Small regional towns are popular among retirees, due to their quiet and carefree lifestyle, clean country air and affordable homes. 

Regional towns are attracting increasing interest from retirees during the coronavirus pandemic, as these retirees seek a potential future escape from the dense city environment. 

Over the last month, Downsizing.com.au has noticed more regional locations appearing in its most searched suburb lists, particularly in NSW and Victoria. 

However, regional areas were already high on retirees’ target list, even before coronavirus struck.

According to an Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute report released in February 2020, older Australians are happiest when they retire to small regional towns. 

This finding was based on a survey undertaken in 2018 of more than 2,000 Australians over 55, which found that 82 per cent of retirees in small regional towns were happy with their location - a larger percentage than any other location type across Australia.

With this in mind, Downsizing.com.au has collected examples of retirement and lifestyle communities in great small regional towns across Australia, to help our readers find the perfect downsizing location.

Tea Gardens, NSW (Tea Gardens Grange, RSL Lifecare)

Well known as the holiday destination of former Prime Minister John Howard, and with a population of less than 3,000 people, Tea Gardens is located on the north shore of Port Stephens on the NSW Mid-North Coast. 

This peaceful coastal hamlet is home to Tea Gardens Grange, a retirement village with 206 single-level homes operated by RSL Lifecare. New homes are available between $540-560,000, although prices will vary over time.

Aerial view of Tea Gardens Grange

The retirement village includes its own lake, which is used from time to time for model sailing boat races. The village country club includes its own outdoor deck, BBQ, auditorium, cocktail bar, lounge, dining room, billiards and darts room, craft room and a well-stocked library

If you would like a dip, you can try the village’s solar heated swimming pool with its own beach-style entry.

SOUND LIKE A LOCAL: The bridge between Tea Gardens and Hawks Nest is known as the Singing Bridge, because of the sound it makes during high winds.

The Tea Gardens foreshore (Singing Bridge in background)

Trentham, Victoria (McAuley by VMCH) 

Located high on the Great Dividing Range, Trentham is a quaint rural village with many historical buildings and a charming streetscape. 

Despite its rural feel (the village has a  population of just 1,180 people), Trentham residents can still easily access Melbourne (it is located some 90km or one hour’s drive away).

McAuley is a new boutique retirement village development of just nine dwellings, which is located in the Trentham urban area and close to its main shopping strip. There are six new dwellings still on offer, starting at $370,000.

Each dwelling has Caesarstone bench-tops, a spacious bathroom with additional powder room, reverse cycle air conditioning and heating along with quality appliances and fittings. The units also feature double glazing and are well-insulated.

Home at the McAuley village

“This style of property would be ideal for local farmers wanting to downsize,” said a VMCH spokesperson. “A small retirement community like McAuley means you can maintain your independence, create new friendships, and continue feeling safe, content and well connected.”

After looking at several retirement village locations, Alice, 74 and her friend, Rosemary, 56 are now the first residents of McAuley.

“We love the town,” says Alice. “We’ve already met a lot of people, and there’s lots of activities.”

“It’s such a great spot, you can walk everywhere, including the medical centre, and cafes and restaurants. It’s a real advantage to be close to the centre of town.”

SOUND LIKE A LOCAL: Trentham has great soil to grow potatoes (that’s why it has an annual Spudfest)

Goolwa, SA (Seachange, Hometown Australia)

Goolwa was once a thriving South Australian river port – the last on the Murray River before the river reached the Southern Ocean. Today, Goolwa is a historic and quiet small regional town, with a population of around 7,700 people.

It is popular with tourists, in part because it is known as a popular gateway to the Coorong National Park and the lakes system at the mouth of the Murray River.

Hometown Australia’s Seachange residential land lease community is situated on 10.5 hectares of level land within Goolwa. 

Seachange community at Goolwa

It is located only 500m from Goolwa’s main street and a 20-minute walk to Goolwa beach, and includes boat and caravan storage, a BBQ area, onsite hair and beauty salon, library, games room, vegetable garden and clubhouse.

A range of new and pre-loved homes are currently available. New two-bedroom homes are available from $275,000. 

Hometown’s Seachange community and sales manager Kerry Lange said the community attracted people from the nearby area, along with residents from Adelaide and also occasionally from interstate.

“There is a real community feel here at Goolwa, you’ll find in particular that all the local sporting clubs are packed,’ she said. “A lot of our residents are part of these clubs and are also part of local volunteer groups.”

SOUND LIKE A LOCAL: Talk with passion, knowledge and conviction about the fact that, in 2007, Goolwa was Australia’s first town to associate with the international ‘slow city’ movement. This means Goolwa locals take the time to consider their environment and heritage as well as improving the quality of life.

