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Surf Coast: the lifestyle balance of buying along the Great Ocean Road

ASSA | 2021-01-29 11:52:09

The Surf Coast owes its good fortunes to a road. Victoria’s most photographed and a tourist-friendly strip of bitumen was carved out of the cliff-hugging the southern coastline by returned servicemen after World War I. The Great Ocean Road now draws 2.6 million domestic tourists a year and about 270,000 internationals in pre-COVID-19 times.

The opening of the first stage, linking Lorne and Eastern View in 1922, ended the isolation of those communities. A guiding figure behind the road’s creation, then-Geelong mayor Howard Hitchcock, had argued the Great Ocean Road would also become a tourist attraction, bringing people to marvel at the area’s ocean and mountains, rivers and forests.

Teddy's Lookout - Lorne
It’s a Victorian rite of passage to cruise along the Great Ocean Road. Photo: Belinda VanZanen

History has proven him correct. However, a century later, it’s road-building of a less romantic and far more practical nature that has boosted the area’s fortunes. The Geelong Ring Road, opened in stages from 2008 to 2013, bypassed the traffic snarls of Victoria’s second city and allowed the opening up of the Surf Coast and its hinterland.

The Surf Coast is more multifaceted than its name lets on. Townships such as Birregurra, Deans Marsh and Moriac in the Otway hinterland have benefited from the ring road in the way Lorne did from the Great Ocean Road so many years ago.

MoVida Lorne
The famous Lorne Hotel. Photo: Rob Blackburn

COVID-19 has played its card again, with the tantalising prospect of working from home drawing eyes to the lifestyle properties dotting the area – close enough to beach and city but embodying a rural idyll.

Marty Maher, director of Great Ocean Properties, says the pandemic has created thousands of hopeful buyers dreaming of a life outside the city. “The depth of buyer inquiry is staggering,” he says. “And they’re not all looking to be directly on the coast because that’s sometimes just not practical in a financial sense.”

Anyone looking for a complete change of scenery might be interested in the Deans Marsh general store, on the market complete with a charming four-bedroom house. Or a country home in Moriac, population 782, on a 0.2-hectare block.

“They’re both places that are all about old-school country living, but you’re close to the beaches as well as the bush, plus the ring road access makes a city commute possible,” Maher says.

Torquay Esplanade
Agents suggest it may be the balance of both rural and beach lifestyle that attracts people to the area. Photo: Mark Chew

Want to be right on the coast? The post-global financial crisis fire sale of premium properties is long over, agent Michael Coutts, ofGreat Ocean Road Real Estate,, says. “It’s the hottest market in 20 years, a classic case of redeployment of capital to our area because people can’t go overseas,” he says.

But if a home on the Great Ocean Road is out of reach, there are other options in the towns lining the coast. The thriving centre of Torquay has a growing number of apartments, and upmarket townhouses are popping up in the centre of Anglesea – both evidence of a re-evaluation of what a coastal property might look like.

“And if you’re looking for that real sense of community, then the smaller towns out back that have really benefited from the ring road are a great place to start,” Coutts says.

Embrace a new life in the gorgeous Otways hinterland, with the local store and a separate country home on the same 2200-square-metre title. You’ll be embedded in the close-knit community from day one thanks to the prominent store and cafe on the “alternative” route to Lorne, and the charming four-bedroom Californian bungalow at the rear has been updated with modern comforts.