The beautiful "Boomerang Beach House" that Leanne Collins shares with husband Michael and their two boys, Bryce, 21, and Jon, 19, was originally the first rented property they had moved into. As luck would have it, over time the family was able to purchase the house and turn it into something to suit their lifestyle without having to move from the friends they had since met and the surroundings they had grown to love.
After originally meeting on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, Leanne and Michael soon realised they both had an affinity with the country lifestyle and wanted to escape the city, although it wasn’t all smooth sailing in the beginning.
"When I left the city and my family and friends, I got out of the car here and I cried," remembers Leanne. "It does take time to adjust to a totally new environment — no matter how beautiful it is."
"We now love everything about the country lifestyle," she adds. "Being close to nature, not living in a built-up environment with overcrowded beaches and spaces, and being surrounded by bush and National Park. Looking at headland not covered with houses is definitely a favourite and the Sydney traffic drives
Being an artist who loves to paint and sew means there’s so much for Leanne to appreciate in the country and the endless birdlife that visits her home is always a source of entertainment as well as a welcome change from the city. The couple didn’t have to do much renovation to their home; however, as with most homes, there’s always something that needs attention.
"Our house is more than 20 years old but modern in style," says Leanne. "It was architecturally designed for the block so the light and breezes are amazing and it includes high ceilings and different levels.
"We resurfaced the bathrooms and did some minor changes thinking that would make-do for a few years, as we couldn’t bear the mess of redoing both bathrooms with two teenagers, but we are still happy with them," Leanne recalls.
"We did bag all the brick walls inside and out but no major renovations, just mostly cosmetic. We also redid most of the gardens, including extensive retaining walls and paving and generous outdoor entertaining areas — and we added a small plunge pool. Originally the garden was just bush on a sand hill, with hardly any retaining walls or designated garden areas, surrounded by an array of huge trees."
However, wanting to live the country lifestyle and being able to support a family where work can be sporadic are two completely different things. So Leanne and Michael purchased a business to help them live the dream they desired. Having good shops nearby is also an advantage.
"We own a general store that sells everything from fuel to alcohol and is only about 15 minutes away from where we live," says Leanne. "There’s also a shopping mall five minutes from us as well as a surf shop, chemist, several good cafes, a fish shop, hairdresser and Post Office nearby," she adds. Being close to such amenities is always a good thing when considering moving to a remote area.
"As in most cases, there’s a huge difference in socio-economic living standards between the people that live permanently in the area and those who own second properties here. It is very popular as a summer holiday destination, which means restaurants and small businesses languish through the
As far as the pros and cons of the country lifestyle are concerned, Leanne and her family agree that going without some of what the city has to offer is worth it for the relaxing rural existence.
Distance can sometimes be an issue as it takes 20 minutes to get to the nearest large town, one-and-a-half hours to Newcastle and three hours to Sydney. The couple sometimes miss the variety of restaurants, galleries and museums available and their children have to leave home to go to their respective universities.
However, the downside is outweighed by advantages such as a close community full of friendly locals; the natural beauty of the area and the gorgeous beaches; the slower pace of life; and healthy, home-cooked meals as there are very limited takeaway businesses around. "We sometimes miss the buzz of being in the middle of the city, but we go down for our weekend hits and then return to the peace — the opposite of people in the city, I guess," says Leanne.
Another practical decision when moving to a remote location, if children are involved, is schooling and its proximity to home. "One of our biggest concerns when moving out of the city was the quality of education," says Leanne. "We found schools in this area absolutely fantastic, especially the Great Lakes Senior Campus. Both our boys did really well and are away at university — one in Newcastle and the other in Sydney.
"There were also plenty of after-school activities for them, including taekwondo, cricket, drama, whitewater and flatwater kayaking, nippers, lifesaving, surfing, mountain bike riding and beach walks. In fact, our eldest son, Bryce, was in a team that won the under 19s Aussie Championships for surf boat rowing
So with all that the country lifestyle and coastal living can offer, is there a chance that Leanne and her family may one day move from their beautiful Boomerang Beach House? "Not for a very long time," she laughs.