As a country boy who grew up in inland country towns (Canberra was one such in the 1940s), a summer holiday at the beach was my idea of heaven. I remember a perfect one at Narooma in the summer of 1948/49, under canvas, on the beach for six weeks (my father was a school-teacher).
As I grew up, having a beach house seemed to me a kind of ultimate goal, and I finally acquired one in the 1970s. It wasn’t a house, but a flat, and it wasn’t next to the beach, but a longish walk, and uphill on the way back, which didn’t thrill the kids. But there it was, in Terrigal, not all that far from where we lived in Sydney — except that on Friday afternoons the Pacific Highway was usually jammed.
When I moved back to Canberra in 1980 I sold the Terrigal flat and bought a besser-block and fibro fisherman’s shack at Lilli Pilli, south of Bateman’s Bay. There was nothing at all pretentious about this house, and it was still a longish walk from the nearest beach, but it was on a small cliff above the sea, and the sound and smell of the waves on the rocks below were magic. Over the years we improved that shack, and I dreamed about retiring to it.
As retirement grew closer we started drawing plans of what it would look like when Bev had made it fit for permanent living for the two of us, and for our great collection of books and things. The trouble was that it was an awkward house, awkwardly sited on its block. Bev’s penchant is for continuity, and we have renovated a few houses over the years, keeping the history but improving the liveability. This one was a problem, and we didn’t get anywhere.
One day, I followed a homemade sign that said ‘two cliff top houses for sale’ and we walked down a drive to find one of the houses and the owner. It was a big house, plenty big enough for our purpose, but it needed a lot of work. The owner was a builder, and he had built it for himself. He wanted to sell, and when we stood on the first floor deck and gazed at a wonderful 180 degree view of the sea and the Clyde River, I wanted to buy. We agreed on a price, Bev renovated it wonderfully, and in six months we were in. We sold the other one to nice people who knocked down our old shack and built a beautiful house there.
But we never did retire to the coast. There were grandchildren in Canberra, and other tasks occupied the time that I had fondly imagined to be occupied in swimming, lazing, reading and writing down in our lovely big house. Even more sadly, we spent less time there after retirement than we had both been hard at work. Why? Well, more grandchildren came, and the new ones were in Melbourne and Sydney. When I was working at the University of Canberra, I made a rule that I would not be at the University at weekends, and we mostly went to our coast house. After retirement there was no rule that we could not spend weekends in Canberra, and we found many reasons for doing so.
Then we put the house on the holiday rental market, and that at least allowed it to pay for itself, but also meant that we did not use at holiday times (retirement is permanent holiday, isn’t it?) so our visits became less frequent, and when we did come there was a lot of work to do. One day I realised that the house owned us, rather than the other way round. So, after 14 years in Sunshine Bay, plus 18 at Lilli Pilli, plus a few at Terrigal, we are looking at a future without a coast house.
Our third one looks like this:
This photo has been taken from the edge of the cliff, which is high, maybe 30 metres from the water below. If you stand on the patio at the ground floor level, you will see this:
And were you to stand in the doorway into our bedroom, which opens on to the upstairs patio, you would see this:
Why am I doing this real estate tour? Well, you might be interested in buying it! Or you might know someone who is looking for just such a house. Or you might just want to see more pictures.
In any of those cases, the person to talk to is Pat Jameson, of First National in Batemans Bay (firstname.lastname@example.org). There are many more pictures on the First National website, for 19 Burrawang Crescent, Sunshine Bay.