So Long Sydney: Noosa Is Calling (or is it?)

Our author heads to the Sunshine Coast to test the sea change waters

Noosa is a great sea change destination

It’s time to take back control of our lives – and mental health – we concur as we sit bumper-to-bumper in traffic, painstakingly crawling our way to another crowded Sydney beach.

There has to be more to life than enduring a 90-minute ordeal to take a 20-minute dip – and being charged up to $9 an hour in parking for the privilege.

There is a solution, of course; and the answer is Noosa.

We’d holidayed at the Sunshine Coast’s ‘Little Sydney’ for years – on and off – and always left telling each other “One Day”.

As in one day we’ll come here, and never actually leave.

Why not? We don’t have kids, our jobs are in media, which in theory can be done almost anywhere there’s a decent Internet connection, and life is going by faster every year.

Tickets and accommodation are hastily booked – but this time the golf clubs and tennis racquets stay in the wardrobe.

This is no holiday…Nosiree!

We are entering the unchartered waters of the ‘sea change-cation’, visiting a place with just one question uppermost in mind: Could we actually live here?

We’re not alone of course in feeling the tug of quieter climes and the oh-so-inviting turquoise ocean.

Every year around this time, scores of frazzled Sydneysiders and Melbournites aren’t just dipping their toes in like us to test more tepid waters, but are jumping in boots and all.

They’re not just retirees either looking to slow down. A 2005 report for the National Sea Change Taskforce, now known as the Australian Coastal Councils Association, found that almost 80 per cent of sea and tree changers were under the age of 50 with young families.

The bounce-back effect

Although those figures haven’t been formally updated, the spread of sub-divisions in these once sleepy enclaves would suggest the numbers are climbing at a spectacular rate.

What you don’t hear so much about, however, is the dreaded bounce-back phenomenon, which accounts for an estimated 20% returning to the city within two years.

Even a magnet like Noosa – with all its swanky cafes, boutique shops and gorgeous vistas – is not immune to the curse of the sea and tree changer either, a well-placed local confides.

From what we can deduce, this ‘bounce-back’ effect is related to something psychologists call The Hedonic Treadmill theory, which in layperson’s terms says that we all tend to eventually return to a happiness resting point, despite environmental changes or events.

In other words, winning the Lottery – or in our case moving to Noosa – won’t necessarily make you any happier in the long-term.

It sure would be fun finding out though if paradise could become staid and commonplace, right?

At least that’s the question we ask ourselves as we take the leisurely and traffic-free 30-minute drive from Maroochydore airport to the coastal jewel to the north.

We drop our bags at our new favourite home-away-from-home, Rimini Holiday Apartments in Noosaville, and meander along the riverside in the hire car toward the ocean and a dip to wash away the Sydney grime.

Already the warm tropical air and scores of pedestrians in bikinis and boardies has us day-dreaming of riding this same route on the beach bikes with the Frenchie in the handle-bar basket.

And then it hits us – the heinous snarl of traffic, linen shirts, and turmeric latte-swirling tourists jammed into the bottle neck that is Hastings Street.

This is not in the dream. This is our worst nightmare.

Without a park in sight, we escape (just) to Sunshine Beach on the southern side of the National Park.

But it’s just as jammed over there as it is in Noosa.

Bloody Hedonic Treadmill – we’re back on it already!

Of course, locals would never fall into this trap. When it gets busy, as it is on this chaotic Australia Day ‘long weekend’, they lay low, or clear right out until peace is restored…and least that’s what we surmise.

Yet, why would you want to live somewhere, particularly an event town like Noosa, where you feel a constant urge to escape?

We’re coming here to do just that!

It’s different, but the same

We’d rent, of course. Less risky, initially, and we expect to have the pick of the many investment apartments crammed into every nook and cranny.

But the market is surprisingly tight in the first quarter of the year when there are holidaymakers to fleece – and those units that are available for long-term lease are still on the steep side, even by Sydney standards.

Shaken, but not yet entirely dissuaded, we regroup with a dip at the Rimini. At least it’s quiet and affordable there.

Later, while waiting for fish & chips at the nearby riverside village I overhear an older visiting couple making banter with the friendly owner.

They’ve fallen head over heels for Noosa’s seaside vibe, naturally, and have even taken a Lotto in that night’s big draw so they can finally leave the city behind and follow her to utopia.

The jaded owner is far too polite to roll her eyes, but you can hear it in her voice that she wants to.

You just know she’s had this same conversation 1000 times before with the dreamers that roll through.

“Not much changes here either,” is her gracious riposte as she stacks the chairs neatly onto the tables after another long sweaty shift over the greasy vats.

“It’s different, but the same, if you know what I mean.”

We’re beginning to think we do.

  • Have you made a successful sea or tree change? Or maybe it didn’t work out? Either way, we’d love to share your story with the readers. Email us at to tell us more.
From sport, business, to general news and lifestyle, the co-founder of 50 So What has covered it all in more than 25 years in print, TV and digital media. When he's not working on the site, you can usually find him on a golf course, playing tennis, or on a flight across the ditch to catch-up with family and friends in his native New Zealand.


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