Move over Byron: Here are 5 waterfront towns with big prospects

Beautiful beaches, postcard-perfect rainforests, cute cafes, and seriously swimmable seas — it’s unsurprising that Byron Bay has been a popular holiday destination for decades.

But thanks to its bucolic beauty — alongside a burgeoning celebrity population pushing it into the international spotlight — this formerly sleepy beach town has become both a tourist hipster hub and the country’s most sought-after place to live.

Supercharged buyer demand has seen Byron Bay’s median home price tip over $3 million.

To put the price surge in perspective, the median house price in 2014 was $660,000, representing a meteoric rise of more than 187 percent in five years, according to PropTrack data.

This runaway Byron boom has left countless wannabe Byron-dwellers and priced-out locals scratching their heads and asking the literal million-dollar question: where’s next?

Thankfully, for buyers seeking an idyllic location and feel-good vibes, there are some small-town alternatives that have some of Byron’s charms, but not of the accompanying price tag.

Some of the country’s top property pundits give their hot picks of up-and-coming areas that have been passed the sea and tree-changer batons.

1. Yamba, New South Wales

With world-class surf, more beaches than you can shake a stick at, and more than 300 days of sunshine annually, Yamba has been a long-time favourite for those in-the-know.

And it was recently declared a hotspot in the inaugural Hot 100.

In contrast to the jam-packed beaches of Byron, Yamba’s pristine stretches of white sand are positively Robinson Crusoe-like.

And the nearby enclave of Angourie — just 5km down the road — is a bona fide surfing Mecca thanks to its designated National Surfing Reserve.

Yamba is booming in popularity. Picture: Getty

“Yamba is the coastal destination that holiday dreams are made of,” local realtor Warren Tucker from Yamba Valley Real Estate said.

“Multiple beaches offer crystal-clear waves, while ashore the surrounding countryside is just as alluring with its parcels of native forest and foreshore walks.

“There’s Angourie for surf, great craft markets for creatives, and a Byron-like health and wellbeing culture, alongside abundant local, fresh food.”

Despite being only a 90-minute drive from Byron Bay itself, the town has long flown under the radar — until recently that is.

“Until about five years ago, the town was only infiltrated during holiday season by regular visitors who stayed in their small fibro holiday shacks,” Mr Tucker said.

“These days, price increases have seen the average Yamba house go from $535,000 only three years ago to a current median of $975,000.”

While central Yamba is “on the up”, wannabe investors should be looking to the small nearby riverside villages and hinterland acreage for a tree-change bargain, Mr Tucker said.

“Waterside and beachside homes are much sought-after and sell at a premium, however we’re seeing acreage blocks in traditional old nearby farming areas only just starting to be discovered, as young families seek an alternate lifestyle.

“It’s a lifestyle that’s safe and where kids can own ponies and one where they can keep chooks and grown their own veggies out back.”

2. Eden, NSW

While the northern stretch of the NSW coastline gets the lion’s share of the limelight, more and more travellers are increasingly waking up to the delights further south — specifically the Sapphire Coast.

So-called for its deep-blue, sun-sparkled waters, this area is a bounty of pretty, white sand-filled beaches, breath-taking scenery, quaint historic towns and rolling national parks.

And the hot pick in this part of the country is the aptly named Eden, Alex Haddad from Property Services Agency said.

Eden is a natural wonder with plenty of local charm. Picture: Getty

“It has all the hallmarks of Byron: surfing, bushwalking, hinterland, beaches, incredible food — especially the local seafood — and a really relaxed atmosphere,” Mr Haddad said.

“More tourists are visiting the area via its shipping port. And there’s definitely going to be a higher demand for property in the near future.”

With picture-perfect scenery, the third deepest natural harbour in the southern hemisphere, and a position midway between Melbourne and Sydney, you can see why it was once considered as a site for Australia’s capital city.

It’s also one of the only places in the world where humpback whales feed during their southern migration from September to November, meaning that it’s one of the world’s whale-watching capitals.

“Investors are already starting to buy here,” said Mr Haddad.

“The population has increased by around 3%, rent prices have gone up and smaller developers moving in.

“At present, a typical house is selling for $700,000, however you have acreages selling for more than $1.2 million.

“As more people with money start buying these acreage properties, it will drive up the median, and everyone will want their very own Eden.”

