It was the tranquility of a 1960s Nelson Bay and the fishing that lured the Wattons into making a permanent sea change so it made sense that the couple celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary this month enjoying some of its finest fresh seafood and a bottle of bubbles.
John and Judy Watton marked their diamond wedding anniversary on September 9 in the same way they have spent the past six decades - together.
"The moment I met her she captured my eye and that was the end of it. We've been together ever since," Mr Watton said.
Both from Sydney's western suburbs, the pair met through mutual friends at Granville Technical College. Judy, then 15, invited a 17-year-old John to her 16th birthday party.
It was the start of a four year courtship, including a one-year engagement.
"Judy's father wouldn't let us get married until she was 20. Her birthday was August 30 . We were married nine days later," Mr Watton said.
The couple lived in Riverstone where John, a carpenter by trade, had built a house.
In 1966 the couple temporarily moved to Singleton where John helped to build the Army camp. It was during this time the Wattons discovered Nelson Bay.
"There were a few couples who moved to Singleton for 12 months while we built the Army camp," Mr Watton said.
"We used to do lots of shooting but one weekend we decided on a change of scenery. We ended up in Nelson Bay. None of us had ever been before.
"We hired a dinghy and a flat for the weekend. We caught a lot of fish. That was it. We fell in love with the place."
The Wattons bought a block of land in 1983 and built a house the following year.
The land that John described as being "in the middle of nowhere" is now the built up residential area as you drive into Nelson Bay.
"Back then you had to drive on sand to get to the block," Mr Watton said. "We were one of the first to build here."
The house would be the Wattons holiday home until 2002 when they made the permanent move from Sydney to Nelson Bay when John retired.
Following their stint in Singleton, John and Judy moved to Townsville for four years. John helped to build the Army base and many other buildings in the northern Queensland town.
It was while in Townsville that the couple started their family.
They retuned to Riverstone in 1970 with two children, Tim and Jason. They would later add Janine to the family.
Moving to new cities for John's work is not the only travelling the couple have done in the past 60 years.
Travel is one of their shared passions, which has taken them all across Australia and to Europe, Africa, the US and Asia.
Their last trip was to South Africa for two weeks in January 2020. They had another trip planned for August that year but were grounded due to the pandemic.
In between holiday and work trips the couple would also travel the almost three hours from Riverstone or four hours from Nelson Bay to their farm in NSW's Central Tablelands region, near Mudgee, which they still own.
Mr Watton said his and Judy's life together has been "fun", "exciting" and "full of love" but not all smooth sailing.
"There has, of course, been some spats over the years, some differences in opinion, but we don't hold grudges," he said. "We sort it out before bed. We always seem to solve our problems."
Sixty years of marriage has done little to dull that spark of love between the pair.
"She's my soulmate. I love her dearly," Mr Watton said. "We'll grow old together."
In recognition of their diamond wedding anniversary, the Wattons received congratulations from Queen Elizabeth, NSW Premier Glady Berejiklian, Deputy Premier John Barilaro, Governor General David Hurley, Port Stephens MP Kate Washington and Mayor Ryan Palmer.
Mrs Watton, who went to college for sewing, is a quilting member of the Port Stephens Community Arts Centre in Nelson Bay and the president of Tomaree Breast Cancer Support Group.
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