7 January 2022

Sea change: ditching the rat race for quiet life on NSW Sapphire Coast

| Katrina Condie
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Kelly Maher and Erin Maher walking dog on beach in Merimbula

Kelly Maher and her daughter, Erin, enjoying taking their dog, Dusty, for a walk on the beach in Merimbula. Photo: Kelly Maher.

For five years Kelly Maher had been visiting friends and family on the NSW Sapphire Coast, but it wasn’t until she started working from home during the COVID-19 lockdown that she realised she could have the best of both worlds.

The Canberra human resources consultant packed up her tiny suburban apartment and made the sea change to Merimbula with her nine-year-old daughter, Erin, almost 12 months ago and they haven’t looked back.

Kelly works from home, has morning tea with a beach view from her deck, and her and Erin spend afternoons after school walking their dog, fishing off the jetty and enjoying the beach.

“It’s a totally unique type of lifestyle,” she says.

READ ALSO Merimbula throws out the welcome mat for curious sea changers

“It sounds a bit cliche, but living in Merimbula is a breath of fresh air – it’s good for the soul.”

Kelly says she had thought about moving to the Sapphire Coast years ago, but limited work opportunities forced her to stay in the city.

“One silver lining of COVID-19 was that it changed our perception of how and where work could be done,” she says.

“I was working from home in a small unit in Kingston during the first lockdown with an active eight-year-old and it was a nightmare.

View of Merimbula

Discover what it’s like to live and work by the sea at the Merimbula Sea Change Expo. Photo: Merimbula Chamber of Commerce.

“Being able to still contribute to higher corporate level work and live this close to nature and the environment is something really special.”

Although they’ve only been living in Merimbula for a year, Kelly and Erin feel they are part of the Sapphire Coast community.

“People already know our names and there’s that feeling of being connected and integrated into the community,” says Kelly.

A volunteer committee member of Merimbula Chamber of Commerce, Kelly is involved with the upcoming Merimbula Sea Change Expo being held on the weekend of 22-23 January, 2022.

The expo will include a trade show on the Saturday followed by a showcase of the area by local operators on the Sunday.

“It’s an opportunity to see what the Sapphire Coast has to offer in terms of work-life balance,” says Kelly.

“We have infrastructure and services you might not expect to find in a country town.

“We’ve got all the major supermarkets within a 30km radius, plus having access to Merimbula Airport is fantastic for accessibility to Sydney and Melbourne.”

Kelly says it’s fantastic to take advantage of everything the Sapphire Coast has to offer, whether it’s visiting the fishing jetty or strolling the boardwalk, all without the commute or a struggle to find a parking spot.

There’s also a selection of public and private schools, medical facilities and a leisure centre with a swimming pool at nearby Pambula.

“There’s so much for kids to do, and there’s every sporting club known to man, from gymnastics and dancing to soccer, AFL and cricket,” says Kelly.

“It’s been such a great move for us and we absolutely love it.”

The Sapphire Coast is less than three hours’ drive from the ACT so Canberra people can make the move to the coast and enjoy all it has to offer, but still return to Canberra on weekends to see family and friends.

It’s the best of both worlds.

The expo will provide an opportunity for people to see what it’s like to live in a coastal village and meet locals, such as Kelly and Erin.

“It could be 12 months or three years before they make the move, but if people are thinking about it, now is the time to start doing research,” says Kelly.

The Merimbula Sea Change Expo will feature representatives from a wide range of industries and providers including education facilities, employment groups, health care, sporting groups, volunteer organisations, service providers, real estate, and housing and government bodies. It will be a one-stop shop of information for people looking to move to the NSW Sapphire Coast.

Original Article published by Katrina Condie on Riotact.


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With all due respect Kelly, but this sea change mentality from the major cities to the country is only a recipe for disaster. This is already occurring in the Shoalhaven where the environment is being systematically destroyed, subdivisions are taking up the farmland, vehicle traffic is now astronomical, housing prices are skyrocketing and any local hope for young people staying in the area will disappear. How the heck can a 20 something afford $800,000 to $1M for a 3 bedroom home? So I’m pretty sure you know that bringing your $’s from Canberra will inflate housing prices even more in Merimbula all for your piece of mind. What will happen in Merimbula if we follow your ‘vision’ will become what you are escaping!!!

We bought land near Merimbula 10 years ago after visiting friends who had moved from Sydney and are now part way through building our dream home and workshop. My husband will retire and I can take my job with me and work from home. We cannot wait to enjoy the new surrounds and be part of the community.

Canberra rat race, lol. Some people do have themselves on. A large regional centre, hardly Sydney or Melbourne.
Person from Canberra arrives complete with bells and whistles.

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