The next big thing in property presents sun, sand - and investment opportunities
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The next big thing in property presents sun, sand – and investment opportunities

Why everyone is going bananas for this north coast holiday destination

By Kirsten Craze
Thu, Mar 16, 2023 8:30amGrey Clock 4 min

F or anyone who has experienced family road trips along the Pacific Highway, The Big Banana at Coffs Harbour is a memorable landmark. When Australia’s first “big thing” was built almost 50 years ago, it literally represented the fruits of the labour for a parochial town sitting halfway between Sydney and Brisbane.

But what a difference half a century makes. 

Soon that local icon, now a family amusement park, will be bypassed with a 14km $2.2 billion highway upgrade, transforming the coastal city into a destination ripe for the picking.

For most visitors, the Big Banana is a a must-see attraction when in Coffs Harbour

Going bananas 

The 2021 Census named health care and social assistance as the leading employer in Coffs Harbour followed by retail, education, plus accommodation and food services. These in-demand employment sectors, as well as a significant amount of infrastructure already in the pipeline, continue to attract newcomers to the area.

For more stories like these, order your copy of the autumn edition of Kanebridge Quarterly magazine here.

Coffs Harbour recently welcomed a $194 million expansion to the local hospital and continues to introduce more carriers to the airport with daily direct flights to Sydney and Melbourne. It has a growing tertiary education campus with TAFE and University of Southern Cross courses, and an international sports stadium that hosts star-studded events.

Culture is also high on the agenda. In June 2022 Hollywood heavyweight Russell Crowe, who owns a farm in nearby Nana Glen, announced his intention to back a $438 million world-class film studio for Coffs Harbour.

Mountains meet the sea

The Coffs Coast is on the land of the Gumbaynggirr people and encompasses a collection of suburbs and townships including Nambucca, Urunga, Bellingen, Sawtell, Coramba, Moonee Beach, Sapphire Beach and Woolgoolga.

Often described as the place “where the mountains meet the sea” the sub tropical region, which is home to 78,759 people (and forecast to hit 100,000 by 2041 according to council estimates), is the meeting point of the Great Dividing Range and the Pacific Ocean. Due to its unique topography, Coffs ticks plenty of coastal boxes, but also offers leafy acreages and hinterland estates with ocean views. However, it’s this landscape which presents challenges for residential development and the supply of new housing.

Slow and steady

Homebuyer demand and prices in greater Coffs Harbour skyrocketed in 2021 but spent much of 2022 slowly declining as interest rates climbed. However, limited supply is likely to prevent significant price falls. 

“Based on the current peak in the cash rate expected for early 2023 and a lagged response in the property market, we could see a floor in price falls across Northern NSW lifestyle markets in the second half of this year,” says Eliza Owen, head of residential research Australia at CoreLogic.

According to CoreLogic the median house price in Coffs Harbour is $815,000, although there are some coveted suburbs such as Sapphire Beach to the north with a median of $1.39 million. 

“Values [in the Coffs Harbour region] have fallen a relatively mild -5.0 percent from a peak in August,” she says. This follows an upswing of 56.3 percent, so overall values are still up 47.9 percent. While COVID no doubt unlocked some value in Coffs Harbour that couldn’t be realised before remote work was so normalised, there are some headwinds for the purchasing market.”

New kids on the block

A pipeline of investment in Coffs Harbour caught the eye of residential developer Third.i. Late last year the group launched Sable at the Jetty, a medium-density development of 35 apartments.

“Part of the reason we wanted to target Coffs was because we believe there’s an undersupply of the style of apartments we create; a luxury lifestyle, or a larger downsizer product,” says Third.i director of sales marketing, Luke Berry.

“Coffs Harbour ticks so many boxes. I used to holiday there as a kid and I love the region. It’s only going to become more desirable as workers continue to turn to remote working and the ageing population seeks out appropriate areas to retire to. 

“Coffs is high on the list for anyone looking at a strategic investment or secure retirement,” he says.

Martin Wells, principal of McGrath Real Estate Coffs Harbour, says demand in the area has picked up significantly since the start of the year

Martin Wells, principal of McGrath Real Estate Coffs Harbour, says despite a slow finish to 2022, the forces of supply and demand kickstarted 2023.

“By mid January we noticed our online buyer inquiries had doubled compared with those softer episodes of last year,” Wells says. 

“The supply shortage is still the dominant driver of prices holding and I’d expect they’ll continue to climb again throughout 2023.” 

