The Australian Coastal Dream: 13 of the best up-and-coming beach towns
The allure of living by the sea – with its promise of tranquil mornings, sun-soaked days, and the rhythmic lull of waves – is a quintessential part of the Australian dream for many. Discovering the perfect coastal town to call home requires a good balance of affordability, access to suitable housing, the availability of amenities and job opportunities and for families and those looking to further their education – schools and universities close to home. All this, while not straying too far from the idyllic beach lifestyle, might sound tricky – lucky Australia is home to plenty of under-the-radar coastal communities that tick all the boxes for all kinds of folk and families.
We’ve rounded up some of the most enticing regional gems on the Australian coastline, each with their own unique charm and offerings that cater to families, young professionals, retirees or just those looking for a watery-horizon to plant their roots. The housing markets in these towns are diverse, offering everything from quaint beachside cottages to modern family homes, all within a realistic budget and with plenty to keep you busy (even if your idea of busy is to be not so busy at all).
New South Wales
1. Ballina, New South Wales
Lifestyle Highlights: Ballina, often overshadowed by its famous neighbour Byron Bay, is a hidden gem in its own right. It offers a more laid-back, affordable lifestyle compared to Byron’s bustling streets. Ballina’s stunning beaches, such as Lighthouse Beach and Shelly Beach, are perfect for surfing and family outings and ditch the inherent crowds that come with Byron’s booming tourist epicentre. And the Richmond River and North Creek are a haven for fishing and kayaking.
Ballina is a scenic 30-minute drive to Byron Bay, and its proximity means residents can easily enjoy Byron’s famous beaches, culinary offerings and vibrant arts scene while residing in a quieter, more budget-friendly locale. But there’s plenty on offer in the Ballina Shire – from farmers markets to live music at one of the most picturesque watering holes in the Northern Rivers – The Shaw’s Bay Hotel – Ballina is a place you really don’t have to leave if you don’t want to.
The surrounding Hinterland is a treat for nature-lovers, with mountains to traverse, waterfalls to explore and rainforests to meander. This up-and-coming yet established township offers the best of both worlds – the serenity of a smaller coastal town and the buzzing atmosphere of a popular tourist destination.
Housing and Education: Ballina’s housing market is substantially more affordable than Byron Bay, providing a range of options from cosy federation-era cottages to modern family homes. The town caters well to families and individuals alike, with several schools in the area including Ballina High School and Southern Cross School K-12. For higher education, the nearby Southern Cross University in Lismore is within reach, making Ballina an ideal spot for those with school-age children.
2. Coffs Harbour, New South Wales
Lifestyle Highlights: Coffs Harbour is a name familiar to many, often associated with the iconic Big Banana and beautiful beaches. This coastal city, situated about halfway between Sydney and Brisbane, offers a unique blend of business opportunities and a relaxed beach lifestyle. It’s a thriving hub with a substantial business district that caters to a range of professional needs, making it an excellent choice for those seeking job opportunities without sacrificing the joys of laid-back coastal living.
Affordability is a key feature of Coffs Harbour, with the housing market offering a range of options that are more budget-friendly compared to Sydney or Brisbane. This relative affordability, combined with its plentiful amenities and scenic beauty, makes Coffs Harbour a compelling choice for families, professionals, and retirees alike.
Coffs Harbour isn’t just about amenities and affordability; it’s a place where nature’s playground is within reach. The city is surrounded by national parks, including the Coffs Coast Regional Park and Bongil Bongil National Park, offering a host of outdoor activities like hiking, bird watching, and beach sports. The Solitary Islands Marine Park is a haven for divers and marine life enthusiasts. The town also hosts a variety of cultural events, markets, and festivals throughout the year, contributing to its vibrant community lifestyle.
Housing and Education: Coffs Harbour’s housing market offers a mix of affordability and variety, from beachside apartments to suburban homes. Educational facilities are comprehensive, including Southern Cross University and numerous primary and secondary schools.
