A remote town on the edge of the Nullarbor has emerged as a popular destination for city leavers and one of the most affordable beachside suburbs in the country.

Key points:

  • The small town in far west South Australia offers a cheaper cost of living but has limited housing options
  • Analysts found the country’s top three most affordable beachside suburbs were all in South Australia
  • A researcher believed the pandemic-era trend of people leaving cities for the regions was here to stay

According to housing analyst Core Logic Australia, the town of Ceduna, which is eight hours west from Adelaide and has a population of about 2,000, is the second most affordable beachside suburb in Australia.

It has a median house price of $254,275 — an increase of 7.2 per cent on the previous 12 months.

But Ceduna rentals are in short supply, as 20-year-old retail worker Shaniece Mulloy discovered when she accepted a six-week work placement in the coastal town during 2022.

“I found it extremely hard to find housing,” Ms Mulloy said.

“It was extremely difficult to find anything close to my job that wasn’t overly expensive. An apartment out here is still $350 to $400 a week.”

Shaniece Mulloy moved to Ceduna from Adelaide as a 19 year old to pursue a regional lifestyle.(Suppleid: Shaniece Mulloy)

Fortunately for Ms Mulloy, who decided to stay on after her initial work placement, her parents stepped in and bought an investment property for her to rent.

SA with most affordable beachside homes

According to Core Logic’s research on coastal beachside markets released Thursday, the most affordable beachside suburb in the country was Port Pirie West, which is also in South Australia. 

The Mid North’s town’s median dwelling price is $187,602, an 11.5-per cent increase in value on the previous 12 months.

The third most affordable beachside market, also in SA, was Whyalla, where the median dwelling price was $258,688, an increase of 12.6 per cent.

The annual Oysterfest in Ceduna attracts up to 6,000 people.(Supplied)

Core Logic research director Tim Lawless described Ceduna as a “hidden gem” for people seeking affordable coastal housing.

“It’s considered to be the oyster capital of Australia, has a regional airport and is close to major working nodes at the ports and various other industries,” he said.

It comes after the Regional Australia Institute identified the far west SA town as a hotspot for city leavers. 

In the 12 months to September 2023, Ceduna was one of the top five local government areas for those leaving capital cities, suggesting metropolitan residents were increasingly looking at destinations further afield.

Ceduna District Council Mayor Ken Maynard confirmed people were drawn to Ceduna’s laid-back lifestyle and job opportunities.

“You’d be hard pressed not to find something to do if you were looking for something in Ceduna,” he said.

“I always say to people, ‘It’s what you make of it. It’s up to you’.

“But people come here and enjoy the lifestyle.”

Regional relocation continues

Economic conditions have positioned Ceduna as an attractive location for city-leavers seeking a change of pace, according to University of Adelaide visiting research fellow Dr Kristine Peters.

“The specific issues that have prompted Ceduna to see growth is the enormous amount of industrial activity happening in the region,” she said.

“There’s mining, the Port of Thevenard, and it’s the major service centre for government services on the west coast apart from Port Lincoln,” she said.

“When you look at those three overlays, you’ve got quite well-paid jobs, you’ve got services availability, lifestyle and climate, so it’s quite an attractive area for skilled migration.”

King Stingray performed in Ceduna’s Yabaardu Festival in July.(ABC Eyre Peninsula: Bernadette Clarke)

Dr Peters added that the pandemic trend that saw many Australians leave the cities for regional areas was permanent.

More homes needed

But Ceduna’s remoteness could be a double-edged sword because the relaxed coastal lifestyle came with challenges, including a lack of access to medical services and limited housing options.

Mr Maynard said housing was a hurdle for people seeking a sea change to the far west coast.

“The rental market is very, very tight, very few and far between, and what is available for rent, I would suggest that you would pay back a loan cheaper than what’s been asked for rent, and you’d obviously end up owning the home,” he said.

Sunsets over the ocean are a nightly treat for those in Ceduna.(Supplied: Mark Wright)

Ceduna has been identified by Renewal SA as a key area in need of housing solutions.

South Australia an unlikely hotspot

According to Regional Movers Index data, regional NSW has been the most popular destination for city-leavers in the past year, followed by Queensland and Victoria.

Dr Peters said regional South Australia might struggle to attract people because it was at a geographic disadvantage, and most of the state was uninhabitable.

“A good half of South Australia is outback. That has its own unique issues and it’s far more difficult to attract people,” she said.

“The experience you may have on the east coast in terms of moving to a rural area is different.”

Staying on in Ceduna

Two years after relocating to Ceduna, Ms Mulloy has not looked back.

Ms Mulloy progressed quickly from the job she had relocated to accept, swapping her customer service representative job at a petrol station to manager at Ceduna Foodland.

It is a role she has embraced with gusto, learning everything she can and making lifelong friends along the way.

It was also a professional opportunity she did believe she would have been offered so quickly if she had stayed in the city.

“I moved [to Ceduna] by myself at 19,” Ms Mulloy said.

“It was very different and quite overwhelming because you don’t realise how different small-town life is to the big city.

“It’s pushed me to take on way more responsibility, and to grow.

“Living away from such a busy place [like Adelaide], I’ve had way more opportunities.”