3. Mornington Peninsula, Victoria

Located an hour-and-a-bit southeast of the city, the Mornington Peninsula has long been a summer playground for Melburnians.

While a long-time premium holiday suburb, it has now become a popular option for homeowners thanks to Covid, Melbourne-based buyer’s agent Amy Lunardi said.

And the suburb of Mornington is something of a rising star.

Mornington is more affordable than the popular suburbs of the Peninsula. Picture: Getty

“While Mornington doesn’t have the waves of Byron’s famous surf beach, it does have an appealing coastal lifestyle with big stretches of sand with beach boxes and flat, safe beaches — and fewer sharks,” Ms Lunardi said.

Of course, a crucial ingredient to increased gentrification of an area is greater amenities.

And within these amenities, the hipster-driven independent owner-operated retail businesses are perhaps the most in-demand.

As with Byron, trendy hallmarks — be they artisanal bakers and micro-breweries, or vintage boutiques and independent bookstores — tick the boxes for young buyers, and the Mornington Peninsula has them all.

“Similar to Byron, it’s a foodie haven,” Ms Lunardi said.

“The region is renowned for its food and wine, and there’s no shortage of local organic produce prepared by star chefs.”

Ms Lunardi has seen an influx of younger buyers and creatives moving from the city for an improved lifestyle.

“There has definitely been an increase post-Covid of people seeking a more relaxed way of life, no longer needing to battle peak hour traffic with more flexible work from home options.

“Though the secret is out, the area is still a way more affordable option than other Peninsula areas, like Sorrento, Flinders, and Mount Martha, which have become out of reach for many.

“The median price in the Mornington was $830,000 at the start of 2018, which peaked at $1.35 million at the beginning of 2022, which is around a 13% growth per annum.

“Since this peak, it has dropped back to a median price of around $1.12 million, which is still a far cheaper entry price than Byron Bay.”

4. Buderim, Queensland

Perched high on the red, fertile soil of Buderim Mountain above the Sunshine Coast, the small town of Buderim has already been earmarked by the local council as a future Byron Bay.

A recent report that analysed population shifts and trends in education, arts and businesses in the area, has predicted the area will become a “Byron Bay of the north” by 2040.

“Located only a few kilometres from the world-famous Mooloolaba Beach, Buderim has surf access, waterfalls and hinterland views,” Stephen Williams, chief executive of Sunshine Coast Buyers Agency, said.

“It’s also within close proximity of hippy-ish Eumundi, and the buzzing cafes and restaurants of Noosa.”

Buderim is a few clicks from Mooloolaba, offering tree-changers the best of both worlds. Picture: Getty

Parallels are being drawn between community-minded Byron Shire and local Buderim residents, who have pioneered grassroots initiatives, such as a successful street vegetable and fruit growing operation.

And while the area has nothing on Byron pricewise yet, interest has been steadily growing.

“A standard family home has grown approximately 47% in value over the past three years,” Mr Williams said.

5. New Norfolk, Tasmania

Situated northwest of Hobart, this scenic and charm-infused Tassie town is being compared to bohemian Byron — just without the beach or the crowds.

Just as Byron Bay was transformed from old whaling station into a hipster epicentre, so too has Tasmania’s third-oldest settlement, New Norfok.

These days, an influx of tree-changers have helped transform this riverside town from agricultural village into a go-to for artists, musicians and small creative businesses.

It might not have a beach but it has water and an increasingly cool vibe. Picture: Getty

Its vibrant food scene – organic and locally sourced, of course – has seen an increasing number of bright, young, formerly big-city foodies, including the internationally lauded Agrarian Kitchen, opening restaurants and cafes.

“New Norfolk has been on the radar for Tasmanians, but not too much among mainlanders,” Mr Haddad said.

“However, there’s more and more young, entrepreneurial types moving there, slowly transforming it into a town of creatives.”

While New Norfolk admittedly doesn’t have the surf that lures many to Byron, its picturesque River Derwent location and proximity to beautiful waterfalls and national parks more than makes up for it.

But, as with any burgeoning burb, when it comes to finding a right time to invest, it’s sooner rather than later, Mr Haddad believes.

“Tasmanians have known about New Norfolk for more than a decade now, but as more mainlanders look into making their lifestyle moves — and find out about New Norfolk — the more the prices will rise.”

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