It was 25 years between visits to Agnes Water, a small coastal town tucked away in central Queensland, when long-term Melbourne local David Cox returned during a 2018 tour of Australia.
A week back at the beach, Mr. Cox convinced to trade in two decades of city life and buy a block of land in the coastal town of about 2,000 people.
He was lucky enough to beat the bustle of the town, which now rolled into Agnes Water and the twin town of 1770.
“It was inspiration at one end, but dissatisfaction at the other end,” Cox said.
“Melbourne got too busy and too expensive to live in. It got a little outdated for us.
“Here we have four acres and we’re a few minutes from the beach, so we really have the best of both worlds.”
Cox said friends and family had followed in his footsteps.
“My wife’s sister lives in Melbourne – she’s eager to move here,” he said.
“My sister actually moved from the Gold Coast, and a good friend of mine has also moved up here from Brisbane.
“I have family in Mildura, in northern Victoria, and would also like to come up.
Builders can not keep up with demand
John Smith, a builder who owns the local hardware store, said the demand for new homes was unlike anything he had seen in his 55-year career.
“We are building 14 at the moment and I will most likely get a positive inquiry every day that I cannot accommodate,” he said.
“There is a shortage of everything: materials, labor, houses.
Smith said population growth was also reflected in the number of new customers in his store.
“Our business here, the actual hardware store, has grown by over 100 percent and [is] increases monthly, ”he said.
“We’ve added four employees here over the last six or seven months, and we really need at least two others.
Queensland is the most decentralized mainland state in Australia, with only 49 per cent of the population living in Brisbane, the Queensland government reported in 2021.
Local tourism and marketing manager Amber Rodgers says the pristine landscapes have lured outdoor enthusiasts from the bottom south, many of whom choose to stay.
“There has been noticeable growth in the last 12 months, and to be honest it is both in visitor numbers and in residents,” Ms Rodgers said.
“We find that people were often from the Sunshine Coast in the past, and maybe they moved to that part of Queensland when it was a little less busy than it is now.
“Noosa, the entire coastal region of the Sunshine Coast and generally southeastern Queensland.”
Mrs. Rodgers said a travel company from 1770 had its busiest June in nearly 30 years of business, providing rides to more than 2,000 customers in a month.
The owner of a local motel and resort in 1770, Mark Houlst, said short-term visitors quickly turned to half- or permanent residents.
“This year we were probably 8 percent higher than the occupancy rate in September than we were last year, which was a good year anyway, and October seems to be the same,” Houlst said.
“We’re an hour from the southern Great Barrier Reef, we have surf, clear air, clear water – it’s in their backyard and they’re just aware of it.”
A home among the trees
David Allen ran a busy pub in Melbourne before switching nightlife to an exclusive home among the trees in a gated community past Agnes Water.
“There has definitely been a lot of interest because it is an internationally award-winning environmental property and it has resort facilities everywhere, it is very attractive to a lot of people in the south,” Allen said.
“When I moved in, only eight people lived there permanently. The permanent population is now around 60 or 65.”
Allen said new residents must respect the city’s natural wonders.
“As a local, you can complain when everything is full and people are everywhere,” he said.
“Every day kangaroos walk through my yard, lace monitors climb on my trees – we actually live in a literal rainforest.
“We hope [new residents] appreciate what is. “