Living in Noosa: What it’s Really Like?
Apart from the glorious weather, beautiful beaches and easy lifestyle one of the best things about living in Noosa is that, even though it’s a small place, everyone in Australia’s heard of Noosa because it’s one of our most famous beach resorts.
If you asked most Australians what living in Noosa was like they’d agree with the description above. That’s the idyllic Noosa image which draws so many holiday makers here but it’s not the full story.
In Noosa, as with any holiday destination people come to visit and end up enjoying their holiday so much that they want to stay.
Hundreds of people move to Noosa each year from interstate (mostly Melbourne and Sydney) and overseas, in particular New Zealand and the UK.
So what’s it like living in Noosa as opposed to just coming here for your holiday?
A local radio ad claims 40 people move to the Sunshine Coast each week. That’s over 2,000 people a year but I’d love to know how many of them actually stick around.
Let’s look at what makes living in Noosa tough, bearing in mind that although these are generalizations and personal impressions, the aim is to make sure that if you’re thinking of living in Noosa you’re clued up on the reality of life here and not buying into a false dream.
Things You Need to Know About Living in Noosa Before Moving Here
1. Work opportunities are hard to find
It’s seriously hard to find well paid interesting work in Noosa. Of course we move here for the lifestyle, not the career opportunities or the money, but at some point when you’ve been here a while you might start wondering if you’ve signed up for a lifestyle of poverty.
That’s a dramatization because most people living in Noosa aren’t poor because they come here with a financial cushion, but the impression you get from the designer boutiques and pricey restaurants lining Hastings Street is that everyone living in Noosa is wealthy. That’s a long way from the truth.
Those high end businesses are supported by wealthy holiday makers from Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne where you can earn decent money and have an interesting career. A few people now living in Noosa have told me they do jobs at a level with those they had 20 years ago in order to find work.
Parents need to remember that the Sunshine Coast has the highest youth unemployment of anywhere in Australia so if you have kids there will be limited job opportunities for them in Noosa too.
2. Running a business is hard in Noosa
Despite tourism statistics that show millions of tourists visit Noosa each year and spend millions of dollars here it’s unclear where that money goes because I haven’t noticed many locals getting wealthy from running businesses here.
In the five years I’ve been living in Noosa I’ve seen numerous bars, cafes, shops and restaurants open and then close because there wasn’t enough business to sustain them.
I’ve watched people arrive from the UK with solid business experience, lots of cash to invest and oodles of enthusiasm set up a new business in Noosa and then see it fail no matter how hard they work.
I’ve seen plenty of new Noosa residents turn tail and head back to live in the UK, NZ or one of Australia’s big cities where they can support themselves and their family.
There’s a running joke in Noosa that goes like this:
“How do you make a million dollars in Noosa? Move here with two million dollars.”
3. Businesses that do stick around are hobby businesses
Many people living in Noosa have retired or semi-retired here. The semi-retired may have investments and money in the bank but they’re just want to earn enough money to live on. Many of these people do alright. They make just enough income to get by and keep them living in Noosa but they tend to be people who are of retirement age (60+) with no kids to support.
Setting up a hobby business doesn’t work so well for younger people who want to earn a decent income to support the kids. Many people soon start to wonder why their busting a gut to earn so little money living in Noosa when they could earn two or three times as much in a city and come to Noosa for their holidays.
4. You probably won’t stay forever
There are plenty of people who’ve been living in Noosa for decades but many people get tired of Noosa after six months or a year because it’s so hard to make a living and thrive here.
5. Noosa Real Estate is heavily over-priced
Despite the value of Noosa real estate dropping in the last five years statistics show that Australian still has some of the most over-priced real estate in the world and least affordable compared to incomes.
Of course it’s worth paying to live by a nice beach, and new immigrants from cold, cloudy climates are happy to pay a premium for the good weather but if you buy a house in Noosa you’re still paying over the odds for what you get. Especially considering that there’s limited work in the area.
