Port Fairy on Victoria’s Shipwreck Coast and Esperance, on Western Australia’s South Coast, have been named in Architectural Digest’s 50 Most Beautiful Small Towns in the World.
The list, which is compiled annually, also includes towns such as Albarracin, in Spain, where the pink and orange coloured buildings blend seamlessly with their rocky mountain backdrop.
Then there’s Banos, in Ecuador, which is a town of about 14,000 people set in the shadow of an active volcano and surrounded by lush forests.
There’s also the tiny town of Castle Combe, England, which has a population of just 357 people and hasn’t had any new homes built since the 1600s.
“The town is a well-preserved stretch of Cotswold stone cottages and old pubs and churches,” according to Architectural Digest.
Port Fairy, with its population of 3742, is noted for its picturesque scenery, 19th Century cottages, antique shops and amazing beaches.
Penny Adamson, of Charles Stewart Real Estate, said Port Fairy was probably one of the “uniquest real estate markets in Australia”.
“I don’t think it’s ever gone down in history, in terms of value,” she said.
“The reason for that is, it’s an 1830s-1840s fishing village, so it has got a beautiful, historic charm.
“And to complement that historic nature, it’s also got beautiful restaurants, quality shopping, beautiful art and a nice, alternative mix of culture with music and festivals that have really put the town on the map.”
Ms Adamson said the beaches were also an enormous drawcard for the town.
“The beaches have a beautiful easterly facing aspect, which is unusual,” she said.
Ms Adamson said real estate in Port Fairy offered a mixture of historic, period homes and newer builds, with property in the town tightly held.
“There’s a limited amount of property with riverfront and beachfront,” she said.
“A lot of those beachfront homes are generational holdings, so when they do come up (they sell well).
“One did come up recently, 36 Griffith St, which I sold in conjunction with a Melbourne agent, for $7.2 million, which is a record for Port Fairy.
“It’s a river to ocean property in the tea tree end of Port Fairy, which is the jewel in the crown.”
Ms Adamson said many buyers in Port Fairy were either local downsizers, nearby farmers looking for holiday homes or even investors from Melbourne, Horsham and even Adelaide.
“The coastal town has some of the most picture-perfect beaches in the country – ones teeming with kangaroos, no less – which you can enjoy between browsing farmer’s markets and downing fish and chips at some waterfront restaurants,” the list reads.
Professionals Esperance co-owner Paul Blackham said the region had recently been acknowledged as having some of the most beautiful beaches in the world and he said residents of the town were quite parochial.
“You look at the beaches on the Gold Coast or somewhere up north in Queensland and you go, ‘that’s beautiful, but it’s not a patch on what we’ve got’,” he said.
Mr Blackham said Esperance had a mixture of architectural styles and a median house price of about $450,000 and about half of the sales in the town were people either trading up or trading down.
He said local farmers who had good years would often build a new home in the town.
“The goldfields, historically, depending on how the mining industry is going, that’s always been a big part of our clientele.
“When things are a bit more affluent they can come down and maybe have a holiday home, a unit, or retire down here because that’s where they’ve come for a holiday for forever and a day.”
Mr Blackham said the Esperance market was holding up well and, despite interest rate rises, prices hadn’t come back too much.
“We are really chasing listings,” he said.
“Buyers are outweighing the number of properties for sale, so while that’s in play we’re not seeing prices come back yet.”
Mr Blackham said appearing in a list such as Architectural Digest’s was a feather in the cap for the town and something residents would be immensely proud of.