A secret seaside hamlet on the Great Ocean Road has emerged as Victoria’s most exclusive regional hideaway.
The idyllic town of Marengo, with a median house price of $1.35m, is a secluded haven for coastal millionaires, away from more popular haunts from Aireys Inlet and Lorne.
New PropTrack data shows the regional towns with the highest median house prices, excluding major cities and the Surf Coast.
Marengo topped the list, with its median house price doubling from $685,000 to $1.35m in just five years.
The town neighbours Apollo Bay, ranked No. 10, with a median house price of $965,000.
Glenburn, in Hume’s Murrindindi municipality came in second with a median price of $1.103m, while up-market weekend destinations Port Fairy, San Remo and Woodend also ranked highly.
However, popular tourist spots like Daylesford and Hepburn Springs in Victoria’s spa country missed out on a spot in the top 20, as did nearby Kyneton and Bonnie Doon.
Goodlife Real Estate director Trish Goodlet said Marengo’s charm was that it was “more like a coastal hamlet than a town”.
She said it benefited from being “very much a part of the Apollo Bay community” with restaurants, cafes and local shops only minutes away.
“It’s got a really relaxed vibe and there’s a mix of holiday makers and permanent residents,” Ms Goodlet said.
“The town is at the start of the Great Ocean Walk and bordering on the Great Otway National Park, so it’s becoming more highly sought after.”
She said that Marengo appealed mostly to nature-oriented people or those who wanted to “escape the rat race” or “not be seen on the main strip of Lorne.”
There are a mix of properties in the area, with those around the $1m mark on smaller blocks with ocean views, while others on large farms generally sold for upwards of $2.5m.
PropTrack director of economic research Cameron Kusher said the exclusivity of Marengo and others on the list meant they were “tightly held”, with very few opportunities to buy into.
“Most of the suburbs have had very few sales and many of them are also quite close to other suburbs that have had much higher sales volumes,” Mr Kusher said.
“There is also very little opportunity for additional development in these suburbs, which for many buyers makes them quite desirable.”
Northeast Stockdale & Leggo Warrnambool’s Matt Northeast said Bushfield, a small township outside the regional city, offered “the best of both worlds”.
“It’s got that country feel with all the city conveniences at your doorstep,” Mr Northeast said.
He said the highly-regarded Woodford Primary School was attracting young families to the area, as well as retirees coming off bigger farms.
“And a lot of people have had the opportunity to sell their home for significantly higher prices and are taking the opportunity to get more land in Bushfield,” the agent said.
Other better-known towns such as Bright, Trentham and Wangaratta South were also named.
Alexander’s First National Bright sales manager Regan Alexander said the area had experienced “incredible growth” in recent years.
He said low stock and a rapid price increase, a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, had made the market more exclusive to buy into, pushing locals to neighbouring towns.
“Within the last five years there has been a lot of first-home buyers finding it harder to get into the Bright market and forced to buy half an hour down the road in Myrtleford,” Mr Alexander said.
He added that buyers were attracted to the area for its picturesque surrounds and family-friendly lifestyle.
Mr Kusher also noted that most of the suburbs on the data list were a mix of sea and tree-change destinations which he said was “not surprising given the demand for lifestyle locations we saw during the pandemic.”
“The exclusivity and demand for these suburbs is also highlighted by the fact that many of them have seen very large increases in prices over the past 12 months.”
MARENGO THE GIFT THAT KEEPS ON GIVING
When Yvette Hill and her husband Darren moved to Marengo about 25 years ago the home they purchased cost just $110,000.
The 16 Newcombe St property, which the couple shared with their now-teenage children Lucca, 18 and Meg, 15, sold last year for $1.23m in a show of just how far the local market has increased.
Ms Hill said she initially had hesitations about moving to the area, but came to love the charming town over time.
“When I first moved here from the Mornington Peninsula I thought it would be a really difficult place to live,” Ms Hill said.
“(It’s) a little bit hard to get to and I thought that was a bad thing initially, but now I think it’s a good thing … it makes it special and the town has its own character.”
Ms Hill said she felt like she had given her children “a gift” growing up in such a tight-knit community.
“It’s a quiet town and you live your own life but when times are hard, you know people have your back and will look out for you,” she said.
She said her family loved the nature focus of the hideaway town, with the Otways and ocean
“at our doorstep”.
— with Alanah Frost
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