3. Eden, New South Wales
Lifestyle Highlights: Eden, a picturesque town on the Sapphire Coast of New South Wales, might not be the biblical paradise its name suggests, but it’s certainly a heavenly retreat for those who love the serene landscapes and a quieter coastal haven. This historic whaling town, approximately 6 hours’ drive from Sydney or Melbourne, making it a conveniently situated halfway point between two of Australia’s largest cities, is now a haven for nature enthusiasts. Its location offers a beachy lifestyle, complemented by a gloriously-green landscape and a close-knit community.
In Eden, the housing market is refreshingly affordable for NSW, making it an attractive base for families, couples, or anyone looking to enjoy a coastal lifestyle without breaking the bank. The town’s small size ensures that everything is within easy reach, yet it’s well-equipped with essential amenities, including local schools, shops, and healthcare facilities.
The town’s rich maritime history is showcased at the Eden Killer Whale Museum, and the annual Eden Whale Festival celebrates its marine heritage and the migration of humpback whales. For outdoor enthusiasts, the surrounding national parks and pristine beaches offer endless opportunities for exploration and relaxation. Eden’s fishing and aquaculture industries also mean that seafood lovers are in for a treat, with fresh local produce readily available.
Housing and Education: In Eden, the housing market offers up a plethora of choice from charming cottages to family homes with spacious yards, all at a reasonable price point. Education-wise, Eden caters well to families with school-aged children. The town has several educational institutions, including Eden Public School and Eden Marine High School, providing quality education from primary through to secondary levels.
4. Cooroibah, Queensland
Lifestyle Highlights: Cooroibah, nestled in the Sunshine Coast hinterland and just a stone’s throw away from the bustling Noosa, offers a tranquil and picturesque escape into nature. This hidden gem is perfect for those seeking an easy-going lifestyle amidst lush greenery and the serene waters of Lake Cooroibah. The area is an oasis for nature lovers, with numerous walking trails, bird watching opportunities, and tranquil spots for fishing and kayaking.
Despite its peaceful setting, Cooroibah is not far from the vibrant town of Noosa. Residents can enjoy the best of both worlds – the calm of a secluded hinterland retreat and the lively atmosphere of Noosa with its famous beaches, restaurants, and boutiques. This proximity allows for easy access to Noosa’s many cultural and recreational offerings, including the Noosa National Park, renowned for its stunning coastal walks and abundant wildlife.
The community in Cooroibah is warm and welcoming, with a mix of retirees, families, and professionals who all appreciate the area’s natural beauty and relaxed pace of life. For those seeking a peaceful lifestyle, but with the option to indulge in more lively pursuits in the nearby Noosa, Cooroibah strikes an ideal balance.
Housing and Education: The housing market in Cooroibah is diverse, offering everything from modest homes to large, rural properties. While the area is generally more affordable than central Noosa, it still provides the charm and beauty that the region is known for. In terms of education, families have access to a range of schools in the nearby Noosa area, ensuring quality educational options for children of all ages.
5. Craiglie, Queensland
Lifestyle Highlights: Craiglie, situated just a short drive from the renowned tourist destination of Port Douglas in FNQ, offers a unique style of living that, like Cooroibah, combines the peaceful settings of a small community with the vibrancy of a popular nearby tourist hub. This area, known for its stunning natural beauty, is a gateway to some of Australia’s most famous attractions, including the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest. Craiglie itself is a an idyllic suburb, offering residents a quiet environment, nestled amidst tropical landscapes.
The proximity of Craiglie to Port Douglas allows residents to easily enjoy the array of amenities and activities available in the bustling town. From the famous Four Mile Beach to the lively Macrossan Street lined with cafés, restaurants, and shops, there is always something to explore. This blend makes it the perfect pick for sea changers who appreciate a peace at home with easy access to entertainment when the feeling calls.
Craiglie’s community is diverse, hosting a mix of permanent residents and seasonal visitors, which contributes to its dynamic and evolving character. The area is popular among families, retirees, and professionals, all drawn by its natural beauty and relaxed lifestyle. Outdoor enthusiasts are particularly well catered to, with countless opportunities for snorkelling, diving, and exploring the lush rainforests and pristine beaches that the region is famous for.
