Over past weeks a popular news poll asked Australians to vote for their favourite beach. Some stunning beaches made the top ten including Tasmania’s Wine Glass Bay. Having just spent time with my family driving up WA’s incredible coast and creating great memories, I could appreciate how Exmouth’s Turquoise Bay could be a contender. It did prompt me to think about some of our very own beaches in my home city; Melbourne.
Which beach is Melbourne’s best beach? And which suburb is Melbourne’s best beach suburb?
I vote for Chelsea; postcode 3196. Not only does Chelsea have a great community with well-integrated public transport, an array of public and private schools in its immediate surrounds, but Chelsea has something that very few suburbs in Melbourne’s vast stretch of suburbs has… waterfront homes. Not waterfront like Elwood and St Kilda with a busy esplanade separating the back door from the beach, but sand-in-your-toes type proximity. The houses along Chelsea beach have absolute beachfront.
From the mouth of the Patterson River in Carrum to Mordialloc’s famous Bridge Hotel, a tight number of short streets trickle off the Nepean Hwy and stop at the sand. The properties in these finite streets are classified as “beach side of the highway” to the locals and they come with a huge premium. From turn of the century cottages to 1920’s Tudor, mid-century beach house style to modern luxury townhouses, including a peppering of 1970’s villas and 1960’s boutique apartments, this patch is quite eclectic and highly prized for beachside Kingston residents. Chelsea sits right in the heart of this thin slither and it’s one of my favourite beachside offerings.
Chelsea’s beach isn’t only special because it’s so perfectly accessible for a select few though. Chelsea’s beach is beautiful all year round. The lifesaving club adds an exciting tone during summer, yet the walk along the sand is pristine and beautiful during the rugged winter months when Port Philip Bay feels more like an angry surf beach. Large blue jellyfish wash up on the shores annually, fishermen head out early in their eager quest to catch the perfect fish during salmon season, and families love to head down from all directions on a warm summer’s night.
With just over 7,000 residents, the demographic data for Chelsea is interesting. Unlike other beachside suburbs, it as an unusually high number of elderly residents. This can be explained by the higher-than-average numbers of villa units in the area. Not only in the thin sliver of beachside Chelsea but in almost every street running east of the beach observers will find villa units in abundance. Built from the 1960’s through to the millennium, residents who opted for this dwelling type could enjoy an easy lifestyle with shopping, train station and beach all within walking distance. The bus routes are also optimised for our older contingent, and sweet cafes and gift shops adorn the old shopping strip which was updated only ten years ago with a large Woolworths added to the rear of the existing shopping precinct. While the low number of restaurants hint that high income-earners are yet to infiltrate the area in numbers, a selection of eateries score highly in the food stakes. My favourite is Cucina Dolce; a crowd-pleaser with great wood-fired pizza and home-made gelato on their claim to fame. And I can’t argue with the numerous votes for ‘best eggs’ when I consider “Where’s Your Aunty” for a rewarding breakky.
Interestingly the vast array of schooling options enhances the prospects of the suburb for young families. From local church schools to several state primary schools and secondary options plus plenty of well-regarded private schools within an easy commute, such as Haileybury, Cornish, Lighthouse, St Bedes, Mentone Grammar, Kilbreda, and others, parents can be confident that there are numerous options on offer for their children’s education.
The median house price sits around $900,000 and the median unit price is circa $600,000. Units are more difficult to define because they span from apartments to luxury townhouses. A villa unit in an idyllic street towards the eastern side of Nepean Hwy will sit comfortably within the first home buyer stamp duty concession limit of $600,000 and some will have quite a bit of change from this figure.
Chelsea’s rate of change is evident, with first homebuyers, renovators and young couples moving into the area to take advantage of the conveniently located villas. What still looks like cosy retirement blocks is now a mixed blend of young singles, couples, small families and elderly residents, all cohabitating in what can only be described as an underrated seaside village 30km from town.