Top end prices, locally considered to be above the $1.5 million dollar mark, have “corrected”. However, Wells suggests the trough could have already passed. 

“We’re probably seeing about 5 to 10 percent off the price of top end properties,” he says. “But I think that’s probably the last of it because demand is coming back into that price point.

“Traditionally, around 30 percent of our inquiry might’ve been from Melbourne or Sydney purchasers, now it’s probably closer to 50 per cent. 

“So there’s still a large amount of money around.”

David Malvern, regional manager at McDonald Jones Homes says the limited land available meant any price decreases were unlikely to linger.

“If there was a larger supply I’ve no doubt new home sales would increase significantly,” he says.

“Either customers can’t find land, or when they do, often the topography is really not ideal for an affordable home. 

“They might find themselves having to spend $100,000 on earthworks just to get a block ready.”

He says while the supply of land  is the greatest challenge for buyers in the area today, it ultimately translates to a positive for anyone holding property for the long haul.

“You’ve got such a high demand for housing and a limited supply that if you’re an investor, or looking to move into Coffs Harbour, you’re going to benefit,” Malvern says. “I simply can’t see the market producing the amount of land and housing that’s actually needed to meet demand.”


Consumers are going to gravitate toward applications powered by the buzzy new technology, analyst Michael Wolf predicts

Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’

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Booming demand for wellness tourism shows no slowing, with travel related to health and well-being projected to have reached $1 trillion last year and to hit $1.3 trillion by 2025, according to the Global Wellness Institute, a nonprofit based in Miami.

Curated wellness travel programs are especially sought-after, specifically holistic treatments focused on longevity. Affluent travellers not only are making time to hit the gym while gallivanting across the globe, they’re also seeking destinations that specifically cater to their wellness goals, including treatments aimed at living longer.

“I believe Covid did put a spotlight on self-care and well-being,” says Penny Kriel, corporate director of spa and wellness at Salamander Collection, a group of luxury properties in places like Washington, D.C., and Charleston, South Carolina. But Kriel says today’s spas are more holistic, encouraging folks to understand the wellness concept and incorporate it into their lifestyle more frequently.

“With the evolution of treatment products and technology, spas have been able to enhance their offerings and appeal to more travellers,” Kriel says.

While some growth is connected to the variety of treatments available, results and the digital world are also contributing to the wellness boom.

“The efficacy and benefits of these treatments continue to drive bookings and interest, especially with the support of social media, influencers, and celebrity endorsements,” Kriel says.

While genetics, environmental factors, and lifestyle choices such as regular exercise, a diet free of processed foods, sufficient sleep, and human connection play essential roles in living well and longer, experts believe in holistic therapies to help manage stress, boost immunity, and ultimately influence length and quality of life.

Anti Ageing and Beyond

“For years, people have been coming to spas, booking treatments, and gaining advice on how to turn the clock back with anti ageing and corrective skin treatments,” Kriel says. However, today’s treatments are far more innovative.

On Marinella Beach in Porto Rotondo, on the Italian island of Sardinia, guests at the five-star Abi d’Oru Hotel & Spa can experience the resort’s one-of-a-kind “longevity treatment,” a unique antiaging facial using one of the island’s native grapes: Cannonau. The world’s first declared “Blue Zone”—one of five designated areas where people live longer than average, some into their 100s—Sardinia produces this robust red wine varietal, the most widely planted on the island.

Known as Garnacha in Spain and Grenache in France, Cannonau supposedly contains two to three times more antioxidants than other red-wine grapes. By incorporating Cannonau, Abi Spa says its unique 50-minute longevity session increases collagen production for firmer, younger-looking skin.

Maintaining a youthful appearance is just one facet of longevity treatments, which range from stress-reduction sessions like massage to nutritional support and sleep programs, Kriel says. Some retreats also offer medical services such as IV infusions and joint injections.

Keeping with the trend, Kriel is expanding Salamander Collection’s existing spa services, such as detox wraps and lymphatic drainage, to include dedicated “Wellness Rooms,” new vegan and vegetarian menu items, and well-being workshops. “Sleep, nutrition, and mindfulness will be a big focus for integration in 2024,” she says.

Data-Driven Wellness

Skyler Stillings, an exercise physiologist at Sensei Lanai, a Four Seasons Resort—an adults-only wellness centre in Lanai, Hawaii—says guests were drawn to the social aspect when the spa opened in November 2021.