Housing and Education: In terms of housing, Craiglie offers a range of options from affordable apartments to luxurious villas, catering to different lifestyles and budgets. The real estate market here presents an opportunity to invest in a rapidly growing region. For families, the area provides access to a variety of educational institutions in and around Port Douglas, ensuring good schooling options for children.
6. Port Fairy, Victoria
Lifestyle Highlights: Port Fairy, with a name that conjures images of enchantment and charm, lives up to its magical moniker! This pretty town, approximately a 3.5-hour drive from Melbourne, offers a welcome escape from the bustling city life. Its wide streets are lined with 19th-century cottages and old Norfolk pines, creating a storybook setting that feels both timeless and inviting. The town’s cultural scene is vibrant and diverse, highlighted by the renowned Port Fairy Folk Festival, which attracts music lovers from around the world.
The town’s history is richly woven into its fabric, with over 50 buildings classified by the National Trust. The Griffiths Island lighthouse, accessible by a scenic walking trail, provides panoramic views of the coastline and is a popular spot for watching the sunset or the playful antics of the local shearwater colony. East Beach offers a pristine stretch of sand ideal for swimming, surfing, and relaxing. The Moyne River meanders through the town, providing a picturesque backdrop for fishing, boating, or simply enjoying a leisurely stroll along the riverbank.
Housing and Education: The housing market in Port Fairy is diverse, offering everything from historic stone houses to modern family homes. While it has become more sought-after in recent years, leading to a rise in property prices, it still remains more affordable compared to larger cities and some of the more commercialised coastal towns. This makes it an attractive option for those seeking the coastal lifestyle without the hefty price tag. The town provides quality education with several schools, including the well-regarded Port Fairy Consolidated School.
7. Apollo Bay, Victoria
Lifestyle Highlights: Apollo Bay, nestled along the scenic Great Ocean Road in Victoria, offers a coastal lifestyle immersed in nature’s goodness. This picturesque town, approximately a 2.5-hour drive from Melbourne, is a shoo-in for those seeking a peaceful place to call home with the excitement of a thriving community. The backdrop of the lush Otway Ranges and the expansive Southern Ocean provides a stunning setting for a diverse range of outdoor activities.
The town’s charm lies in its small but lively community, where local markets, quaint cafés, and seafood restaurants create a warm and inviting atmosphere. Apollo Bay’s annual Seafood Festival is a celebration of the town’s rich marine harvest, bringing the community and visitors together to enjoy the local catch. For nature enthusiasts, Apollo Bay is a gateway to some of Victoria’s most spectacular natural attractions, including the Great Otway National Park, known for its ancient rainforests, cascading waterfalls, and abundant wildlife.
The coastal and forest walks around Apollo Bay are nothing short of breathtaking. The Great Ocean Walk, starting at Apollo Bay, offers hikers a chance to experience some of Australia’s most stunning coastal scenery. The town’s beach is a focal point for relaxation and recreation, perfect for swimming, surfing, and beachcombing. The community is active and welcoming, with a variety of events and activities that reflect the town’s connection to its environment and artistic leanings.
Housing and Education: The housing in Apollo Bay varies from affordable seaside cottages to larger family homes. Apollo Bay P-12 College caters to a broad range of educational needs.
8. Bicheno, Tasmania
Lifestyle Highlights: Bicheno, located on the sunny east coast of Tasmania, approximately 2.5 hours from both Launceston and Hobart, is the quintessential Tasmanian beach town! This small, picturesque locale is famed for its mild climate, crystal-clear waters, and friendly local atmosphere. Bicheno’s charm lies in its relaxed pace of life and natural allure, making it a superb spot for those seeking a fusion of outdoor adventure and all the mod-cons that nearby Hobart and Launceston has to offer.
