundaberg in Queensland, which was a candidate.

As we drove round the Barossa Valley, though, it looked more and more attractive to us; not overpopulated like most cities, a hop-step-and-jump from many of the other lovely towns in SA and only 80 kilometres from Adelaide. Not only that, there is a direct route to Alice Springs, which we had driven dozens of times.

It’s a long drive and a couple of hours by air, but readily accessible for both our children and for us if they need us. As we had decided on living a retirement/lifestyle village, I did a search on my iPhone and came up with a retirement village with three levels of services: independent, independent supported and full care.

Not only that, it’s a community-based organisation that is not-for-profit and builds independent houses in clusters, usually of eight, throughout the three Barossa towns of Nuriootpa, Angaston and Tanunda. Three such newly constructed houses were available in a new cluster at Tanunda. My wife and I contacted the village and inspected all of them. Each was very well built and outfitted with quality fittings and fixtures and heaps of room.

I had expected retirement living to be in poky little places but these had plenty of space and were designed with a large en suite, large second bathroom/toilet and wide hallways and doorways so that if either of us becomes wheelchair bound, we won’t have to move. We have three bedrooms, which means a spare for our kids and visitors and one that has been overtaken as a craft room that keeps my wife happy (most of the time).

We signed up within a few days and moved in in January 2018 after selecting our flooring and curtains. We have a ‘lease for life’, which suits us because we’ve bought six houses and sold five throughout our married life and paid a fortune in stamp duty. There was no stamp duty or other extraneous costs.

Best of all, we are surrounded by three couples and four single people (widows/widower) who are locals and we feel as though we have been friends forever. I sometimes joke that if I had known how good it was, I would have come here 20 years earlier.

We get together for drinks and nibbles periodically and look after each other. It’s fantastic.

Not only is the Barossa Valley a lovely place chock full of vineyards, many of the locals have families that go back to the original immigrant generations. Germanic names are common, as are Lutheran churches. People are friendly and accepting of outsiders like us.

My wife is in an inordinate number of craft groups and we both volunteer. I visit the Tanunda Men’s Shed and we’re both engaged in the local RSL. Life’s great.

If you’re having trouble deciding where to retire, like wine, lovely, friendly people, a country location and want a retirement organisation that is more focused on providing a service than achieving a profit target, this would be the type of place for you.

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