Furthermore most of the houses are cheap, badly designed and some are down right ugly. Many Noosa homes are just suburban boxes built on tiny plots of land.
If you’re thinking of living in Noosa check out the real estate websites and compare what you can buy here with where you’re living now.
6. Making friends can be hard in Noosa
I’ve been working out of a shared office this week and overheard a woman discussing with her colleague why she’s moving back to Melbourne. The first reason she gave was limited work opportunities. She also wanted to be closer to her mother.
Finally she admitted she’s found it hard to find friends in Noosa and I was glad to hear it because that’s been my experience too and not one that I’ve had anywhere else in the world.
I can’t say why it is but I know it’s a problem for a lot of people especially when your children are older (or have left home) so you don’t have a school community to get involved in.
7. When family and friends come to visit they may overstay
Here’s another common complaint from British expats. They often look forward to visits from family and friends but because it’s such a long trip people come for weeks or months and that can get a bit much.
8. The divorce rate is sky high
A few years ago the local newspapers ran an article headlined “Come to Noosa to get Married Stay for the Divorce” because, while Noosa is a popular venue for weddings, it also has one of the highest divorce rates in Australia.
I was asked to contribute to the article and suggested the reason was people who are unhappy move here thinking that will fix their broken relationship. Long story short, it doesn’t.
Another commenter suggested it was because work was hard and real estate prices which leads to stress and marital discord. Maybe Noosa has a high divorce rate because of all of the above.
9. Family life can be fractured
Even couples that stay together may end up spending time apart. The families who do earn money here are the FIFO (Fly In Fly Out) families where one parents (usually the man) works away from Noosa or overseas in industries like mining, oil or shipping.
Which means there are a lot of mums without support from husbands, a lot of kids who miss their dads and a lot of men who spend that majority of their time working away from home.
Probably not the best recipe for a healthy community.
10. Living in Noosa isn’t a fantasy life
Some people aren’t going to be happy anywhere. They may get fed up with Noosa because it’s too hot in the summer, there are too many bugs, they can’t stand all the round-abouts or it’s impossible to park at the beach during school holidays.
But there will always be drawbacks no matter where you live.
We’re still living in Noosa though because despite all the problems our children are happy here, city life is not for me and the outdoor lifestyle of beaches, biking and hiking is a fair trade for all the problems above.
What are your experiences of or concerns about living in Noosa?
Moving to Noosa?
If you’re making the move to Noosa and looking for a removalist I recommend Noosa Van Lines. They can take care of overseas removals and interstate removals to or from most places in Australia.
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I have to smile because many of those challenges are similar to ones people find at least in my part of Hawaii. It’s the perfect place for me, but it’s not necessarily an easy place for many people. I think that’s another reason why it can be hard to make friends. So many people come and go.
I’m happy you love your life in Noosa. How wonderful you have your online business!
Aha! Maybe it’s similar in a lot of holiday places. Great point about people are coming and going. We’re so lucky to have Web design and copywriting clients around Australia and overseas and very grateful to all our clients – we couldn’t live in Noosa without them.
Excellent article. The same issues apply to places such as Cairns. The problem is that the wonderful coastal or rural idylls have only limited opportunities for paid employment and ultimately broad social interaction.
So it’s the same in Cairns too – interesting, that’s another place we considered moving to but Noosa won out for us in the end.
