There are many priorities to consider when deciding where to retire. For Geoff and me there were two non-negotiable points. The first was that we wanted to be near the beach. The second was that we wanted potential for a fit, healthy and fun lifestyle.
When Starts at 60 recently asked me to spend a day at Palm Lake Resort Caloundra Cay on the Sunshine Coast, I was eager to check out the possibilities and see what they had to offer. The resort is set in beautifully manicured gardens only 10 minutes from Dicky Beach or Currimundi Lake, so it easily ticked the first box. For the second, I had nearly a full day to immerse myself in the resort, meet some of the locals and join in some activities.
If first impressions are something to go by, this resort is an immediate winner. The development exudes quality without glitz and has a genuine, friendly charm and warmth that cannot be understated. I arrived early and met Jeff and Janelle, who were my guides for the day. They are some of the original residents and have lived in the resort close to two years. It was easy to see how much they enjoy it. Jeff co-ordinates the social club, so he was perfectly placed to provide me with a resident’s insight.
My tour commenced at Hemingway’s Country Club, the main clubhouse. This beautiful building is the social centre of the resort and houses an upmarket, casual dining room. In August 2020, Hemingway’s Country Club received the prestigious Master Builder’s Award for the Best Sporting Facility on the Sunshine Coast. Little wonder, as the facility is spectacular and caters for numerous community activities including Pilates, Dancercise and social functions. The large parquetry dance floor is popular in non-Covid times. The building also houses activity rooms including a well-stocked library; a billiard room with two full-sized billiard tables (apparently Monday afternoon is popular for billiards and darts); a craft room with art equipment as well as sewing machines and overlockers; a music room; gym; spa; and indoor pool heated to 30 degrees celsius! The beautiful Caribbean-style mural at the end of the pool is just one of many stunning artworks throughout the complex. So, if Jeff and Janelle were trying to impress me, they succeeded.
Janelle showed me the theatre with its beautiful leather-studded doors and plush, tiered seating. Movies are shown Wednesday and Sunday nights and then they have Golden Age of Hollywood Matinees on some Saturday afternoons. This is a superb theatre and residents are justly proud of it.
Moving outside, I found that the tennis and pickleball courts were already busy. I’m a keen tennis player, but pickleball? That was new – and fun. The game is a hybrid of badminton, table tennis and tennis. The small plastic bats were easy to use and the courts smaller than a tennis court. The group of spectators happily explained that you need to have a quick eye, but your feet don’t need to be as fast as with tennis. The rules were straight forward, and the most important thing seemed to be to have fun. What a wonderful cheery start to my day.
Another surprise is that all residents have their own detached home with gardens. As you’d expect from the winner of the 2020 Master Builders Award, the 300sqm luxury homes are well constructed and beautifully appointed. These homes are of an exceedingly high standard and feature spacious bedrooms, Smeg appliances and double-car garages. I’d be happy living in any of them. There’s a high level of security and safety – as they say in the brochure, it’s a lock and leave lifestyle. There are approximately 250 homes on site with plans to expand to about 400, but there is plenty of room and it is a lovely place for family and visitors. To their credit, the developer has constructed the social infrastructure in the first stage of the resort, so there is no waiting for future facilities to come ‘one day’– they are already in place, well managed and maintained. I was also pleased to hear that there will be an aged care facility in the next stage.
Next it was off for a spot of ten-pin bowling. The two-lane rink is popular, and bowling, I found, is harder than it looks. It occurred to me that with an in-house alley, I could soon become more proficient.
I was mesmerised by the men’s shed, or workshop, and stood in the door for some time taking it all in. I didn’t recognise most of the high-quality, specialised equipment but it looked impressive. I am sure my Geoff would be in his element here. Jeff and Janelle explained that residents work on their own jobs as well as community projects. Most are keen to pass on their skills and share their knowledge while having a chat, but in addition everyone gets training on how to safely use the equipment. Recently one of the residents held a course in French polishing that was well attended. With the emphasis on men’s health these days, I can understand the workshop’s popularity. It’s not just for the men either. There are several women who attend and turn out some beautiful work.
Oh dear, now for Dancercise! I had committed to join this class, but felt a bit nervous because arm and leg coordination is not one of my strengths. I slunk quietly into the back row hoping no one would notice me, but naturally, on the first dance, we turned around so I that was in the front row at times. The instructor, however, explained the steps well and was patient with those of us whose feet seemed to be always facing the opposite way to the rest of the group, so it didn’t take long to feel comfortable amongst everyone. Was it fun? You bet!
We enjoyed a recuperating coffee on the deck looking over the hot spa and outdoor pool, which, in true resort-style, has a swim-up bar at the end. Jeff and Janelle talked about their lives here and the new direction they’ve taken. They both value the high-quality facilities but were keen emphasise that it’s also about the people. In Jeff’s words: “Everyone’s like old friends we’ve known for years and all have interesting conversations. Most have travelled and share their life stories. Most of them say they’ve come here to have fun and that’s what they do. You can just walk in, sit at a table and it’s like you’ve known them for 50 years. I just can’t believe how many lovely people are here.”
Janelle spoke about how helpful everyone is: “As soon as something’s being organised, for instance the Melbourne Cup function, the volunteers just come out of the woodwork. Or if people see things that need doing, they just up and do it. The resort doesn’t have a retirement feel to it and that’s what has attracted young, fit seniors.”
Both emphasised the camaraderie between the residents and managers working together to make the resort lifestyle shine.
After the break, it was off to one of the two golf simulators, where it’s possible to practise at St Andrews Golf Course in Scotland or numerous other world-class courses. Currently, all residents of Caloundra Cay can play golf at the refurbished Greg Norman designed, 18-hole, Pelican Waters Golf Club at no cost – a wonderful arrangement for the golfers. Now I know my Geoff is envious!
The gym was next on my tour. It has an awesome view over the indoor heated pool and is stocked with premium Milon gym equipment that can tailor your workout based upon your age and fitness.
I later learned that lawn bowls is the most popular sport at the resort. Often, residents hadn’t seriously considered playing bowls before, but were won over by the well-appointed club house and the social aspect of the game. With free instruction from other players, and regular competitions, they’ve come to enjoy the sport and have become enthusiastic advocates.
A major drawcard for this bowls club is the all-weather environment afforded by the large pavillion covering the entire green, as well as the air-conditioned adjoining clubhouse. On Tuesdays it’s packed, with all eight rinks playing nonstop. Friday night is busy with Scroungers, which is a less formal form of lawn bowls and perfect for beginners. When asked why he loves living here so much, Paul, head of the Bowls Committee told me: “Most of us are in the same boat. We’ve worked hard all our lives. We’ve put kids through university or whatever. Now it’s our turn. We’re all here just to enjoy ourselves.”
All this exercise was wearing me out, so it was off for a delicious long lunch of baked chicken breast stuffed with spinach and brie, served with diced potato and a rocket, pear and parmesan salad (gluten free, of course) followed by a slice of exquisite tuxedo gateaux. Friendly company topped off with a glass of bubbly rounded off a perfect morning.
So, if you are considering a sea change in retirement and you want an active, social lifestyle in a quality resort surrounded by like-minded people, Palm Lake Resort Caloundra Cay on the Sunshine Coast could be the place for you.
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