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‘There’s less hustle and bustle’:

Why the Hunter is a haven for young families


MAY 13, 2020

From boutique vineyards and farm-stays to white sandy beaches, fresh food trails and a buzzy festival scene, the Hunter has earnt a reputation as an in-demand getaway destination.

But there’s more to this part of NSW than holiday highlights. With its laid-back lifestyle, booming economy and relatively affordable real estate, it’s also attracting attention as an outstanding place to raise a family.



The Hunter, also known as the Hunter Valley, covers almost 30,000 square kilometres between the Great Dividing Range and the coast north and south of Newcastle, including Lake Macquarie, Port Stephens, the Lower and Upper Hunter, Barrington Tops and the vineyards.


The Hunter spans almost 30,000 square kilometres. Photo: iStock

Sheree Lydon owns Jacaranda Grove, a pre-school on eight hectares in Nelsons Plains, north of Newcastle. There’s a small farmyard next to the classrooms, where the students can interact with sheep, chickens, a miniature goat, calves and a guinea fowl.

“It’s really beneficial for the children to get outside and get back to nature,” Lydon says. 

“Quite often, we’ll take the children on a bush walk where we just explore our natural surroundings, climb trees and have a picnic lunch.”


Jacaranda Grove Preschool in Nelsons Plains. Photo: Supplied

Lydon, who has four children aged from 11 to 17, says the Hunter is a fantastic place to raise a family, offering great schools, a wholesome rural setting and easy access to the bright lights of Newcastle to the east or Sydney, about two hours’ drive south. 

“It has all the conveniences of city living but you have the space, and there’s less hustle and bustle.”

According to government figures, the Hunter is the largest growth centre in NSW outside the Sydney basin, with a population predicted to hit a million people within the next 30 to 40 years. 


Hunter residents have easy access to the bustling city of Newcastle. Photo: Destination NSW

The region’s economic strength is underpinned by the coal industry, natural water resources, electricity generation capacity and an innovative manufacturing sector. Job opportunities span the gamut from research, education and health to the wine and equine industries, culture and tourism.

Newcastle, Australia’s seventh-largest city, used to be known as a “steel city”. Two decades after the closure of the steelworks, the city has reinvented itself as a vibrant place to live with a diverse economy based around both industry – boasting Australia’s largest coal export port by volume – and the service sector. 

With such robust population growth, big-ticket infrastructure investment and cheaper property than Sydney, developers have been busy seeking out land for new communities.

McCloy Group is a veteran Hunter-based developer with more than 5000 home sites in 15 communities in the pipeline, including several in Lake Macquarie, Maitland, Raymond Terrace and Medowie proving particularly popular with young families.

Not far from Jacaranda Grove pre-school, Potter’s Lane in Raymond Terrace is a 23-hectare community with 231 home sites, some more than 1200 square metres. In Lake Macquarie, Billy’s Lookout and Brush Creek estates offer an outdoorsy lifestyle with parklands, waterways and nature tracks nearby. 

McCloy Group managing director, Brian Swaine, says the company places a strong emphasis on liveability, incorporating public art and play spaces for children of all ages.

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McCloy Group Potter’s Lane community in Raymond Terrace. Photo: McCloy Group

“At The Bower at Medowie, for example, we’ve got children’s playgrounds for the under-5s, other activities for those aged five to 10 and we’ve got multi-court basketball and netball courts, so the teenagers have something to do,” Swaine says.

Swaine estimates young families make up 60 to 70 per cent of the market for McCloy communities across the Hunter. 

“At the end of the day, we’re just a large country town,” Swaine says. “We’ve got the Watagans mountains to the south-west, Barrington Tops to the north-west and every kind of environment you could want nearby. There’s lots of choice in the Hunter.”

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