For our interview series about regional towns around Australia, we hear from Natalie Watson who moved (back) to Lake Macquarie from Sydney.
What motivated you to move to Caves Beach Lake Macquarie from the Northern Beaches of Sydney?
I originally grew up in Lake Macquarie, so after around 15 years of living in Sydney I was ready to return. What motivated me was being close to family again of course, but even more importantly, being close to the water and beautiful nature walks is the highest priority for me, and Lake Mac is so much more affordable than Sydney for that lifestyle at your doorstep.
Was the cost of property a factor for you when moving to Lake Macquarie? What is the difference compared to Sydney?
We would never have been able to afford to buy a property close to the beach in Sydney – we were living in the Nothern Beaches, and here we have been able to buy within 10 min walk to Caves Beach. We always rented in Sydney. The cost of property was a huge factor in order to get that lifestyle that we wanted and to own a home.
How was adapting to life in Lake Macquarie?
We immediately both felt completely at home, and felt more relaxed with the slower pace. My partner is Welsh and he had lived in Sydney since arriving in Australia many years ago. We both feel a real sense of community and we chose Caves Beach specifically for that community feel. We also have a dog and that really helps to meet people and chat while we’re walking around the streets or on the beach.
What are the main attractions of Lake Macquarie that you like to tell visitors about?
All of the beautiful walks including the caves and the walk to Pinny Beach, and the perfect swimming spots for kids close by.
What are work opportunities like in Lake Macquarie?
My partner already worked from home so there was no impact to his job. I worked for local council in Sydney and so looked for a Council job up here. I kept working and commuting to Sydney until the right job came along which worked well for a while, until I was lucky to find a suitable role locally.
Can you describe your lifestyle in Lake Macquarie?
It’s a much slower pace, just because we wanted it to be. We now have a house and can enjoy being at home and entertaining compared to previously living in a small apartment and feeling we need to go out all the time, which also resulted in spending more money. Renting in Sydney makes it hard to own a pet, so we couldn’t wait to get a rescue dog and she has added so much joy to our lives. Our days have revolved around our dog since we got her. I also noticed people smile and say hello while out walking, as you pass far less people here than in Sydney, so it’s much easier to do this and make connections with neighbours.
If you have children, what are the benefits and challenges of living in Lake Macquarie compared to a big city?
We only just had our first child after living here almost three years so I can’t compare. However, having grown up in Lake Mac myself, I know that it’s a wonderful lifestyle to raise children and there are plenty of good school options and activities to entertain them.
What can you say to people considering the ‘big move’?
I think it can be hard to make the move if your job isn’t easily transferable, and there may not be as many career prospects. For some the thought of leaving the city where there are so many entertainment options is also not appealing. I think that’s why Lake Mac is the ideal coastal town to choose though, as it’s so close to Sydney as well as Newcastle, so it is very easy to visit the city for a day or weekend, for work or for leisure.
Anything else you could tell us about life in Lake Macquarie?
The majority of our friends still live in Sydney and we were concerned we would lose touch with them when we moved, however we chose a place that they all love visiting and we bought a house with a couple of guest rooms, so we are constantly getting weekend visitors from Sydney. It’s so nice to be able to have this opportunity to host our friends and give them a little holiday, while also satisfying our social life without even needing to leave home!