Sparkling Kiama, A small coastal town with a bustling harbor in Australia’s New South Wales, has become a magnet for city dwellers looking for a change amid impressive scenery and a laidback lifestyle.
Lifestyle changes and unprecedented demand have buoyed real estate prices to heady heights in the past 12 months even above Sydney’s median house value.
Just a two-hour drive from Sydney, three hours from Canberra and 40-minutes from Wollongong, Kiama is a tourist haven with its natural blowhole claimed to be the largest in the world that shoots walls of water up to 30 meters high through a 2.5 -meter opening.
The area, which is a rich agricultural center, is surrounded by pristine surf beaches, rock pools, national parks and has seaside cafes and restaurants.
The Sydney International Airport and Sydney Domestic Airport are both a 90-minute drive, while the nearest airport to Kiama is Wollongong Airport, which is 13.7 kilometers (8.5 miles) away.
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The Kiama Municipality is in the Illawarra region of the state, south of Shellharbour and the City of Wollongong. Kiama is situated near the Minnamurra River and is framed by the Pacific Ocean, the Princes Highway and the South Coast Railway Line.
A surge in city dwellers moving to this coastal area during the pandemic has seen demand for houses in Kiama increase dramatically reflecting a price hike and shortening of quality properties.
According to Eliza Owen, property data company CoreLogic’s head of research, the Kiama house market has vastly outperformed the broader region, with Kiama houses seeing value increasing by 43.9% compared to 31.0% across the whole of the New South Wales region.
The apartment market has been more in line with growth in the state’s regional markets in the 12 months to January, with Kiama units up 24.6%.
“The surge in values has resulted in the median house value across the broader Kiama region reaching A $ 1.6 million (US $ 1.17 million), which is above Sydney’s median house value, albeit Kiama is a smaller lifestyle market.” Ms. Owen said.
In his current portfolio, Daniel Watt of South Coast Prestige Properties lists a six-bedroom, two-bathroom house on Kiama’s coveted beachfront enclave for A $ 6 million (US $ 4.3 million) but said prices average from A $ 1.5 million for a quality home with coastal views.
Sprawling luxury properties hug the beachfront or are on the edge of rural parcels, and there are some beautifully restored heritage cottages built for quarry workers in the 1880s. There are also high-and low-rise apartments with coastal and ocean views.
Kiama now has more houses and units for sale compared to the last six months of 2021 when agents described the market as “sizzling.”
Mr. Watt said quality housing was snapped up as soon as it came on the market last year and buyers had little choice, but the market has stabilized and there is now more for sale.
“Housing in the exclusive headland area with views up and down the coast always sells quickly but there’s been more choice for buyers of quality homes in the past few months,” he said.
What Makes It Unique
It’s all about lifestyle in Kiama, where nature stars in the form of stunning seascapes with magnificent beaches, where whales can be spotted from May to July and September to November.
The nearby hinterland is a lush green belt of dairy farmland, which gives it an English-country feel.
You won’t find any traffic lights and parking is not a problem.
The Budderoo National Park, Seven Mile Beach National Park and Barren Grounds Nature Reserve all within a 30-minute drive of Kiama are great for bushwalks and exploring.
Hikers chase waterfalls in the area, too, including Minnamurra, Carrington, Fitzroy and Belmore Falls.
Vivienne Marris, principal and owner of Elders Jamberoo Real Estate, said many residents commute to Sydney and Wollongong by rail to achieve a great work-life balance and enjoy a vibrant community.
“It’s a perfect lifestyle mix and there’s still a country feel about it with the sea one side and rolling green hills and farmland the other,” Ms. Marris said.
Mr. Watt agreed, saying it’s unique because of the close proximity to Sydney.
“That’s definitely a sweet spot — the city rail is excellent, and you can be there in less than two hours,” he said.
Kiama is an indigenous word that means “where the sea makes a noise” in reference to the famous Kiama Blowhole.
Kiama has grown into a gourmet hub with seafront restaurants and quaint cafes that showcase the fresh regional produce the Illawarra region is known for.
You can pick up supplies at Wednesday’s Kiama Farmers ’Markets at Coronation Park with the surf beach as the backdrop.
The market kicks off with the ringing of a bell and produce includes fruit, vegetables, seafood, oysters, local Wagyu beef, honey, eggs, milk straight from the dairy, gelato made from local milk, cider, wine, mushrooms, cakes and tarts , preserves and sourdough bread.
Some great coffee spots include Wild Patch Cafe, which serves Byron Bay coffee and lots of healthy options.
Set on Kiama’s surf beach, Silica showcases homegrown produce from its own organic vegetable patch at Dapto Community Farm — the fish and chips and bar bites have a following.
Hanoi on Manning has been serving authentic Vietnamese food since opening in 2009.
For a sweet treat, head to Parfait Patisserie for delicious pastries plus breads and fruit tarts. The Little Earth Cafe near the Little Blowhole is an organic cafe and general store and is great for coffee and treats; and Flour Water Salt bakery, cafe and food store is known for its artisan sourdough, pastries and cakes.
The Pines Pantry is located in an historic Collins Street Terrace House stocks award-winning cheese, bottled milk, yogurt and a range of artisan gelato made from the family-run micro-dairy The Pines on the nearby South Coast.
Mix art with food at the Little Blowhole Art Bar known for its cool tunes, clever cocktails and it’s a boutique art gallery. Book lovers will enjoy Bouquiniste with a selection of interesting books and coffee.
For shopping, Beachside Emporium sells art and design pieces by local designers and artists and Australian-made products. Meanwhile, The Inside Story has a great selection and for more retail therapy Deer Willow is stocked with global homewares and fashion, spread over two floors.
There are excellent schools in the area including the Illawarra Grammar School at Wollongong and Shellharbour Anglican at Dunmore as well as other schools in the highlands, all within 50 minutes.
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Who Lives There?
Kiama is home to young professionals, families, retirees and many who have made a recent move but who commute to Sydney or Wollongong for work.
Ms. Marris said the hinterland attracts “hobby” farmers who want to run a few animals and have space.
“The demographic is moving to a younger element as it has traditionally been farming and retirement, but we now have middle- to high-end-income residents, so the first home buyer is no longer as much a proportion of the community as it was, say 15 years ago, ”she said.
Like many high-performing markets across Australia, Kiama has likely hit a peak growth rate for the current cycle, with quarterly movements already starting to ease, according to Ms. Owen.
“Affordability constraints and a shift in the interest rate cycle (as well as significant progress in vaccination and easing of social distancing) will see growth rates soften across this market over 2022, with the potential for price falls when the [interest] rate rises, ”she said.
Long term, however, Kiama has excellent prospects for further growth and development.
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“The Covid crisis has awakened many to the possibility of living in a commutable, regional center, and the south coast of New South Wales continues to develop an appealing lifestyle with wineries, breweries, gift shops and cafes,” Ms. Own said. “Like most areas that undergo this kind of shift and demand from relatively high-income earners, this will present a mix of opportunities and disruption for locals, as employment opportunities expand, and real estate markets continue to rise in value.”
Ms. Marris said the past year is not really a good indicator, as some areas saw values increase 60% in only the last six months.
“FOMO — the fear of missing out — has played a large part in the peak of the market in August, September, October when we had little to offer and a demand not quite seen before,” she said.
“That has now cooled, settled with more property coming on to the market.”
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