Retiring to a tourist area—tremendous or tiresome?

A crowded beach in Noosa Queensland

Image: Joanne Lane/

Have you thought about moving to a peaceful tourist area in your retirement? Or perhaps you’re looking for a place that’s busy and welcomes tourists throughout the year.

It’s a good idea to think about the advantages and disadvantages of moving to a tourist area.

Relatives of mine retired to the Gold Coast some years ago. Mr Relative couldn’t wait to experience the warmer weather and leisure activities. His wife was hesitant, but soon got into the rhythm of the ‘Coast’. He got his wish for the different climate, but the leisure had to wait for a while as they launched a business (but that’s a story for another day).

Their location was a honeypot for friends and family. They were good hosts, but their piece of paradise always seemed busy. The roads were busy, it took quite a time to travel around due to increased traffic, and life seemed to be non-stop. However, they embraced their new location.

Retiring to a tourist spot does have advantages. Relatives visiting can be a plus (some may say this could be a minus), and old friends, neighbours and work colleagues may call in, particularly if your new area has attractive scenery, a good climate, and different activities to enjoy.

Such places can also be beneficial if you don’t want to retire totally. There may be scope to run a bed and breakfast or other accommodation—or, perhaps, to work a few days a week in a business that relies on tourism. There may also be different volunteering opportunities.

My relatives loved the lawn bowls and various other social clubs and liked meeting new people. During the winter many of their ‘southern friends’ would arrive to stay a couple of months and play bowls. It was a way of keeping in touch with old friends, as well as enjoying the sport and socialising.

They marvelled at the many other clubs, and commented about how local authorities kept the streets and beaches so clean, despite the influx of tourists. Socially, there was always something to do, a new attraction to see, a café or restaurant to visit or new people to meet.

However, life in tourist areas is not all cocktails and sunshine. Retire to some towns and you may find there are few people about in the offseason. If you’re thinking of retiring to a favourite tourist town, it’s worth visiting it midweek to see how many locals are around. Has it become a ghost town? How many shops and businesses are open? Are many businesses tourist dependent?

Other annoyances for retirees living in tourist areas include not being able to easily park near the shops, anti-social behaviour (often in ‘schoolies’ times), and the cost of living can be higher during the peak season. Some towns in Australia offer ‘locals discounts’.

It may be advisable to check how many permanent residents are in your street or apartment complex. Police have commented in some areas that many of the holiday homes were broken into and this was not reported promptly.

In one coastal area of South Australia we visited, there was only one permanent resident in a street. This can be a problem if you like interacting with neighbours and your local community. Holiday makers don’t necessarily want to be social or be part of the community; they’re there to relax and take in the attractions.

The crime rate can also rise during the tourist season and police have told us that petty theft is often on the increase. Tourists can be forgetful about closing doors and windows, and handbags casually left on a café floor may attract thieves.

Visiting an area in all seasons is important, as you can get a feel for what it’s like. Doing the research and chatting with locals can mean you receive helpful information so you can relax and enjoy your new area.

Jill Weeks is the co-author of several editions of Where to Retire in Australia and Retire Bizzi and is the author of 21 Ways to Retire. She’s a broadcaster and regular contributor to the ABC. 

Category: Where to Live

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