Bicheno is not just a place to unwind and soak in the sun; it’s a hub for wildlife and outdoor activities. The town is renowned for its penguins – spend your sunsets watching fairy penguins waddle ashore at dusk. The nearby Freycinet National Park, with its world-famous Wineglass Bay, offers spectacular hiking trails, and the waters around Bicheno are perfect for fishing, diving, and whale watching. The town also boasts a variety of local shops, wineries and eateries, where one can enjoy fresh seafood and local produce, truly encapsulating the spirit of Tasmanian coastal living.
Housing and Education: The housing in Bicheno is affordable and ranges from cosy beach cottages to family homes. It has a local primary school, with secondary schools located in larger towns nearby, ideal for family living. This affordability, coupled with the town’s natural appeal, makes Bicheno an ideal spot for retirees, families seeking a safe and nurturing environment, and anyone longing to connect with nature.
9. Robe, South Australia
Lifestyle Highlights: Robe is a seaside village with stunning turquoise waters, and is known for its historic buildings and Lake Butler Marina. The town’s laid-back lifestyle is complemented by its local wineries, seafood, and the annual Robe Homebrew & Craft Beer Festival. Long Beach offers a stunning 17km stretch ideal for long walks and fishing.
Robe’s appeal lies in its ability to offer a peaceful coastal lifestyle without the high costs typically associated with seaside living. The housing market in Robe is relatively affordable, presenting a range of options from quaint cottages to larger family homes, many with breathtaking views of the ocean or tranquil Lake Butler. This affordability, coupled with the town’s natural beauty and relaxed pace of life, makes it an attractive option for retirees, families, and individuals looking to escape the urban grind.
The waters around Robe are a paradise for lobster-lovers – you won’t find fresher and more readily available lobster anywhere else in Australia! The town is known for its delicious seafood, celebrated annually at the Robe Seafood and Wine Festival. For the wine connoisseurs, the surrounding Limestone Coast is dotted with exquisite wineries, offering a taste of the region’s best vintages. Robe’s blend of coastal pleasures, affordability, and proximity to Adelaide makes it a perfect place to call home.
Housing and Education: Robe’s housing market is varied but generally affordable, with options from beach shacks to modern homes. The town has primary educational facilities, with secondary options in nearby towns.
10. Goolwa, South Australia
Lifestyle Highlights: Goolwa, nestled at the mouth of the Murray River on the stunning Fleurieu Peninsula in South Australia, offers a special blend of riverside and coastal living. This historic town, just a short 1-hour drive from Adelaide, is a delightful mix of old-world charm and modern convenience, making it a premium spot for those looking for the coastal lifestyle not too far from a city-hub. Goolwa’s rich history as a river port during the 19th century is still evident in its inspiring architecture and the iconic paddle steamers that cruise the river.
The town’s lifestyle is heavily influenced by its proximity to both the river and the sea. Goolwa Beach is a popular spot for surfing and fishing, with the added excitement of being able to drive along the sand. The Coorong National Park, a wetland of international importance, provides endless opportunities for birdwatching, kayaking, and exploring the natural beauty of the region. Additionally, Goolwa’s vibrant arts scene, with numerous galleries and studios, along with the charming Goolwa Wharf Precinct, adds to the town’s appeal.
Community life in Goolwa is active and welcoming, with a range of local events and festivals throughout the year, such as the Wooden Boat Festival, which celebrates the town’s maritime heritage. The local markets are a hub of activity, offering fresh produce and local crafts. For the wine enthusiasts, the nearby McLaren Vale wine region is just a short drive away, providing access to some of Australia’s finest wineries.
Housing and Education: The housing market in Goolwa is diverse, offering a range of affordable options from historic cottages to modern family homes. This affordability, combined with the town’s natural beauty and community spirit, makes Goolwa an attractive choice for families, retirees, and anyone looking for a sea change. Educational needs are well catered for, with several schools in the area, including Goolwa Primary School and Investigator College, offering quality education from primary through to secondary levels.
11. Broome, Western Australia
Lifestyle Highlights: Broome, situated in the expansive Kimberley region of Western Australia, is a captivating blend of natural beauty, rich history, and cultural diversity. Known for the stunning Cable Beach, with its 22 kilometres of soft, white sand and turquoise waters, Broome offers an idyllic setting for relaxation and recreation.