I thought your article would be the usual schmaltzy stuff about what a great life you can have in Noosa (not that your writing is schmaltzy, but that’s the kind of thing one expects when someone mentions Noosa). So I was very pleasantly surprised to read you telling it like it is. And I agree with everything you wrote. We first bought a house here in 1992, but weren’t able to stay permanently until almost 8 years later. For some of that time we rented out our house, or I commuted back and forth from Brisbane on weekends while continuing in my job there. Then in 2002 I took a job overseas that kept us away for two years (with family house-sitting here). After that I was back and forth overseas for a couple more years, working on various aid projects. It wasn’t until my husband, who was 17 years older than me, was diagnosed with a condition that ultimately resulted in his death 6 months ago that we really became full-time residents. But by then, his mental deterioration and my role as his carer meant we had neither the opportunity nor the energy to make new friends – except for eight couples in a wonderful support group that sustained us both for his final four years. Now I’m alone and finding it very difficult to connect with new people locally at an age when most Noosa residents seem to rely on family and old friends. I’m joining a few organisations but there, too, finding that people my age don’t seem to be very open to new faces. Polite, yes, but not really welcoming. Another stumbling block is that I don’t have the kind of income that many Noosa retirees must have – judging by their social lives and travel stories. So it’s doubly hard to be living in Noosa on a limited income. Luckily, physical life is very pleasant here, and I’m never short of projects to keep mind and body occupied – reading, writing, gardening, sewing. But my kids are in Brisbane, leading busy working lives. Eventually I may end up going back to the city, just to be nearer to family.
Thank you so much for sharing your long experiences of living in Noosa. I am so sorry to hear about your husband. It’s still very fresh and I do hope you can persevere with those new groups and activities and find some fun people to hang out with. In the meantime those creative activities sounds great and I know that for me being outside in nature is very healing and we are truly blessed to be able to do that here all year round.
I have to admit, when I visited Noosa for 2 days while I was doing a road trip up the East Coast, I thought that most people would be wealthy there because there were so many up-market boutiques and expensive restaurants but what you said makes perfect sense; it’s the visitors from the big cities that keep those places going. Without tourism in Noosa, I doubt they would still be there.
It’s really interesting hearing about Noosa from the point of view of someone who lives there. I absolutely loved my visit – I parked my van on a beautiful river-side campsite, took a boat across to the main town, sat on the beach, it was bliss. I’d definitely go back but I’m a city girl through and through so I probably wouldn’t be happy if I moved there :)
Great blog post Annabel!
It’s great that you know what you like for holidays isn’t necessarily what you’d look for in a place to live :)
Spot on. Noosa may be a hot spot but it can be chilly for all the reasons you mentioned. And it’s not just Noosa, it’s the entire Sunshine Coast. I’ve lived all over Australia & have always found it easy to make friends. On the Sunshine Coast I actually had to work at it and even then it didn’t always work.
There’s no way I would have moved here without a good job. I’m very grateful to still have that job today because I love living here & my job makes it possible.
Haha, love the hot spot/chilly analogy – great to hear from you :)
Good article! I bet many people who think of moving to Noosa would find this dead useful… a pause for thought. I remember having friend move to Byron Bay and have similar issues too. They could buy a nice property but ended up asset rich but cash poor, with very few job opportunities.
And yes, I knew a couple who had many personal problems and moved to Noosa, doing a geographic as they say in AA… sadly they are divorced now.
Now I love Noosa, having been three times on holiday, twice with no kids. It’s heaven as a mums’ escape destination. Especially with a built-in pal and local expert like you there Annabel.
Doing a geographic – Love that term! If only you lived in Noosa too :)
I’ve never been there myself, but surely it isn’t all that bad there. Just the same, good to hear the other side of living in paradise!
Oh yes, there are pros and cons to living in Noosa or anywhere.
I have been to Noosa many times and have never had the desire to live there although I love the vibes when i am there i have not been drawn to live there. Your post confirms many things for me about Noosa and the Sunshine coast.
i read Sandra’s comment with interest , is there something about living in what i call paradise, I live at the southern end of the Gold Coast and love our lifestyle, but community is a challenge here too. Thanks for sharing
Love your insights and it seems like community and making friends is a common problem. Hope it’s not an age thing.
I think what you say about making friends is true in many holiday destinations. I lived on the Gold Coast many years ago, when I was young and single, and found it a very insular place to live and very hard to make friends, even though I had a full time job at the local newspaper. I think part of it was that the population was very transient, so those who had been there a long time thought “why bother, they’ll be moving on soon…” – and yes, I did! That wasn’t the reason I left, but it didn’t encourage me to stay. As for Noosa, I love to visit and I did consider the Sunshine Coast option when I was relocating back to Brisbane from Melbourne, but decided it would be too isolating (especially for someone who works from home). Good piece Annabel.