Goolwa foreshore area

Woolgoolga, NSW (Plantations by Ingenia Lifestyle)

With a population of just over 5,000, Woolgoolga is a pleasant seaside village around 25km north of Coffs Harbour on the NSW Mid-North Coast.

The town offers several beaches that are ideal for surfing, fishing and snorkeling. Its resident Indian population also gives the town a distinct multicultural flavour, which comes to the fore during the town’s annual Curryfest.

Woolgoolga coastal area

The Plantations by Ingenia Lifestyle residential land lease community in Woolgoolga has a range of two and three-bedroom homes which feature open plan living, quality finishes and appliances and a private alfresco area for outdoor relaxation and entertaining. 

Plantations includes landscaped sub-tropical gardens along with a wellness centre, heated pool, gymnasium, health consulting rooms, bowling green, sports bar, cinema, BBQ area, work shed, self-serve cafe and caravan and boat storage.

“Downsizers are often in a time in their life when they’re looking for a sea change and a tree change,” said Ingenia Lifestyle General Manager Sales Kate Melrose. 

“Years of travelling to small regional towns and oasis holiday destinations inspire those ready to downsize from a large family home to settle in these communities.”

SOUND LIKE A LOCAL: Woolgoolga is known to the locals as ‘Woopi’ 

Pool at the Plantations by Ingenia Lifestyle resort

Pambula, NSW (Acacia Ponds, Hampshire Villages) 

With a population of just 652 people, Pambula is rich in history and character offering an idyllic coastal lifestyle. 

There are many places to discover including pristine beaches, sparkling waterways, Ben Boyd National Park, Panbolla wetlands and the beautiful Sapphire Coast. There are also colonial buildings, classic pubs, delightful cafes and restaurants and boutiques.

Hampshire Villages operates the Acacia Ponds residential land lease community in Pambula. Acacia Ponds has pre-loved homes for sale, with prices ranging from $229-$325,000. 

“Most residents (of Acacia Ponds) are previously from a city type environment, who are wanting a coastal or rural change for their retirement,” a Hampshire spokeswoman said.

SOUND LIKE A LOCAL: Pambula’s name is derived from the local Aboriginal word ‘panboola’, which means ‘twin waters’.

Acacia Ponds village at Pambula

Braidwood, NSW (Summerfield Estate)

Braidwood is a National Trust-classified town and the first to be listed on the NSW State Heritage register. 

With a population of around 1,600 people, Braidwood is around three hours’ drive southwest of Sydney and just over an hour from Canberra.

The town has maintained its charming colonial buildings, rustic streetscape and rural beauty. This has helped it attract an influx of artists, writers and people seeking a "treechange".

The Summerfield seniors housing project is located on Braidwood’s urban outskirts, alongside the town’s main health facility. 

Artist's impression of the Summerfield estate when finished

It includes 56 three bedroom villas (of which 25 homes have already been built and sold). The community also includes a clubhouse, indoor heated pool and arts and crafts room. Homes are currently available from $585-615,000.

Homes at Summerfield were developed using NSW’s senior housing planning laws.

This means they are freehold property, which can be bought and sold on the open market.

However, a condition exists on the homes’ titles which says they can only be occupied as long as at least one member of the household is 55 or over, or has a disability. 

SOUND LIKE A LOCAL: Braidwood has been the backdrop for iconic Australian films such as Ned Kelly (starring Mick Jagger), The Year My Voice Broke and Flirting - you can claim that you were one of the extras but your scene ended up on the cutting room floor.  

Historic main street of Braidwood

Warwick, Qld (Regency Park, Churches of Christ in Queensland)

The town of Warwick is located 158km south-west of Brisbane and 480m above sea level. With a population of around 12,000 people, Warwick is part of Queensland’s cooler inland ‘granite country’ in the southern Darling Downs region.

The Regency Park Retirement Village is located 3km from Warwick’s town centre and has easy access to public transport, with a bus stop at the front entrance. 

The village has 99 homes set amongst attractive, landscaped grounds, including a resort style indoor pool and heated spa plus a brand new clubhouse. 

Regancy Park Retirement Village in Warwick

“Life is a bit more relaxed than living in cities,” said a Churches of Christ spokesperson. “Warwick is a very community orientated town – people all look out for each other and there are friendly neighbours. You also never have to travel far to find what you need.”

The village currently has six vacant homes between $299-329,000. 

SOUND LIKE A LOCAL: Warwick is known as the ‘Rose and Rodeo City’