The outdoor Sun Pictures Cinema, the world’s oldest operating open-air cinema, provides a unique movie-going experience under the stars. The annual Staircase to the Moon phenomenon, where the rising full moon creates an illusion of a staircase on the mudflats of Roebuck Bay, is a not-to-be-missed natural spectacle, celebrated with a lively night market offering local crafts and delicacies.
Broome’s economy, while historically centred on pearling, has diversified into tourism, offering a range of employment opportunities. The community is close-knit, with a laid-back lifestyle that emphasises outdoor living and appreciation for the surrounding natural wonders. For the adventurous, the Kimberley region offers endless exploration, from the rugged gorges of the inland to the rich marine life of the nearby reefs and the iconic Horizontal Falls.
Despite its remote location, Broome provides all the necessary amenities, including shopping centres, schools, and healthcare facilities, making it an attractive location for those seeking a unique, tranquil, and culturally rich lifestyle.
Housing and Education: The housing market in Broome offers a mix of traditional and contemporary styles at a moderate price. Educational facilities include Broome Senior High School and several primary schools, contributing to a family-friendly environment.
12. Esperance, Western Australia
Lifestyle Highlights: Esperance, nestled on the Southern Coast of Western Australia, approximately a 7.5-hour drive or a short flight from Perth, is a breathtakingly beautiful coastal town. Known for its pristine white sandy beaches and crystal-clear turquoise waters, Esperance is a paradise for beach lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. Twilight Beach, has been voted one of Australia’s best beaches, offering a perfect setting for swimming, surfing, and sunbathing.
Esperance is not only about its beautiful beaches; it’s also a gateway to unique outdoor wonder. The surrounding national parks, including Cape Le Grand, offer outdoor enthusiasts a chance to explore some of Western Australia’s most breathtaking landscapes. Nearby Lake Hillier, famous for its vivid pink hue, and events such as the Esperance Wildflower Festival, makes Esperance a nature-lover’s paradise.
Housing and Education: Esperance offers a variety of affordable housing options. Educational facilities include several primary and secondary schools, such as Esperance Senior High School.
13. Margaret River, Western Australia
Lifestyle Highlights: Margaret River, renowned globally for its premium wineries and surf breaks, is a gem of Western Australia’s South-West Coast. This enchanting town offers a lifestyle that is as rich in culture as it is in natural beauty. Located about a 3-hour drive from Perth, Margaret River is not just a destination for wine connoisseurs and surf enthusiasts; it’s a haven for anyone seeking a blend of rustic charm and modern sophistication.
Margaret River is driven by a vibrant community that celebrates its local artisans, chefs, and winemakers. The town is dotted with boutique galleries, cosy cafés, and world-class restaurants, all contributing to its bustling yet relaxed atmosphere. The annual Margaret River Gourmet Escape is a testament to the town’s culinary prowess, drawing foodies from across the globe. For the outdoor adventurers, the surrounding landscape offers endless exploration, from trekking through lush forests to discovering secluded beaches along the coastline.
Margaret River is a lively location, reflected in its numerous festivals and events that celebrate everything from food and wine to music and cinema! The Margaret River Pro surf competition showcases the town’s surf culture and is a great event to spectate each year. Beyond the surf, the region’s natural wonders include the awe-inspiring limestone caves and towering karri forests. The town also takes pride in its commitment to sustainability and conservation, making it an appealing choice for those who value environmentally-minded company.
Housing and Education: The housing market in Margaret River varies from charming country homes to modern residences, with a price range to suit various budgets. The town has several schools, including Margaret River Senior High School, making it family-friendly.
Thinking of making the move to more?
Embrace the journey and start your search for your place to call home. Whatever the ingredients you need to make a coastal-haven your dream-destination, Australia’s glimmering coastline offers a banquet of choices that blend beachside charm with affordability, educational opportunities, leisure activities and access to work opportunities.
Check out our regions map for a birds-eye peek into the hundreds of regional towns in your desired regions, or head over to our location browser to start your search using filters to find a town within your buy-or-rent budget.