Sounds like you made a good choice. I can’t cope with cities though so Noosa’s definitely the right place for me – we should do the odd house swap!
That’s such a great blog Annabel. Now I won’t rush to move to Noosa in a hurry :) Maybe once we are retired.
Yes, Noosa’s a great place for that :)
Hi, I live in noosa. I have earnt more money in noosa and been working for most of my time there. I have been more healthier and more free and stress less. Noosa agrees with me. My husbands business has been amazing. Noosa people pay contractors unlike other parts of queensland. Its great, people are friendly, money is everywhere. I believe its all about mindset and what do you believe.
I love Noosa too and can’t believe we’ve been living in Noosa for eight years now – time has flown by and the lifestyle is great. Not sure I believe in the mindset thing though – I’m just keen to warn people of the realities :)
I think one of the most important qualities we’ve had to life and business all over the world is being flexible. So many people aren’t but it’s great to hear that living in Noosa has been a good move for you.
“it’s all in mindset” – lucky you for having a husband who has an amazing business.
I agree with the mindset.
It also helps to belong to a united global spiritual family.
Thank you for your article. How about schools in and around Noosa.
I have a young family and these are one of the top prioritys.
Hi from Noosa!
We are still living in Auckland but now on our 6th visit to Noosa. We love Sunshine Beach and are contemplating moving here. This was a great grounding article so thank you. We have noticed walking around not a lot of people say hi but maybe they are not locals. The shop folk and restaurant staff are super positive which we love.
Prices are high for homes but not as crazy as Auckland. There is a lot to weigh up. Maybe we will try a six month stay to get a reality check.
Andrew and Trace
Myself and my Wife have a clothing company in NZ and looking at Noosa as a possible next retail shop. Do you know how retail trade is going?? Looking at the location we are thinking Hasting Street?? We need large foot traffic to make our model work?? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated
Great to see you here. We’ve had an amazing summer in Noosa with heaps of tourists so Hastings Street has been booming. I should probably insert a legal disclaimer here but I reckon Noosa retailers will have done very well.
There’s definitely heaps of foot traffic but one problem – Hastings St rents are reputed to be the second highest in Australia so you might want to look into the rental costs. A pop up shop there or somewhere in Noosa would be a great way to test the waters if you could find a space.
Hi, I found this write up very interesting. My husband and I are planning to immigrate to Australia this year, Noosa is exactly where we’re heading. We currently live and work in France and we’ve been tackling the same issues mentioned. It’s taken 3 years to finally accept and appreciate our lifestyle change from the life we lived in London. I find it takes time to make the lifestyle changes and to see things from a new perspective, this is why when we move to Noosa we will give at least 3 years to adjust again to a busier lifestyle to the one we’ve been living in rural France. Making friends is something that takes time, friendships are built on histories together, so I think the point is, don’t give up on a dream too quickly, because when you move back to your old life you’ll find nothing and no-one have changed, but you probably have. Happy adventures!! :)
A dose of reality whilst enjoying a cup of coffee in good ol Adelaide was a sobering moment which after absorbing what you beautifully wrote had me equally on both sides of the fence…
I have been to some of the most beautiful plots of soil and sand in Australia but when my partner and i strolled into Noosa for a brief business conference located on hasting st we were blown away! Instantly my brain buzzing with possibilities mental pictures of us being vetran Noosaterians!!! Having a stable passive income behind us cash flow is not an issue on the other hand what to do with ourselves is the question we want to raise our child in noosa as drugs are a big problem in Adelaide and whilst growing up we feel Noosa would be a better choice
Could you kindly give some feedback regarding schooling
Thankyou in advance keep up the good work
Great article about Noosa. All true.