“We saw a huge need for human connection,” she recalls. But over the past few years, what’s paramount has shifted. “Longevity is trending much more right now.”

Human connection is a central draw for guests at Sensei Lanai, an adults-only and wellness-focused Four Seasons Resort in Hawaii.
Sensei Lanai, A Four Seasons Resort

Billionaire co-founder of tech company Oracle Larry Ellison and physician and scientist Dr. David Angus co-founded Sensei. After the death of a mutual close friend, the duo teamed up to create longevity-based wellness retreats to nurture preventative care and a healthy lifestyle. In addition to the Lanai location, the brand established Sensei Porcupine Creek in Greater Palm Springs, California, in November 2022.

Sensei has a data-driven approach. The team performs a series of assessments to obtain a clearer picture of a guest’s health, making wellness recommendations based on the findings. While Sensei analyses that data to curate a personalised plan, Stillings says it’s up to the guests which path they choose.

Sensei’s core three-day retreat is a “Guided Wellness Experience.” For spa treatments, each guest checks into their own “Spa Hale,” a private 1,000-square-foot bungalow furnished with an infrared sauna, a steam shower, a soaking tub, and plunge pools. The latest therapies include Sarga Bodywalking—a barefoot myofascial release massage, and “Four Hands in Harmony,” a massage with two therapists working in tandem. Sensei Guides provide take-home plans so guests can continue their wellness journeys after the spa.

Sensei Lanai, an adults-only and wellness-focused Four Seasons Resort in Hawaii.
Sensei Lanai, A Four Seasons Resort

Sanctuaries for Longevity

Headquartered in Switzerland with hotels and on-site spas across the globe, Aman Resorts features an integrative approach, combining traditional remedies with modern medicine’s advanced technologies. Tucked behind the doors of the storied Crown Building in Midtown Manhattan, Banya Spa House at Aman New York—the brand’s flagship spa in the Western Hemisphere—is a 25,000-square-foot, three-floor urban oasis.

Yuki Kiyono, global head of health and wellness development at Aman, says the centre provides access to holistic and cutting-edge treatments benefiting physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and social well-being. Aman’s customisable “Immersion Programs” consist of a three- or five-day immersion. “The programs encompass treatments and experiences that touch every significant aspect to create a path for longevity, from meditation and mindfulness to nutrition and movement,” Kiyono explains.

Banya Spa House at Aman New York.
Robert Rieger

The spa’s “Tei-An Wellness Solution” features 90- to 150-minute sessions using massage, cryotherapy, and Vitamin IV infusions. Acupuncture is also on offer.

“With its rich history of Chinese Medicine, modern research, and the introduction of sophisticated electro-acupuncture medicine, acupuncture has been proven to assist with problems and increase performance,” Kiyono says.

Resetting the Mind and Body

Beyond longevity, “healthspan”—the number of years a person can live in good health free of chronic disease—is the cornerstone of Mountain Trek Health Reset Retreat’s program in British Columbia, Canada.

Kirk Shave, president and program director, and his team employ a holistic approach, using lifestyles in long-living Blue Zones as a point of reference.

“We improve our daily lifestyle habits, so we live vitally as long as we’re meant to live,” Shave says of the retreat. He built the program from an anthropological stance, referencing humans as farmers, hunters, and gatherers based on their eating and sleeping patterns. Food includes vegetable-centric meals sans alcohol, sugar, bread, or dairy.

Guests wake at dawn each day and have access to sunrise yoga, several hours of “flow” or slow hiking, spa treatments, forest bathing, calming crystal singing-bowl and sound therapy sessions, and classes on stress reduction—one of Mountain Trek’s primary goals. The program motivates people to spend much of their time in nature because it’s been proven to reduce cortisol, the stress hormone that can lead to inflammation and disease when elevated for extended periods.

While most guests aren’t aware of how immersive Mountain Trek’s program is when they arrive, they leave the resort revitalized after the structured, one-week program. Set in the Kootenays overlooking its eponymous river, the resort and adventure promise what Shave calls a “visceral experience of transformation.”

“They’re interested in coming to be in nature,” Shave says of the guests. “They hit a wall in their life and slipped backwards, so they know they need a reset.”

Banya Spa House at Aman New York provides access to holistic and cutting-edge treatments benefiting physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and social well-being.
Robert Rieger

This article first appeared in the Winter 2024 issue of Mansion Global Experience Luxury.


Consumers are going to gravitate toward applications powered by the buzzy new technology, analyst Michael Wolf predicts

Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’

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